You deployed open source software — now, what about support?

By: Jens Rathgeber

Open source software has gained a lot of traction in enterprise IT over the last years. Deploying license-free open source software (OSS) can reduce capital expenditure (capex). However, to understand the full picture and assess the financial benefits, it’s necessary to understand the impact on operational expenditure (opex). What might be attractive at first can later infuse additional costs into IT operations. The extra effort to run and maintain OSS solutions is often overlooked.

While the community-based approach in the OSS world has indisputable advantages, it also increases the burden to enterprise IT in terms of searching and evaluating support information. For example, there are no guaranteed response times when reaching out to the OSS community. In some cases, the appropriate answer might be given immediately, but there are situations where community members have other priorities or are just not interested in the topic.

In an always-on world, companies still expect the same results from professional IT support to implement, configure and operate OSS packages. It’s equally important to have access to support resources to minimize risk and outages, whether you have OSS or proprietary software deployed.

Supporting OSS packages has become a business model for several companies. For Linux, the famous OSS operating system, the popular distributors typically also offer maintenance and support. While this model covers the wide range of operating system (OS) functionality, there are masses of OSS components that aren’t part of an OS.

Reliable open source software support beyond Linux OS

The average enterprise runs hundreds of applications and adoption of OSS use for production workloads is growing. Because IT solutions typically consist of components from open source communities and commercial vendors, full-spectrum support for hardware and software is essential. You might find one or more Linux distributions like RedHat, SuSE or Ubuntu managed in a virtualized environment leveraging Docker containers orchestrated with Kubernetes, hosting application runtimes like Tomcat or database solutions like PostgreSQL. Even worse, in most cases there’s no pure open source IT stack. Often, OSS components are used in conjunction with proprietary software packages which increases the complexity even more.

From my experience when working with clients on IT support models, it’s crucial to have only a few trusted support providers. The more interfaces you have, the higher the management burden becomes. Many involved parties are also a challenge to clearly define roles and responsibilities. But a lack of clarity is the last thing you want when your business is down and you need support.

At IBM Technology Support Services, I’m working with clients that are looking for multi-vendor support for commercial and Open Source Software including Linux OS and dozens of OSS packages. The goal is to have only one number to call and to get the best possible support.

Do you have a combination of proprietary and open source software within your IT stack? How do you ensure the appropriate level of support?

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, or contact an IBM expert to discuss options to streamline your support model.

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About The Author

Jens Rathgeber

IBM Distinguished Engineer & CTO, IBM Multi-Vendor Support Services

Jens drives innovation initiatives for the IBM Multi-Vendor Services portfolio and leads the IBM global community of technology support experts. As a recognized technical leader, he works with clients to streamline their IT support and transform after-sales-service organizations. In addition he leads the Editorial Board of the Zero Outage Industry Standard Association. With 20 years... Read more