The benefits of having a support contract for open-source software go beyond fixing issues. It also provides strategic support for your digital transformation.
Nine out of ten the world’s businesses now use open-source software. However, when people think about the open-source licensing model, the first thing that typically comes to mind is that it means free software. In reality, the benefits of open-source go far beyond that. These include a complete lack of vendor lock-in, community-driven support and maintenance, and end users having a stake in the direction of the software’s continued development.
When combined with the low-code approach to software development, open-source becomes the foundation of data democratization and technological innovation. The ultimate goal is for everyone in an organization to have equitable and timely access to the data they need to carry out their day-to-day roles, while giving business leaders the means to control and govern their digital assets in full.
It would be naïve and wholly misleading to claim that all these benefits can be realized without spending a single cent. While reduced costs are an undisputable benefit of the open-source model, getting the most out of it requires a certain degree of expertise and people power. After all, all software needs maintenance, and every solution must be tailored to the unique needs of individual businesses. That includes low-code development platforms (LCDPs).
Taking out a support contract for open-source software might not be necessary for everyone, but in this article, we’ll explore some compelling use cases to help you make a more informed decision.
1. You experience regular service disruptions
Software sits at the heart of many mission-critical business operations, which is why the cost of downtime is constantly increasing. Disruptions to essential services can leave employees unable to do their work and customers unable to get the value they expect from your business. For example, sales and marketing operations will quickly grind to a halt if your CRM goes offline. Legal teams will be unable to meet important deadlines if their case management software becomes unworkable. Developers will be unable to work if their LCDP is unavailable. The list goes on.
Some disruptions cannot be helped, but they can and must be mitigated. Planned downtime, such as during software updates, is one such example that can be avoided in most cases by having redundant systems in place. For example, if you have a support contract that includes hosting, your service provider will be obligated under their service level agreements (SLAs) to offer a minimum level of availability. If, however, service disruptions stem from internal issues which you don’t have the resources to address, then downtime will continue to be a problem.
2. It is taking too long to resolve issues
The costliest form of downtime is that which is unplanned, such as service outages caused by hardware- or software-related problems. In other cases, your team might simply not have the expertise required to use the tools at their disposal to their fullest potential. In any case, those relying purely on internal resources to resolve issues often find that it becomes impossible to put a resolution time on them. It’s never long before the uncertainty of that predicament results in long-term damage to morale and productivity, not to mention reputational damage in cases that effect your customers.
There are broadly two approaches to resolving technical issues – proactive and reactive. The traditional break/fix support model is an example of reactive support, in which businesses call in a technician to resolve an issue, typically without having any idea as to its complexity and scope ahead of time. This can quickly result in resolution times, not to mention costs, spiraling out of control. For example, this could turn out particularly problematic if you’re using an LCDP, where an issue might prevent you from completing an app on time.
Taking out a support contract for open-source software is, by contrast, a proactive approach. The costs are already covered by your subscription plan, and maximum response times are guaranteed by the SLA you have with the service provider. To that end, it’s like having a robust insurance policy. This significantly reduces risk while ensuring you get the most out of your platform. Furthermore, many support contracts can be tailored to your specific needs to augment the capabilities of your in-house team. In the case of LCDPs, for example, you might choose a support contract that’s suitable for no-code app-building or one that’s better suited to complex app development or unlimited deployment.
3. You lack the required expertise internally
On the surface, technology is undoubtedly becoming more user-friendly. User interfaces are now built around concepts like user experience (UX) design to deliver maximum efficiency and ease of use while keeping learning curves to a minimum. However, it’s underlying architecture where things start to get complicated, requiring domain expertise that you might not have internally.
Low-code software development is an excellent example of this: citizen developers with little or no programing experience of their own can develop simple business apps in short order. However, if they want to create more complex apps and have the platform do everything they want it to do, they’ll need to refer to a professional. Open-source adds a new dimension to that, since this licensing model allows you to modify the underlying code. Again, however, that requires significant domain expertise.
Whenever implementing new open-source software, you also need to think about onboarding your end users. If onboarding is unnecessarily lengthy and convoluted, the productivity cost to your business could end up being quite substantial. There’s also the matter of customization to think about. For example, complex yet essential software products, such as LCDPs, CRM, and case management solutions, need to be tailored to the unique needs of your business to offer maximum value. This is even more important if you’re operating in a regulated industry where you also need to think about additional privacy, security, and compliance measures.
Many open-source support providers also offer consulting services with the goal of maximizing the value you get out of the software. The software itself might be free and unrestricted, but if you don’t have the necessary expertise at your disposal to get the most out of it, it could even end up costing you money without delivering anything in return. Partnering with a dependable team of experts helps ensure that doesn’t happen.
4. You want to be part of the development process
The superpower of open-source software is the fact that anyone can contribute to the project. Anyone is free to modify the underlying code and, depending on the specific license, may even be permitted to create white-labelled solutions that they can sell on as their own proprietary software. This is also what makes low code and open source a great match for one another. Unlike many closed-source LCDPs, apps created using an open-source LCDP can be white-labelled and sold, making such solutions ideal for independent software vendors (ISVs).
While the freedom that comes with building applications on top of open-source code is without doubt, it also comes with some unique complexities. For example, some open-source software might offer additional features and functions that don’t share the same licensing model. Google Android is a prime example of this model, which pairs proprietary apps and services with what is, in theory at least, an open-source platform. That’s why it’s wise to seek out intellectual property guidance, especially if you want to build software that you want to deliver as your own.
It’s also important to remember that the success of open-source software hinges on the size and engagement of its community. Being part of that community means having the opportunity to get involved in the development roadmap of the software, as opposed to trying to work in a bubble where your own ideas are unlikely to be realized or recognized. This is why the primary contributors of many open-source projects offer premium services, such as access to the core development team and direct involvement in the course of the project. For example, Red Hat is one of the main contributors to the immensely successful Linux project, but they also offer tailored support and development contracts both to help fund the project and expand the community. Similarly, Planet Crust’s premium services include the opportunity to co-develop the Corteza LCDP.
Whether or not you need a support contract for your open-source software depends on your situation. If you have the internal expertise required to support and maintain it, then it may not be necessary, especially if the software is part of a major project that’s widely understood and has a huge community behind it – and it isn’t critical to your business operations.
However, it’s quite a different matter if the software in question is part of your mission-critical infrastructure. Things like operational software, databases, and development platforms that are central to your delivery pipeline, as an LCDP might be for an ISV, absolutely need the additional support, even if you do have the expertise in-house. After all, having an expert you can depend on will greatly reduce risk and help ensure you get the most out of your software.
Planet Crust is pioneering innovation in low code software development with one of the world’s first fully open-source development platforms. Download our latest eBook today to learn more!