OpenLogic offers prizes for enterprise support

Qualified key developers in a variety of open-source software projects are being invited to join software vendor OpenLogic's new "expert community" program that allows them to earn cash or prizes when they help OpenLogic enterprise customers solve their toughest software problems.

OpenLogic on Monday unveiled the program, which it said allows it to provide expanded enterprise-grade support across a range of open-source products by tapping the talents of high-level developers working on them. Under the program, developers who are open-source "committers" -- those project volunteers who have direct responsibility and control to update the source code for each project -- will have the credentials to qualify for and join the OpenLogic Expert Community to provide Tier 3 or Tier 4 support to OpenLogic's enterprise open-source customers.

Participants can also join if they are referred by a committer from one of the open-source projects supported by OpenLogic, the company said. Tier 1 and Tier 2 support will continue to be provided by the company's support staff.

OpenLogic, which offers pre-configured, pre-tested and pre-built open-source software "stacks" for enterprise customers, has been supporting some 150 open-source applications for several years, using its own staff and help from partners to make the products easier to integrate into corporate IT environments. Now, it is expanding that single point-of-contact approach.

"It gives deeper and better support, because these people in our expert community are committer contributors to these 150 projects," said Kim Weins, vice president of marketing for OpenLogic. Inviting committers to join the process will help open-source projects from splitting apart, or "forking," because needed fixes can quickly be added to the main code bases of each project, she said. "What we're doing is creating for the enterprise the service-level agreement that they need ..., and we will use this expert community as our supplementary means to provide that."

OpenLogic customers will get access to the deeper Tier 3 and Tier 4 support under existing service and support agreements with the company, Weins said. The expert community developers will be paid for their services in points by OpenLogic. Those points can later be redeemed for cash or prizes such as video game players.

Developers will get 100 points that can be redeemed for $US100 for each incident that they resolve. Most incidents are expected to take less than four hours to resolve; if the problem takes longer, the developers can seek additional reward points.

The program will especially help open-source enterprise customers who need help but don't want to post requests on message boards for fear that competitors or others will see what they are using inside their operations, Weins said. Instead, they can seek help anonymously because the payment points for the assistance will come from OpenLogic and don't have to come directly from the customers.

The OpenLogic Expert Community now has experts representing more than 50 leading open-source projects, including Apache HTTP Server, Ant, Hibernate, MyFaces, Spring, Struts and Tomcat.

Michael Goulde, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the reward program is innovative and "nervy."

OpenLogic will have to carefully monitor and manage the program to be sure that its customers' needs are met, he said. "This may require a discipline that some of these [open-source developers] aren't used to," Goulde said. In the end, the company will have to figure out if the "cost of managing this exceeds the cost of hiring people."

Raven Zachary, an analyst with The 451 Group of New York, said that by setting up the program on its own, OpenLogic is setting the bar for other open-source vendors to begin similar programs, which could create chaos in the marketplace. A better approach might be a consortium, he said, which could encourage community experts to monetize their knowledge in one forum that would support a multitude of open-source projects.