One of the first questions enterprise clients ask us when they evaluate an open source platform is, “How good is the support?” The assumption is that a commercial platform means reliable 24/7 support while open source means you’re more or less on your own.
But the opposite is often true: Not only are many open source platforms backed by enterprise-grade professional support, they are also backed by communities of users ready to respond to questions over the web.
Take the example of Mule ESB, an open source software platform that one of our clients asked us to compare with a major commercial platform. The client asked us to develop two different proof-of-concept versions of their software, one using Mule ESB and the other using the commercial platform. The client wanted us to report back on the robustness of each platform and the quality of the support. While working with Mule ESB, we discovered an issue with the SMTP Transport in the Mule ESB Enterprise 2.2.5 version with the Mule Management Console (MMC) agent installed (we would learn that the problem was with the MMC agent and not with the core Mule ESB).
MuleSoft, the makers of Mule ESB, not only have an enterprise-level support option, but also an active community support forum where developers offer peer-to-peer troubleshooting.
We posted our question to the community forum and received a response saying that we had likely encountered a bug. The user recommended that we log the bug into MuleSoft’s bug tracking system. After logging the bug, MuleSoft sent us this solution to our problem within four hours. A member of our team has since written a more detailed technical explanation on the solution on his blog.
The lesson here is that open source platforms have an advantage when it comes to support: a layer of community-powered troubleshooting on top of traditional paid support. So when it comes time to compare open source and commercial options, don’t be surprised if support is one of the reasons you decide to go open source.