Recently I was reading an article related to Anaconda in Python and it said that commercial support is available in Anaconda.

I have searched online but was not able to find a perfect answer.

What does it mean by commercial support and is it compulsory for any open-source project to have commercial support?

Should we have to pay for such commercial support?

Please ignore if it looks like a naive question, because I don't have much knowledge about business terms.

  • 12
    An open source platform means it's available to you to use for free, but that doesn't mean that you are an expert in using it. If you need support in using it, support is available for a price. There's nothing compulsory about offering it or using it. If you need support and are willing to pay for that, it's available.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 1, 2019 at 6:41
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    @fixer1234 "An open source platform" doesn't mean that it's available for you to use for free. Just that it's source code is. However, products with "commercial support" offering usually imply that you could use some functionality for free at least under some conditions (i.e. if it's under particular license, for example).
    – Dan M.
    Nov 1, 2019 at 16:18
  • 1
    @danm technically you are correct, but typically open source licenses allow use of software for free.
    – davidgo
    Nov 1, 2019 at 18:10
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    @DanM. "Just that [its] source code is" - Not to be too pedantic, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the source code is available for free either. If they haven't distributed the software in any way to you, they can decide to offer the source for a price.
    – JoL
    Nov 1, 2019 at 18:52
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    @DanM.: This depends on the license. For example, the GPL makes it very clear, that you only need to distribute source code to people that you distributed the binaries to. People who don't have the binaries have no right to the source code. So, you can indeed sell the binaries, and you only need to give those people who paid for the binaries the source code. Of course, under the terms of the GPL, those people in turn are then free to further distribute the software, and they are free to undercut your price. Nov 1, 2019 at 22:14

4 Answers 4


Commercial support is support offered on a business basis, to meet business needs.

Commercial support is not compulsory, and indeed many (I'd say most) open source projects do not advertise this.

On the other hand, if the writer of the software (or skilled contributors) would like to make money doing what they are great at, and people want to pay them, its a win-win. (Many businesses want commercial support to mitigate their risk, and often the cost of getting an expert is cheap in the overall picture to the business, and having expert support can help meet commitments.)

Conversely many open source projects are a labour of love/scratching an itch/giving back, and the authors dont want to offer help because its not what they do - plenty of projects thrive on a supportive community but not commercial support.

  • 11
    just want to add, it doesnt have to be the software's author(s) or contributors. Anyone can give commercial support to open or closed source software.
    – Keltari
    Nov 1, 2019 at 10:00
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    @Keltari It doesn't have to be, but often there's substantial overlap. They have the most expertise, and when they discover problems while supporting the software they can contribute the solutions.
    – Barmar
    Nov 1, 2019 at 16:23
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    As an example, Canonical, the publishers of Ubuntu, offer commercial support options for Ubuntu. ubuntu.com/support#enterprise However, you are not required to buy it, nor if you buy support are you required to buy it from Canonical.
    – K7AAY
    Nov 1, 2019 at 16:38

Commercial support can include paid training, installation services, non-open-source accessories or add-ons, consulting, and so on. Although the open source project itself may be free, some users - usually companies or larger organizations - may be willing to pay for the convenience and expertise included in these extra services and tools.

The availability of these for-pay commercial services doesn't normally affect the open-source user from getting and using the basic software without paying for it.

In some cases, the commercial support organization's web site - let's call it "XYZOpenSource.com" - shows up first in search results, before "XYZOpenSource.org". It can sometimes take a minute to find the underlying open source project.


What does it mean by commercial support and is it compulsory for any open-source project to have commercial support?

No, obviously not. An open source project may be a fifty line python script you wrote to solve your own problem, that you publish for others to use. No support included; just the right to use it.

Should we have to pay for such commercial support?

If you want it, you'll have to pay for it. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone offers to dedicate time to assist you using a specific software, in exchange for money.

If you don't need it, don't pay for it. You can employ someone, to read the source and provide the support in house if you want.

Commercial support is commonly used to support development costs, such as with MariaDB, or an integral part of the product, as with Red Hat.

  • 1
    Ironically your first section describes how you can get a free lunch, then the second section says there's no such thing
    – Lightness Races with Monica
    Nov 2, 2019 at 22:33

A business may be reluctant to use open source software due to a perceived lack of reliable support for:

  • Updates
  • Documentation/Training
  • Bug Fixes
  • Customization

On the other hand, using that open source software may offer the potential of huge savings compared to a full commercial package or writing their own equivalent from scratch.

Commercial support can provide the best of both worlds. A paid source for updates, documentation/training, bug fixes (at a much higher priority than simply waiting on volunteer developers) and customization (particularly if the business does not have developers to do it themselves), but with a starting cost far below that of a full commercial package or writing a new system.

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