Open-Source Service and Support

Michael Cote writes about the business model being pursued by companies like SourceLabs and SpikeSource (both of which were launched recently):

These professional open source companies (SpikeSource and SourceLabs, not JBoss) don’t actually create the different components (apache, php, JBoss, etc.), they just assemble them at the end: they package up all these disparate things into one package. Indeed, that’s another large part of the chatter, something along the lines of, “there’s so many open source projects/components, and it’s confusing and tedious for IT people to pick which ones to use. We’ll help them.”

The primary problem that still sticks out in my mind is the money. For all the ballyhoo about open source being high quality, delivering features faster, etc., a huge part of open source’s advantage over commercial software is the cost: open source is free, commercial software isn’t. As I’ve pointed out before, one of the “side effect” advantages of “free,” in the context of acquiring software in a company, is that you don’t have to go up the chain to get budget approval for the commercial software. With open source/free software, you just download it, and install it.

So, getting back to these open source service companies, as O’Grady pointed out so much of their success will ride on price. If it’s cheaper for a company to just have their IT people figure it all out, they’ll do that instead of hire on an open source service company. Worse, once you take away that “easy to install ’cause it don’t need budget approval” advantage, open source looses part of it’s edge, and you start to ask, “why don’t we just buy a WebSphere license?”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.