Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Lack of vendor support for Open Source

The lack of vendor support is a real issue for Open Source and Free tools. It may seem logical that paid-for-tools are going to get superior support by the folks who have actually created them and have a commercial interest in promoting them.

This can certainly be true and NMQA (who I work for) have the Vienna test management tool that we created and so support both through paid service contracts and queries raised by the test community. However, the matter isn’t as simple as proprietary tools get superior support over Open Source or Free ones.

For example, NMQA also offer a Selenium-Ruby automation framework (in various forms) )that we support as aggressively as Vienna that we wrote fully ourselves. The reason being is that we see no difference between the two in terms of the support a customer needs. For NMQA there’s no difference in the support a customer needs for a proprietary solution we’ve developed and written in proprietary code or an Open Source / free framework constructed of open source code that we’ve set-up for them.

It’s when a customer tries to hit the internet and read online documents and forum postings to do it themselves the trouble starts. Think about that for a second, inexperienced staff trawling through spurious sources of information as the way to learn and implement a key technology, what a ridiculous strategy. Yet it’s the one often taken. Open source tools are not an easy solution to adopt unless there is expertise available, in-house or via a consultancy. The learning curve that inexperienced internal staff will take on is usually too great a burden for organisations to support and won’t deliver anywhere near as fast as is needed. Add to that the lack of trusted sources of information and we begin to see why organisations are shying away from Open Source.

There’s the issue – organisations trying to wing it on their own with Open Source solutions will mean they suffer more pain than if they buy proprietary tools and a service agreement. The best way is to engage a consultancy or specialist individual who can provide the same level of support you’d get buying a support contract for a proprietary tool and that way there’s no difference between proprietary or Open Source solutions. Later on the difference is saving tens of thousands in service contracts as insurance in case something goes wrong, also ridiculous.

Mark Crowther.