But Open Source Software is unsupported. Isn’t it?

Open Source is not unsupported

It’s a common misconception that open source software means it’s unsupported, that if you want to have 7×24 support you have to buy commercial software. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that open source software is written by professional coders, is fully production quality and support is available. The major difference between commercial software and open source software is this:

  • With commercial software, you pay for the use of the software and you also have to pay for 7×24 support. Usually, you have to pay for the software itself on an annual basis or pay for every upgrade. And even paying for software fees and support won’t get you access to the source code.
  • With open source software, you get the software for free, including access to the source code. And many open source companies like the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) offer paid support for their products.
  • Commercial software vendors have large marketing and sales staffs and spend lots of money on advertising. Open source companies (including ISC) tend to do a poor job at letting the world know what we can offer. We use our money to hire good technical staff.

Who needs support when you can look at the source code?

For many companies, the source code itself, along with manual pages and documentation included with the source code may be enough. Their needs are simple and it may not be business critical that they don’t have someone to call at 3am when something breaks.

For anyone who has a critical business need for the software to “just work”, or to comply with auditing requirements, such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) or Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requirements, that is not enough. These companies need 7×24 support, security and bug fixes and possibly even custom code.

ISC’s managed open source model

ISC has years of experience writing code that keeps the Internet running, including DNS software (BIND) and DHCP software. We have made our code and our expertise available to the Internet in a number of ways that give companies the options they need to use open source code in business critical functions.

We do this as part of our public benefit mission. We also do it because the more people who use our code and look at the source, the more likely it is that bugs are found, security flaws are exposed and fixed and useful features are added. It’s evolution and a rich genetic background at work and everyone on the Internet benefits.

What is BIND

BIND is the most widely used DNS software on the Internet. It is used by Internet infrastructure companies, commercial organizations, consumer ISPs and in a variety of specialized applications. It is an open source product, so anyone can download and use it at no cost.  The open source license means that anyone can submit code back to ISC or make their own modifications, with no obligation to submit these changes to ISC.

How can you get support for BIND?

You’ve decided that you like the quality and flexibility of open source but stable DNS is a core business requirement. ISC can help you through a variety of means, including:

  • Support through the BIND Open Source Community
  • Professional DNS Operations Communities
  • Individual and Organizational Membership Forums
  • Contracted Professional Support
  • Architecture, Design, and Configuration Consulting
  • New Technology Deployment Packages
  • Training
  • Value-Added Commercial Implementations

Support through the BIND open source community includes documentation included in the source distribution, FAQs, mailing lists and mailing list archives. The most popular lists relating to BIND are:

  • bind-announce – The BIND Announcement mailing list is where ISC announces important events for users of BIND, such as new releases, events and advisories. Subscribe here. You can browse the archives here.
  • bind-users – The BIND Users list is an open discussion of all matters relating to bind, for users by users. This is also the main community support mailing list. Subcribe here and browse/search the archives here.
  • bind9-bugs – This is the email used to submit bug reports with BIND. Anyone can submit a bug report to ISC. All bug reports are reviewed and fixes are put into new releases of BIND. This is also where anyone can report a security issue with BIND. Email here.

Professional DNS Operations Communities. DNS is critical to what most people consider the internet. Email addresses and names of web sites have to resolve or “the internet is broken”. The DNS is very resilient and redundant. However, for it to work, the operators of this infrastructure have to work together very closely. There is an organization that brings together these key operators, implementers and researchers who keep it all running: DNS Operations, Analysis, and Research Center (DNS-OARC).

ISC strongly encourages all DNS operators to join the open DNS-OARC operating mailing lists, become a member of DNS-OARC, and actively participate in the organization’s activities. For those networks who operate large and supercritical DNS networks, ISC recommends subscribing to the secure chat rooms. Real time operational issues having an impact on the global DNS are frequently resolved through these live and secure chat rooms.

Membership Forums – ISC also has Membership Forums, for both organizations and individuals, where you can get more involved with BIND development, interact with ISC developers and get valuable benefits, including early warning of security advisories and early releases of new code. Click here for more information, or click here to apply for membership.

Professional Support  – ISC provides professional support for BIND. This provides expert support in configuring and maintaining BIND, priority bug fixes, escalation to engineering and 7×24 technical support. Response times and coverage hours vary by level of support. Click here for more information.

Consulting – ISC can help you figure out how to solve your DNS problems. Perhaps BIND can already do what you need but you don’t know how. Possibly there is some feature or option you need that stock BIND doesn’t provide. We can offer configuration help, architecture design and even custom code development to solve your need. Click here to get more information.

New Technology Deployment - Technology is always evolving. Your deployment may have worked in the past but you need to deploy secure DNS (DNSSEC) or add IPv6 capability to your network. ISC has engineers and operators who have developed and implemented new Internet standards available to help you determine your needs and a solid deployment strategy. Click here to get more information.

Training – ISC has hands on training in DNS, DNSSEC, DHCP and IPv6. Learn from the experts how to configure and deploy these technologies, with lecture, discussions and hands-on labs. We have a public training schedule but also offer private classes, done at your site and tailored to your needs. Complete this form for more information.

How can I help keep open source software alive and viable?

ISC has a full time staff of programmers maintaining BIND and our other software. That means that they don’t do this as a part time activity, juggled with a day job. It also means that we need to find ways to pay them.

ISC is a non-profit public benefit corporation. We accept tax deductible donations, grants and contractual support. We also take contributions from organizations, both unencumbered grants and for specific products or features.

Organizations who have a specific new feature they would like developed for their operation can ear mark a grant to ISC for that feature. The new feature will be included in future BIND releases. This benefits the Internet, while also solving the granting organization’s problem in a timely manner. ISC would also support the new feature via contractual support.

Click here for more information on grants for custom development.

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