I saw the article “Four Insights to Selling and Marketing Open Source Software” by Paul Salazar, and I’m a bit surprised. I am not sure that Mr. Salazar can relate well to the customer side of the open source business. In his article, he presents an argument that selling a piece of open source software requires service and a large customer commitment. That is opposed to selling the software as a common off the shelf piece of software.

He is partially right. It does take a lot of commitment, but the issue is not due to the product being open source, it’s more of an issue due to a lack of reputation, and support. Enterprise-ready software is expensive. This is a given. Microsoft, Oracle, HP, RedHat, and other vendors charge A LOT of money for their software. They charge this, because the requirements are more complex for the customer size, fixes-post sale are required, support is required, and a reputation is required. Open source also has the disadvantage to be flexible enough to have frequent changes in the product compared to proprietary software. Many customers look at this issue and are concerned that this may hurt their ability to perform their operations and makes them a little reluctant to use the product. This requires yet another individual to oversee development for an external tool.

Often times open source solutions are better [personal opinion] than proprietary solutions. However, the solution is merely a tool. If an organization is looking to use a tool, they must know who is responsible for maintaining the tool, and where they can find other people that know how to use the tool. Companies are frequently focused on solving the problem within their constraints, not about becoming a fan boy for solution X over Y.

I would not have any qualms with his article, if he had mentioned that the problems that he saw with the business side of open source technologies were very similar to those of new startups. Startups have the same issues of open source software. They do not have the reputation, the ability to scale to the needed level to support the product and are often unprepared for the level of customizations needed for corporate clients.