Open Source and Product Support
By Tim Quinn-Oracle on Oct 10, 2006
A customer using the Sun Java System Application Server (SJS AS) 9.0 product ran into a problem. Knowing that this product is based on the GlassFish open source project, the customer sought help from the GlassFish community by posting in the GlassFish forum. I and some others joined the discussion through the forum and through e-mail exchanges outside the forum. We made some progress but after a while we hit the limit to what we could do along the lines of free support through the community. I'm sure we would have eventually found the problem and resolved it, but we just couldn't devote more cycles to it at that time via the community.
Fortunately, this customer has a paid support agreement with Sun for the SJS AS 9.0 product. The customer opened a formal support case with us, which helps Sun mobilize other people to work on it. And, frankly, it helps to raise the priority of the issue with people - me included - who had already spent some time on it but couldn't devote further effort to it via free community support. With Sun support and engineering now involved formally we could apply additional people, time, and diagnostic tools that helped us identify exactly what was happening on the customer's system.
Eventually, the support folks and I discovered that the problem was exposed by one key aspect of the customer's configuration, but not before accessing the customer's system remotely (with permission!) and doing a fair amount of detective work duplicating the scenario on our systems at Sun. I found a fix that worked in our environment, and the support team provided it to the customer for testing to see if it worked there as well. It did, and the fix will appear in a future build of GlassFish and a future release of the SJS AS.
The point of this story is this: Timely and accurate help via forums and mailing lists is a key component of a vibrant open-source community, and I think we're seeing that more and more in the GlassFish community. Paid support from the vendor of a product based on open-source software - like support from Sun for SJS AS - brings an added level of resources and commitment that for many customers is worth the investment.
[shameless plug follows] You can find out more about Sun's software support offerings here.