[OSGeo-Discuss] Commercial Support for the OSGeo Stack

Cameron Shorter cameron.shorter at gmail.com
Tue May 1 12:34:57 PDT 2007

I think OSGeo should limit itself to providing a list of service providers.
I notice that Frank has emailed a description of exactly that. I'm not 
sure if that was a coincidence or related to this thread.

As you suggest, the remaining financial transactions should be between 
companies and individuals from our OSGeo community.

Landon Blake wrote:
> Cameron,
> Are you encouraging individual developers and companies to offer
> commercial support for the OSGeo stack? Are you encouraging the OSGeo to
> offer these services or to have some role in providing them?
> I think you are correct when you state that the availability of
> commercial services that support the OSGeo stack would increase their
> adoption.
> I'm a little unclear about what role the OSGeo would play in this. Would
> it certify or recommend service providers? I think we should be careful
> about involving the OSGeo to deeply in any venture that would involve
> the exchange of money. Money seems to bring out the worst in people. :]
> Landon (A.K.A. - The Sunburned Surveyor)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On Behalf Of Cameron Shorter
> Sent: Monday, April 30, 2007 8:28 PM
> To: OSGeo Discussions
> Subject: [OSGeo-Discuss] Commercial Support for the OSGeo Stack
> I've just written the following blog about providing support for the 
> OSGeo Stack. Comments welcomed.
> http://terrapagestech.blogspot.com/2007/04/commercial-support-for-open-s
> ource.html
> Overview
> In this article I argue that commercial support for Open Source 
> Geospatial Software will increase its use and I propose how we as a 
> community should structure ourselves to provide the support.
> Background
> Open Source Geospatial Software is maturing is breaking into broader 
> industry adoption. We have:
>    1. Robust, stable high performance software components,
>    2. Strong Standards compliance and integration between components,
>    3. The OSGeo Foundation <http://osgeo.org/>, an umbrella organization
>       providing cross project and community links and standards for
>       organization and quality.
> However, there are still things we can do to increase adoption of our 
> products from enterprise customers:
>    1. Make installation of the Open Source Geospatial Stack easier.
>       Users often need to install a number of different software
>       packages and their dependencies, all from different sources, in
>       order to deploy a Geospatial solution.
>    2. Improve our documentation.
>    3. Offer dependable and timely support. This is what I shall be
>       focusing on in this article.
> Why pay for support?
> OSGeo projects have a community of people providing extensive support 
> via email lists and IRC for free! And while developers may accept 
> payment for their advice, many have also stated their intent to continue
> providing feel support. So why pay?
> Lets study a typical user's experience. The user installs ~ 3 packages, 
> configures and sometimes extends some components. The user runs into 
> glitches and requests help. Each support request involves ~ 5 emails, 
> often with up to a one day turnaround. Some responses would be to point 
> the user to another email list. Sometimes the user's question requires a
> lot of debugging and volunteers don't answer or take their time 
> answering. The user is delayed, or forced to fend on their own. The 
> user's key problems are:
>    1. Schedule Slip due to long support cycles.
>    2. Schedule Risk due to unpredictability of response times.
>    3. Budget Risk due to unknown support and customization costs.
> Why offer support?
> Support contracts are relatively small, have high response requirements 
> which impact internal schedules, and there is a high risk that customers
> will overwhelm any fixed price contract. Why offer this service?
>    1. It is a good lead generator for larger consulting work. A company
>       that offers support is likely to understand the products they
> support.
>    2. The OSGeo community as a whole will benefit from the increased
>       number of financial users which are attracted to using our
> products.
> Support Products
> Below is a list of proposed products we should offer to match the 
> support requirements:
> Development Contracts
> Hire a developer to add functionality or customize an existing product. 
> This could be fixed price or hired per hour.
> There are already a number of people doing this. Value could be added by
> offering a head hunter service which finds quality developers for users.
> Single Product, Second Tier Support
> Offer second tier support for a fixed number of hours with guaranteed 
> response times for one product. Support will generally be provided by 
> email or IRC and offered internationally, so response times will usually
> be one working day. This will typically be provided by respected 
> developers of the product.
> Local, Multiple Product, First Tier Support
> Offer local, first tier phone support for multiple products as an annual
> fixed price service. This will generally be provided by local companies 
> who have general knowledge of these products and can answer 80% of 
> queries. These companies would engage Second Tier Support contracts to 
> answer difficult questions.
> "We offer local support with international backing."
> References
> OSGeo <http://osgeo.org/>. The Open Source Geospatial Foundation is an 
> umbrella organization for the key Open Source Geospatial products.
> Refactions Research Support 
> <http://www.refractions.net/servdetail/index.php?file=6-PostGIS.data> 
> Refractions Research offers daily consulting.
> DM Solutions Premier <http://www.dmsolutions.ca/premiere/>. DM Solutions
> offers first tier, fixed price support for a number of OSGeo products.
> Motivations
> As System's Architect at LISASoft <http://lisasoft.com/>, Cameron 
> Shorter <http://cameron.shorter.net/> aims to set up Australian first 
> tier support for packages in the Open Source Geospatial Stack, and 
> international second tier support for Community Mapbuilder 
> <http://communitymapbuilder.org/>. This article is aimed to trigger 
> discussion and encourage Community Members to start aligning behind the 
> above support groups.
> Comments on this article will be welcomed.

Cameron Shorter
Systems Architect, http://lisasoft.com.au
Tel: +61 (0)2 8570 5050
Mob: +61 (0)419 142 254

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