Code Vigorous

Dustin J. Mitchell

Open-Source Support?

16 Jun 2007

I saw an interesting post on the Subversion development list a while ago. In part:

This note is to inform you that the Shell Group will be migrating from Windows 2000 to Microsoft’s new operating system known as Windows Vista with effect from Q1 2008, and to seek your assistance and support in minimising disruption to users and applications during and after the migration.

The note goes on to request some fairly specific information about the upgrade path for TortiseSVN, the Windows Subversion client. They are the sorts of questions that all IT shops would love to ask all of their vendors, with the expectation of a full and well-researched answer.

As an admin at a small K-12 school, questions of this sort were met with blank stares from vendors. At best, we could get a demo unit, but any sort of analysis of the potential fit of a product (besides the “analysis” the salesmen would do) was simply out of the question for an account of our size. On the other hand, I could usually count on honest assessments from open-source software mailing lists, even if they didn’t represent full-scale implementation analyses.

The Shell Group request turns the situation around. Shell Group is a very large client and is probably accustomed to contacting peers like Dell, Aramark, or HBN-AMRO with requests like this. Yet here they are making these requests of a gaggle of developers, none of whom want to be “the main liaison for ALL matters pertaining to Vista compatibility.” There were no on-list responses, so I can’t say what became of the request.

There’s clearly a business need here, but it’s not the typical “sell support for open source software” niche. Rather, Shell Group wants a business entity with which they can have a more contractual relationship: one that can get the software certified by Microsoft, make projections as to deliverable dates, and so on. An entity that can answer support calls but does not have significant control of the development community is simply not capable of these things, but neither is a development community without a legally representative organization.

I’m interested to see if this kind of request occurs more often, and what effect it has on the landscape of adoption of OSS in big business.


Some basic googling for other messages like this turned up nothing. It’s quite possible that this is a hoax. If so, I’m sorry for promoting it, but I think the points it brought up are interesting nonetheless.