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Support (was: Democracy and organisation)

From: Andrew Sullivan <andrew(at)libertyrms(dot)info>
To: pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Support (was: Democracy and organisation)
Date: 2002-06-26 22:36:58
Message-ID: 20020626183658.A29484@mail.libertyrms.com (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-hackers
Followup set to -advocacy

On Wed, Jun 26, 2002 at 12:01:18PM -0700, Dann Corbit wrote:

> Customer support is also a big issue comparing free database systems
> with commercial ones.  I know that there are a couple groups that do
> this, but that genre of businesses do not have a good track record of
> staying in business.  MS, Oracle, and IBM will be there five years down
> the road to help.

I normally wouldn't get involved in this one, since it's the sort of
thing that turns into a flamefest.  And anyway, I'm not sure -hackers
is the place for it (hence the followup).  But as a lowly user, I
cannot let such a comment go unanswered.

I've used several commercial products of different kinds.  I've
supported various kinds of databases.  I've worked (and, in fact,
currently work) in shops with all kinds of different support
agreements, including the magic-high-availability, we'll have it in 4
hours ones.  I've had contracts for support that were up for renewal,
and ones that had been freshly signed with a six-month trial.

But I have never, _never_ had the sort of support that I get from the
PostgreSQL community and developers.  And it has been this way ever
since I started playing with PostgreSQL some time ago, when I didn't
even know how SQL worked.  I like to have commercial support, and to
be able to call on it -- we use the services of PostgreSQL, Inc.  But
you cannot beat the PostgreSQL lists, nor the support directly from
the developers and other users.  Everyone is unvarnished in their
assessments of flaws and their plans for what is actually going to get
programmed in.  And they tell you when you're doing things wrong, and
what they are.

You cannot, from _any_ commercial enterprise, no matter how much you
are willing to pay, buy that kind of service.  People find major,
showstopper bugs in the offerings of the companies you mention, and
are brushed off until some time later, when the company is good and
ready.  (I had one rep of a company I won't mention actually tell me,
"Oh, so you found that bug, eh?"  The way I found it was by
discovering a hole in my network so big that Hannibal and his
elephants could have walked through.  But the company in question did
not think it necessary to mention this little bug until people found
it.  And our NDA prevented us from mentioning it.)

Additionally, I would counsel anyone who thinks they are protected by
a large company to consider the fate of the poor Informix users these
days.  Informix was once a power-house.  It was a Safe Choice.  But if
I were an Informix user today, I'd be spending much of my days trying
to learn DB2, or whatever.  Because I would know that, sooner or
later, IBM is going to pull out the dreaded "EOL" stamp.  And I'd
have to change my platform.

The "company supported" argument might make some people in suits
comfortable, but I don't believe that they have any justification for
that comfort.  I'd rather talk to the guy who wrote the code.

A

-- 
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Andrew Sullivan                               87 Mowat Avenue 
Liberty RMS                           Toronto, Ontario Canada
<andrew(at)libertyrms(dot)info>                              M6K 3E3
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