We've been discussing the various support options, including community support, available for Apache Tomcat, and contrasting those to Commercial JEE Application Server Support options. In this final blog in the series, we're focusing on the remaining two Tomcat Options, Self Support and Vendor Support agreements.
The second option is supporting Tomcat within the IT organization. In this case, the IT organization must have significant Tomcat expertise on staff and they provide much/all of the support to the various users within the organization. Both the level of expertise required and the challenges of providing that for 24x7x365 mission critical applications are neither simple nor inexpensive.
Less understood is that server infrastructure software is inherently different from application software. It’s a specialty within the software industry; relatively few programmers have the skills and expertise to deal with the kinds of problems found within operating systems and application containers. Realistically, it takes a substantial scale of operations to make this option viable, but for very large organizations, the cost savings and ability to control the process may make self support worthwhile.
As noted above, for those customers desiring guaranteed support services, there are several vendors offering Tomcat maintenance contracts (support subscriptions). These vendors have specialists on staff with the skills and experience to deal with Tomcat internals, and the best of them are also active in the Apache Tomcat community. Some of these vendors also have recognized that Tomcat itself is not a complete enterprise ready solution and they offer both Tomcat enhancements and layered products to make Tomcat more complete and “enterprise ready”.
When assessing Tomcat support vendors there are a number of important considerations. These include:
Since there is no license price for Apache Tomcat, maintenance agreements/subscriptions are generally based on a competitive market, not artificial list prices. Depending on the vendor and what’s included, these agreements typically cost between $ 500 and $ 1,000/year.
For those IT organizations that are used to proprietary infrastructure software, Tomcat can be a breath of fresh air…think FREEDOM! Tomcat offers support choice, instead of vendor monopoly, which allows the IT organization to dramatically reduce support costs in a competitive market. Tomcat also allows the IT organization to decide what portion of the support risk (and cost) to take on and what portions to outsource.
Community support is typically the cheapest option, but is also the most risky due to its indeterminate volunteer structure/approach. Self support falls in between for costs, can be the best for responsiveness, but requires fairly large scale adoption to cover internal fixed costs and community participation. Support subscriptions from a reputable vendor that is well connected with the Apache Tomcat community provide the highest level of support, albeit at a fairly moderate cost (about 10-20% of the cost of typical JEE maintenance contracts).
All things considdered, contracting with a Tomcat Support vendor that's closely connected with the community usually offers the best balance of low cost and responsive service.