Not that long ago, many tech observers wondered whether open-source solutions had a place in the enterprise. Now open-source software is in use practically everywhere. It’s not just in DevOps, either. Open-source solutions are used for production workloads, monitoring systems and applications, powering analytics and machine learning, allowing you to make sense of your data.
In a 2019 survey of IT leaders commissioned by Red Hat, 69% of the 950 respondents viewed enterprise open source as “very important” or “extremely important,” while just 1% considered it “not at all important.” According to the same survey, 68% of respondents reported that their use of open source had increased over the prior 12 months, while 59% said they anticipated making greater use of open source over the coming 12 months.
The idea of open source is that it’s a community of contributors, programmers who are willing to share their ingenuity with the world. “What makes open source so cool is it’s completely nimble,” says Laura Morrison, business development executive at Tech Data. “For many products, subscriptions aren’t required, so people are unfettered by those financial reins. They can download the code and build their solutions.” The downside, however, comes when an enterprise must rely on that same unstructured community to provide a patch for a mission-critical application, for instance.
Open-Source Software Support Makes Business Sense
So, while open source is cool, you have a business to run―and your IT staff is already swamped, managing and maintaining your servers and networks. Meanwhile, your executives must be assured that your critical business systems and data are secure.
That’s where open-source software support comes into play. It may seem contrary to the open-source “model,” but acquiring technical support for the open-source solutions that are so critical to your enterprise makes sound business sense. And Evolving Solutions, a Premier IBM Business Partner, can provide comprehensive and affordable support packages to suit your specific needs.
Open-Source Software Support FAQs
Still have questions about open-source software support? Check out this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Q: What’s the logic of paying for open source software if I can download the code without a subscription?
A: Those who develop open-source software are, by and large, talented and experienced coders. But bugs happen, particularly when a piece of software is frequently updated. And care must be taken when introducing any new package into a production environment. Production systems deserve enterprise caliber support.
“I believe the primary challenge is and always will be security,” says IBM’s Hector Luna, open-source/multi-vendor software services (MVS) sales
executive, North America. “Large enterprises typically do not track their open source, which causes their patching to not be up-to-date and allows for vulnerabilities. And while the developers of the software know best, hunting online for information from the open-source community can also be very time-consuming.”
Q: What are some other benefits of open source support?
A: Even in large IT shops, open-source expertise may be lacking. Morrison has seen it many times.
“I’ve been on client calls with literally hundreds of open-source users, and I’ve found that many companies have a handful or sometimes even just one key expert on open source—a wunderkind who can fix anything,” Morrison says. “But you know what? What if this person takes a vacation? What if they find a better job? Suddenly this enterprise is going to find itself without reliable staffing.”
On the flip side, do you want your experienced—and likely, already very busy—system programmers and application developers browsing forums or searching for bugs? With technical support, you have access to experts who can do the digging and provide the quick answers you need.
Q: What are the benefits of Evolving Solutions working with IBM to provide enterprise-wide open-source support?
A: IBM is renowned for its breadth of technical support services, and the company has been in this business for decades. By working through Evolving Solutions, a company that’s been implementing technology solutions for more than 20 years, clients are connected directly to skilled software engineers to answer questions or resolve technical issues.
“Only IBM has this kind of enterprise-caliber support with options for 9-5 or 24-7 support on community open-source packages,” Morrison says.
Training and consulting services are also available through IBM. These customizable offerings could take the form of a scheduled consultation, a virtual workshop or formal onsite training that’s devoted to specific open-source packages.
Q: What are the pricing guidelines?
A: Of course, it varies based on the services being sought, but support packages are volume-based and very competitive. Note the emphasis on physical hardware: A single server running hundreds of virtual instances is considered one server. With cloud environments, the billable units are determined by the number of instances regardless of the number of virtual
CPUs. In large environments of 100 or more servers, for example, volume discounts would reduce those per server prices by roughly half.
Of course, it varies based on the services being sought, but support packages are volume-based, with the annual price generally in three or four figures. For instance, in an environment with 1-5 physical servers, the annual contract price is $1,000 for 9 to 5 service and $1,400 for 24-7 service. Note the emphasis on physical hardware: a single server running hundreds of virtual instances is considered one server. With cloud environments, the billable units are determined by the number of instances regardless of the number of virtual CPUs. In large environments of, say, 100 or more servers, volume discounts would reduce those per server prices by roughly half.
“The pricing matrix for this is very friendly,” says Morrison.
Q: What specific open-source solutions are IBM-supported?
A: No one computing platform can serve the needs of the entire business world, and IBM understands this. With this is mind, a good place to start is with Linux distributor SUSE. You likely know that IBM recently acquired Red Hat, but rest assured, if your enterprise is running SUSE Linux, IBM’s world-class support is available to you. IBM support also covers the common open-source code—including R, Perl, PHP and Python—as well as middleware, operating systems like CentOS and Debian, databases like PostGreSQL. Finally, there’s an array of open-source packages, a list too lengthy to recount here.
“We manage more than 160 open-source software projects and a handful of the largest software distributors like Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical, EDB, Datafax and now Confluence,” says Luna. “We manage L1 through L3 remote support calls for our customers—one throat to choke, one hand to shake, as I like to say—and one contract with a range of service levels our clients can choose from. I’ve looked at alternate companies for open-source support and we can’t see anyone within that realm who can provide an end-to-end support structure like IBM can provide.”