Sunday, October 7, 2007

OpenSolaris: A better model for open-source support

One real problem with many support vendors for open source software is that they're not the original authors. The obvious problem is that they may not know what they're really doing, and may end up hacking up a solution that hurts other aspects of the system.

The less-obvious problem is that the changes may not get pushed upstream. If the author of the software doesn't care about your problem domain (e.g. Linux for anything but big iron), your changes may very well be ignored on the further release.

The real problem is power: you don't really have any. There aren't any strings to pull. The common phrase is "nobody to sue," but the real truth is "no accounts to cancel." Without hitting someone's wallet, they don't need to care about you. No matter how much you need this system to work, there's not much you can do to make it fit your needs better than prayer.

There are third-party vendors who will offer you support. They'll take a version of the open source product you need and they'll make sure it works with your stuff. But, you'll have to pay for the work to be redone every time the system changes. They're the wrong people. It's like complaining to your mistress about your wife — you feel better about it, but it doesn't do anything about your problems.

Something lots of open-source kids don't get: it's ok to pay for software. Because some software's free makes it bad for other stuff to cost money. They shove the word proprietary on there, to make that point.

Of course, these kids are idiots. Throwing money in the picture doesn't automatically make software less good.

Paying money gets you something. It's a string on the vendor. They like your money, they want it again. Hell they've probably promised their investors 300% returns based on the assumption that you'll pay them more later.

Which is why I like the OpenSolaris model. Pay Sun to get OpenSolaris to do what you want, and the next version of OpenSolaris will do what you want. You attach that green paper string to the right place. That string will take pulls as long as you've made it thick enough. When you're doing $5 million a year in operations, a couple thousand is really, really cheap insurance.

A lot better than paying IBM to fix Linux again for you.

Technorati Tags: ,

No comments: