Monty’s explanation of why he founded the Open Database Alliance focused on the Alliance being able to target customers that need more personalized services than Sun/Oracle could provide.  This jogged my memory about one of the early benefits marketed around purchasing open source support.  Namely, that customers could speak directly with the developers of the product.  In this brave new world, of 3 years ago, customers wouldn’t have to explain their issue to one or two levels of support professionals before reaching the actual developer of the code.  This was even while most questions related to configuration, settings, or other issues that a level 1 or level 2 support professional could handle easily.  But, when it was a tough problem, and/or the customer was down, going directly to the developer definitely had its appeal.

The ability to “speak directly with the developer” could not scale with the growth of an open source software business.  Vendors want their developers writing the next feature for the next release, or out doing professional support, not manning the phones to answer configuration questions.   I remember struggling with this issue  when we were crafting IBM’s Apache Geronimo and WAS Community Edition support offerings back in 2005.

I know some closed and open source companies rotate their developers into the support organization so developers can get customer exposure and better understand how their work and the product is used in the field.  However, this staffing procedure is seldom marketed to customers.

I checked the JBoss and MySQL subscriptions to confirm whether they market the ability to speak directly with the developer. As best as I could tell, they do not.

Customers don’t prefer a support triage system.  But maybe they’re not willing to pay a premium for it?  Or maybe larger open source vendors have acknowledged that this feature does not scale, and hence, aren’t offering it?  Maybe it’s a little from column A and a little from column B?

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