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Open Source for the Enterprise by Gautam Guliani, Dan Woods

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When Is Commercial Open Source Support the Right Choice?

The models in the previous section provide different ways to bridge the skills gap between IT departments and open source software. This section examines the pros and cons of each support model for IT departments with different skill levels.

Using commercial open source support providers effectively requires many of the same skills IT departments use to evaluate any vendor. An IT department has to understand what kind of support it needs, whether the offered services meet those needs, and whether the company can provide the services when they are needed. However, open source support has different characteristics and provides new choices that IT departments are not used to making. Consider these differences:

  • Support for most commercial products comes from one provider: the software vendor. With open source support, however, several vendors might be offering different types of support services.

  • Pricing for support will be negotiated much more intensely with open source products than with commercial products. There is no benchmark based on licenses. Customers will be able to cut deals.

  • Support offerings will have to be evaluated carefully to determine what services will be provided. Offers will range widely in terms of scope and quality. Some emerging companies might promise levels of support they cannot deliver.

  • Support might be used for high-risk periods and dropped when a product is proven stable. After all, with commercial support, ...

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