Sacha & Bill (of JBoss/Red Hat) made some great points on my previous post on source code and control.

Sacha wrote:

“Savio,

aren’t you mixing “cost of switching to a different software” with the ability to move to a different support provider? … However, migrating to a different subscription vendor is definitively possible. Just look at CentOS and ORCL with RHEL.”

Great point.  But, moving to a different support provider is not usually a good enough answer.  Customers purchase support around product XYZ not just to get support.  They want to ensure that XYZ continues to be developed and enhanced.  Getting support around a project that isn’t being actively developed is really just a temporary situation.  Most companies will want to migrate the application to an environment that is being actively developed asap.  Additionally, simply providing support isn’t a strong value proposition against a competitor offering support and future development of the product.

As for using Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux as proof of being able to change support vendors, I think the jury is out (at best).  If a vendor with the brand, size and resources of Oracle can’t put a large dent in RHEL usage, what is the likelihood that Savio’s Super Support Center is a viable option for customers of say, JBoss AS?

Next up, Bill makes a very good point about standards:

“Unlike vendors like SpringSource, we have been very good about bringing our core technological innovations to standards bodies like the JCP. Specifically Hibernate (JPA) and Seam (Web Beans). We hope to do the same with the innovations we created within our AS 5 microkernel and OSGi.

So, IMO, the combination of standards and open source, gives customers *a lot* of fluidity and is a nice buffer for vendor lock-in.”

I completely agree that standards help to guard against vendor lock-in.  (I also want to give JBoss kudos for working with standards bodies vs. simply playing the “it’s open source, so don’t worry” card.)  However, very few segments of the software market have an open standard that multiple vendors have congregated around.  Subsequently, we’re back to square one regarding open source as a defense against lock in.

But, as Sacha put it:

“…between Black and White, FOSS is a gray, somewhere in-between. Proprietary software is definitively a strong black with not an ounce of gray :) “

I can’t argue with that.