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Frequently Asked Questions

Support Contract FAQ

Support Contract FAQ


[General]

1. How does this commercialisation impact the OpenSSL mission?

It doesn't. OpenSSL is not being commercialised and there will not be separate "paid" and "free" versions of the software.

The OpenSSL mission of providing a high quality open source cryptographic library for use by anyone under a very business friendly license will not change. The same OpenSSL team members will continue to improve and maintain the OpenSSL product for general use as always.

The only commercial aspect that has been introduced is that corporate, institutional, and government users now have the option of purchasing commercial software support for the same open source product that is freely available to everyone. These paid support subscriptions help support the OpenSSL team members actively working on the OpenSSL product and so indirectly benefit the entire user community.

2. What is the target market?

We are primarily targeting the commercial vendors with a significant stake in the OpenSSL product who wish to have an assured level of support and to sponsor the continued development and maintenance of OpenSSL. We anticipate that our typical customer will fit most of the follow criteria:

a) Is a medium to large software product or services vendor, b) Uses OpenSSL as an important component of those products or services, c) Has an interest in the future stability and development of OpenSSL, d) Has significant on-house technical expertise but recognises that specialised external support wold be cost-effective

3. Why pay for support when I can get it for free?

Why indeed? If you're satisfied with the extensive support available from the collaborative community and the expertise, proficiency, and resource availability of your current technical staff then this service is not designed for you.

This support contract option is designed for companies that do not have, or cannot spare, the in-house technical resources for utilising or customising OpenSSL, who want the assurance that appropriate technical assistance will be available when needed, and who may not want their technical queries and discussions seen by the entire world.

4. Can we just send a donation instead?

Absolutely, donations are welcome and will help make OpenSSL a better product. Please note that the OSF is not a qualified non-profit entity under the U.S. tax code and hence donations from individuals are not tax-deductible. We looked into 501(c)(3) tax exemption; it costs more and takes a long time. Since our primary purpose is to provide services to the commercial and government markets and not to solicit charitable contributions we have elected to defer pursuit of tax exempt status for now.

5. Why hasn't this been done before?

Sloth and inertia, basically. Although the demand for such a service has been apparent for some time it took a while to work out how to structure a solution that addressed the legal, financial, and operational issues.


[Plans]

1. What is covered by the support plans?

All of the support plans are designed to provide technical assistance with use of relatively recently released versions of the OpenSSL product for platforms supported by those versions. Assistance with using the existing API, compile/link errors, runtime problem diagnosis, and portability issues for currently supported platforms would all be covered under the terms of the support contract. Porting to completely new platforms, development of new functionality, or use of OpenSSL in a context clearly not anticipated at the time of release is not covered by the standard plans.

Merging of bug or vulnerability fixes from a newer release or the development trunk to an older supported release will generally be covered (the exception being modifications involving significant interface incompatibilities).

2. What if we need new features not covered by the support plan?

The incorporation of completely new functionality (new cryptographic algorithms, implementation of new RFCs, etc.) is not covered. However, the OSF can quote a separate development task on a time-and-materials or hourly rate basis.

3. What about support for FIPS140 and the OpenSSL FIPS Object Module?

The OpenSSL FIPS Object Module validations are based on source code derived from the baseline OpenSSL product but are not synonymous with that product. FIPS 140-2 presents some unique challenges transcending the more purely technical issues of OpenSSL proper. FPS 140-2 is also of interest to a relatively small subset of the user community.

The standard support plans will cover operational problems with OpenSSL in "FIPS compatible" mode but do not cover building of the validated FIPS Object Module itself. Support for the FIPS Object Module, including assistance with building a validated module for a specific platform (if possible) is available with the Premium plan or as a separate support plan that can be negotiated to suit your specific requirements.

4. Why is there no per-incident support option?

We are a very low overhead organisation with no front office to handle a significant volume of new customer contacts. All OSF personnel are primarily or exclusively dedicated to providing technical services; we could only support per-incident customers at the expense of the annual support plan subscribers. At this point we don't have a feel for the potential demand for per-incident support and so can't justify the additional staffing such support may require. We may reconsider this position at some point

5. Will subscribers have an inside track on vulnerability announcements?

The OpenSSL team will not be deliberately withholding any information from the general open source community for the benefit of paid support plan subscribers. We are not changing our mission!

For some types of vulnerabilities the OpenSSL team will work on a fix before making any public announcement. Support plan subscribers will not have any special access to the unannounced details of such vulnerabilities. However, we will alert subscribers to the fact that a patch will be required as soon as we can do so, and will prepare appropriate patches in advance to the extent our knowledge of your specific situation permits.


[Services]

1. What about other types of consulting services?

OpenSSL team members have been providing consulting and custom software development services on an ad-hoc basis for many years. In fact, it was the increasing demand for such services that led to the creation of the OpenSSL Software Foundation. Consulting service contracts can be provided on a hourly rate for one or more OpenSSL team members, or we can prepare a fixed-price proposal for clearly defined deliverables.

2. What is a "private label" validation?

Even though the OpenSSL FIPS Object Module FIPS 140-2 validations were designed for direct use by commercial software vendors, for various reasons some vendors prefer to obtain separate validations for their OpenSSL derived software. That sounds wasteful, and it is, but in fact the majority of all level 1 FIPS 140-2 validated software products are based on OpenSSL. Due to our extensive experience in such validations we can cost-effectively provide the documentation and CMVP test lab interaction for private label validations.


[Legal and Financial]

1. Who or what exactly am I contracting with?

There is no formal legal entity corresponding with the OpenSSL team itself, which is an informal collaborative association of individuals around the world. We created a legal entity to represent the OpenSSL team members actively participating in the support contract initiative. That entity, the OpenSSL Software Foundation (OSF) will execute the formal support contract agreements and handle the associated business functions. The actual technical support will be provided by OpenSSL team members.

2. Where does the money for support contract subscriptions go?

It all goes to the people directly providing the technical support services and to current active OpenSSL team members. There is no investor or parent company syphoning off revenue for other purposes; the OpenSSL Software Foundation was created specifically to support the activities of the OpenSSL team.

Even though not all OpenSSL team members will be directly participating in or directly benefiting from the support subscription business all have consented to the arrangement and all will have full access to the financial records (tax filings and bank statements) of the OSF.

3. Are the support plans listed on a GSA schedule?

Sorry, no. Frankly the paperwork requirements are too intimidating at this point, and the significant costs of meeting them would have to be passed on to all of our customers. Perhaps someday.


[Miscellaneous]

1. What if we need help with proprietary or sensitive information?

We recognise that some vendors do not wish to reveal details of their software products or business plans. We will respect non-disclosure restrictions provided such restrictions do not constrain our ability to write and maintain OpenSSL or other software.

2. Why the separate domain name?

We're conducting business using the opensslfoundation.com domain name instead of the openssl.org domain name because we want to distinguish the new for-pay support and service activities from the traditional OpenSSL project which will continue as before. We would like to have used the openssl.com domain name but it is taken by someone not associated with the OpenSSL team.