Thursday, October 16, 2008

When 'Free' isn't really free ...

'Free lunch' and open-source support | The Open Road - The Business and Politics of Open Source by Matt Asay - CNET News
"I recently discovered this when a large, global system integrator (SI) deployed Alfresco Labs, our free and unsupported product, for a large client in Europe. The SI wasn't a partner of ours, and as the client soon learned when its deployment stumbled, the SI wasn't capable of providing enterprise-class support on the product. Yes, it knew the product well enough to deploy it and get paid over $50 million for its trouble, but when the deployment hit a glitch, guess to whom the SI came crawling for help?"

Matt Asay (Alfresco) raises some valid points in this post for Enterprises deploying Open Source software via a System Integrator (SI). Having previously worked for a global SI and now working for an Open Source Middleware company, I have to agree.

In his scenario, Asay describes how an SI failed to buy support spending just $50,000 (as part of a $50 million project) to ensure their client had insurance. Sounds ridiculous? Not really. Most SIs would do the same. So the best approach (as also suggested in the post) is to make sure that whatever the SI you deal with buys you a support contract for each and every major Open Source component in your project as part of the agreement. Because the day will come when that SI won't know how to hadle a certain blocking issue in one of those components. As an added bonus, by buying support you also help the continuity of those Open Source projects indirectly.