Here We Go Again

I guess I should be flattered, but it appears that not one but two companies have decided to build commercial products on OpenNMS. Both of them were brought to my attention by members of our community.

The first product is called “RuggedNMS” by a company out of Canada called RuggedCom.

If you look at the screenshots, it is quite obviously OpenNMS with a slightly different skin. If you zoom in on their “Extensive Reports” screenshot you can see “” in the unique event identifiers.

How they can sell this as a commercial product without violating the GPL is a mystery, especially when you read their terms which state:

RuggedCom provides a trial copy RuggedNMS™ solely for the direct use of the person who is identified in the trial software request form. This is only a 30-day trial.

Redistribution of RuggedNMS™ software files by any means is prohibited.

The second case is a product called OpenGate by Encodex TeleSystems. They at least mention OpenNMS which is a good sign, but I am also confused by their use of the phrase “Encodex TeleSystems developed a proprietary Network Management product using OpenNMS platform and framework”. While technically possible, I am at a loss to understand how OpenNMS can easily be used as the basis for a proprietary product under the GPL.

While it is unfortunate, we do have experience in dealing with this in the past. One major difference over last time is that all of the OpenNMS copyright is now held by one entity, which makes enforcement of the license much, much easier.

I’ve contacted our team at Moglen Ravicher and asked them to look into this. My hope is that it can easily be resolved. We chose to make OpenNMS open source for a reason, and I have to wonder if it is too much to ask for others to respect that.

UPDATE: Okay, now I’m starting to wax sorely pissed. A friend of mine pointed me to this link on the RuggedCom site about discovery. Now compare that to the How-To I wrote years ago. Seem familiar?

UPDATE 2: Got a reply about OpenGate

Hi Tarus,

Thanks for your email. OpenNMS base product that you see on the website will be deleted, as this was never a product and was not built.
This was a conceptual design activity that never progressed.

We will remove it from the website right away.


Arun Joshi, CEO
Encodex Telesystems

Europe 2010 – Balog, Tarus Balog

Yesterday I arrived back in the US after nearly three weeks in Europe. It was nice to be home, and I was amazed that through four countries, all nine flights I took were on time, if not early, and I was mercifully spared from both strikes and volcanos.

On my last full day in France I decided to take a bus ride over to Monaco. Every time I think of Monte Carlo I can’t help but think of James Bond.

It was fun to walk around, and being somewhat into cars there were a number of amazing specimens to be seen, such as a Ferrari with Gumball 3000 graphics.

I don’t have any more international travel planned with OpenNMS for many months, but there is some domestic travel, such as the upcoming SELF conference in June. Hope to see you there.

Dev-Jam 2010 Registration is Now Open

One of my favorite times of the year is when we all get together for a week of OpenNMS coding known as Dev-Jam. This year it will be held once again at Yudof Hall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Registration is now open.

Anyone who is interested in learning about the OpenNMS code and becoming part of the community is welcome to attend. It is a very open format, and this year’s theme is shaping up to be “The OpenNMS Future Roadmap”. We will be making decisions on what we want to do moving forward and then breaking into teams to make that happen.

The cost is US$1400 which includes a single room in the dorm (with a shared bathroom), meals, internet access and an OpenNMS shirt. While I strongly recommend folks stay in the dorm, if you’d rather stay off campus the cost is US$700 and includes lunch, internet and the shirt.

There is a US$100 discount available until 15 June, and registration closes 20 July or when all beds are full. We do have limited space, so if you want to come please register early.

If you have never been a part of a vibrant open source community and wonder what it is like (or you have been in the past and miss it) then this is the event to attend. It is a serious amount of fun.

OpenNMS 1.6.11 and OpenNMS 1.7.90 Released

I am happy to announce that there are two new releases of OpenNMS now available.

The latest stable release is 1.6.11 and contains a number of bugfixes and small configuration additions, with several corrections made to fix installation issues. There should be no problem upgrading an existing 1.6 release to this version, but there is also no overwhelming reason to do so if you are not experiencing the problems it addresses.

The more exciting news is that our release candidate for 1.8, version 1.7.90, has been released. This is the feature complete release and we’ll be spending the next several weeks cleaning up bugs to make it ready to become the next stable. This also means that 1.6.11 will be the last release in the 1.6 line unless something major is found.

There will a number of 1.7.9x releases in the next few weeks, leading up to 1.8.0, so if you have a development machine we’d love it if you’d install it and give us feedback.

As usual, the the release notes can be found on our website, and the code is available from out apt and yum repositories and well as from SourceForge.

OSCON 2010 – 37 Pieces of Flair!

OSCON Speaker Flair

Shirley Bailes, Goddess and Chief Speaker Herder at the O’Reilly Open Source Conference, sent me this little bit of speaker flair for my blog.

Yes, I will be attending this year’s OSCON. I missed last year’s conference (although we did send a couple of people from OpenNMS) but I am looking forward to going, as I’ll be leaving straight from there to Dev-Jam in Minnesota which is one of my favorite times of the year.

The reason I am posting this is that Shirley sent me a top secret code:


That will get you a 20% discount off of registration.

Hope to see you there.

Europe 2010 – Management World Day 4

The last day of Management World started off with some bad news. It turns out that our catalyst did not win the Excellence Award, instead it was for another project that BT sponsored.

I did try my damnedest to verify that we had won before posting, but the TMForum’s Twitter feed was no help and the web site just had the BT logo and not the name of the project listed for the winner. The executive who accepted the award referenced us and the BT employees in the booth thought we had won as well.

One funny thing is that because of this misunderstanding, the booth saw a tremendous amount of extra traffic as everyone else thought we were the winner, too. I guess it worked out that it wasn’t sorted until the last day.

For the most part I enjoyed the conference, and the term “cloud” was used correctly most of the time. I also got to spend time with Alex Finger, one of the people we worked with at Swisscom to deploy a large OpenNMS solution.

He had an interesting blog post on the misuse of the term “cloud” from none other than HP. They wrote:

By utilising Cloud Computing your mobile device will become your photo ID, your passport, your library card … and it probably won’t be called a phone anymore …

No, no, no, no … by utilizing “the Internet” your mobile device blah blah blah. The Internet is not the Cloud, despite Microsoft and their Visio icon. Everyone is so desperate to be associated with cloud computing that they will use it whenever possible, although it has a specific meaning.

In our catalyst at the show we demonstrated an integration where extra computing power was turned on and off based on need. That’s cloud computing – treating traditional network resources as if they were utilities.

As Alex points out, hardware companies like HP desperately want to be associated with cloud because “If the service and the computing power are not visible anymore to the users … who cares then about the hardware vendor?”

Good point.

Europe 2010 – Management World Day 3

I got a late start to the conference on Wednesday. Since I have Internet access at l’apartment there is nothing preventing me from working, and we’ve been extremely busy lately. It’s all good, and much better than having too much time on our hands.

I’ve also been writing a lot. This week alone I filled out a long survey, wrote a 2000 word open source business article for a website in Canada, and made time to complete another long survey as part of the Robert X. Cringely Not in Silicon Valley Startup Tour.

The idea is to create a reality television show profiling 24 startup companies which will air on a cable television network. They’ve had over 400 nominations (ours came from Tanner Lovelace who I first met working at Oculan) so we have, what, a 6% chance out of the box of making it? I hope my answers to their questions upped that a bit.

You can check out our nomination and comment on it if you like. I did mention that I live on a horse farm so since he’s bringing his kids maybe visiting the farm will be an extra draw. Plenty of RV parking, too.

I arrived at the conference early afternoon and spent most of the day chatting with people about OpenNMS and our work at the TMForum. Did I mention that this is a suit-heavy conference?

I was even wearing one.

I’d like to be able to point you to some information about our open source interface project, called JOSIF, but all of that is locked behind a membership wall. One of the frustrating things about trying to bring open source concepts to the TMForum is that they are very conscious of intellectual property of any kind and trying to free up some of our information is a bit of a struggle.

In the evening we met up with some people from Swisscom in Bern and went to a delightful restaurant called Le Maison de Marie. We then walked back to the apartment along the waterfront.

As I looked out and over the lights of Nice, I had this one surreal moment where it hit me that, although I work in open source (which is often associated with “cheap” and bare bones), here I was, a country boy from North Carolina, walking along the French Riviera on a warm spring evening.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Europe 2010 – Management World Days 1 and 2

The reason I’m in Nice this week is to attend the Telemanagement Forum’s annual Management World conference. Dr. Craig Gallen has been leading the OpenNMS involvement with this organization for many years now, and we have been trying to introduce open source development concepts into the highest levels of telecom carriers and those companies that support them.

Most of that effort has gone into the TMForum’s Interface Program (TIP). The goal of TIP is to create permissively licensed open source code to implement the interfaces defined in the NGOSS specification. On our first day at the conference (Monday) there was a long status meeting that we attended. Well, I left after the first hour and a half. I now have a greater appreciation for the work Craig is doing. (grin)

Today, the main part of the conference officially started. This is a serious conference – lots of people in suits (including me) and a very high level of execution. A tremendous amount of money goes into the signs, banners, food, etc., that I don’t see at any other show.

Today is also when they announce the winners of the TMForum Excellence Awards. The OpenNMS Group was nominated in the “Leadership” category but we didn’t make the finalist cut. However, we were also involved in a project lead by the BT Group that was a finalist in the “Innovation” category.

We didn’t win that either – although it was announced as if we did. The confusion arose because the BT group had two catalysts in the show, and the executive who accepted the award mentioned the Cloud Service Broker. Oh well.

We spent most of the day on the third level in “Forumville”. It is a tradition at TMForum events for members to showcase proofs of concept. Called “catalysts,” they range from mockups to systems that are nearly production ready.

We were involved in a catalyst called the “Cloud Services Broker”.

A “broker” is usually someone that facilitates an exchange of goods or services. For example, in the US most people receive health insurance from their employers. Those that work for The OpenNMS Group are no different. Rather than search out all possible options and trying to determine the best fit, I contacted a broker who then examined our needs and matched us with a insurance company. When that company raised their rates a few years later, she worked to find us alternatives.

What BT aims to do is to act as a broker for cloud services. They would make the ordering process easy and then match a client’s needs to the best vendor. Should situations change in the future, they could facilitate a change of service or a switch to another vendor. They would also make it easy for ISVs to add their products to the ordering system.

Here is a diagram:

There were several companies involved in the solution. The assembly and lifecycle management of cloud products is performed by Square Hoop, while technical assembly is delivered by Comptel. Comptel also provided the portal by which cloud products are ordered. BT provides trusted deployment of the solution to the right cloud service providers, and assures that all governance requirements are met. Infonova provides management charging models (billing), while OpenNMS delivers the monitoring function.

One of the scenarios demonstrated in the catalyst was the ability to dynamically allocate extra compute resources in a “burst” fashion. In this example, a web site that takes orders for computer parts desires a service level of less than 1 second for the website to respond to requests.

They have a couple of servers running their commerce application, fronted by a load balancing device.

When this system was provisioned, messages were sent to OpenNMS to automatically monitor this service and to put certain service-related thresholds in place.

When the number of visitors to the website is increased, OpenNMS detects that it is now taking longer than one second to respond to queries. Since this is to be expected from time to time, no action is taken until this condition persists for several minutes.

At that point a message is sent from OpenNMS to BT’s system, which then automatically allocates more servers and notifies the load balancer to start sending traffic to the new resources. This results in a decrease in response times to well within acceptable limits.

Here’s Craig demonstrating this at the show:

OpenNMS, designed as a network management application platform, was the perfect choice since there were a number of integration points to allow BT to both add, delete and change what is being monitored as well as to receive important information back from the system with a minimum of integration effort. The OpenNMS code was not changed for this demonstration.

The best part of the whole thing is that the solution is close to production ready. Craig and I were chatting about this, and we thought wouldn’t it be cool if BT were able to offer OpenNMS as a brokered solution? Since BT owns the network that these customers use, they could spin up a VM, load it with OpenNMS, then open a VPN to the customer’s network. Throw in auto-discovery and a client could have a management solution up and running in less than an hour.

The idea of being able to make the purchase and deployment of cloud services easier for both end users and those that supply the services is pretty innovative, and I think BT has a real opportunity here.

Several Random Thoughts Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving …

It’s interesting to spend a lot of time away from home, especially in foreign countries, since the change in scenery and language can definitely get the creative juices flowing.

I’m writing this from France (I had forgotten that a) people smoke a lot here and b) people really like to have dogs, which makes walking down the street an adventure) where, since I happened to have Internet access, feels in many ways like home but in very large and important ways is not.

This weekend I was trying to catch up on e-mails and one involved filling out a long survey. One of the questions was “What advice would you give open source projects just getting started?” to which I answered they should run out and read a copy of REWORK.

REWORK is great, because if I were to write a book on business, that is the book I would write. Since I have so little free time as it is, I am happy someone else wrote it for me. (grin)

It is written by Jason Fried and David Hannemeier Hansson of 37signals. While 37signals is not an open source company, they did sponsor the development of the Ruby on Rails framework, which is used to make their own web applications as well as those of countless other projects. But they are a software company that started with little investment but a whole lot of talent and energy, and thus they parallel a lot of open source projects.

Even though it clocks in at nearly 300 pages, REWORK reads quickly. It consists of several short ideas about business as experienced by the 37signals team, and most of them are spot on. It is a book that screams to be read in the bathroom. Each point is presented in little chunks, most not more than a page or two in length, and reading it over time in the bathroom will let each one sink in between readings (all puns intentional).

One thing I don’t do that REWORK suggests I should is work less. I probably put in 60+ hour weeks with OpenNMS. Sometimes this is out of necessity but most of the time it is that the business occupies a good portion of my thoughts. Plus we now have customers all over the world and it helps to be able to answer their questions either early in the morning or late at night.

I also think that they don’t talk enough about having excellent people working with you. They do emphasize the beauty of remaining small, but I have never worked with a better team than the OpenNMS gang and that is really important. If you want to manage a geographically remote, self directed team they have to be great people. They have to really want to be doing the work that needs to be done.

The OpenNMS Group is growing during this economic downturn, so I am often asked by people for a job. My reply is to get involved with the project, show me what you can do, close a few bugs and demonstrate that you have what it takes. Rarely, if ever, does that happen, and I know that I’ve dodged another hiring bullet. The people I hire want to be there for more than just a job.

I did love the research on failure in the book. One of the reasons I dislike the venture capital community is that it seems to be made up of a small group of gamblers who have made a lot of money for themselves, and a large group of sycophants that hope to make a lot of money. This group seems to thrive on failure.

For example, I worked for one company that after I left hired a certain person as CEO. This was a pretty close knit team of 40+ people, but not only was he an outsider, he didn’t even relocate to be near the business. In less than a year he drove the company down to less than 10 people, and when the board fired him the most enthusiasm he ever showed was in his weekly calls to make sure his severance was getting paid (he left the company much weaker than when he found it and cash flow was a problem).

So imagine my surprise when the same guy gets the top job at another company where I used to work. He obviously had an “in” with various investors, and the explanation I was given was “now that he’s a failure, he’ll know how to do better this time”.

This is a myth. REWORK quotes a study showing that people who lead companies that fail have the same success rate on their next company as those without any experience at all.

The second company closed 20 months later.

And now for a digression that I promise I’ll tie back together eventually.

On this trip I became aware of the Diaspora project to provide an open Facebook replacement. I didn’t read any of the stories completely due to travel, so I actually set aside time on Saturday to close my Facebook account and switch.

I actually like Facebook (we have an OpenNMS page), but lately having to opt out of all of the information sharing they want to do has become painful. The financial value of Facebook is in all the information about you that they have, yet they can’t monetize it unless it can be sold. Thus they want to share as much of your private information as they can get away with. I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with this if this had been stated upfront, but it feels a little like a bait and switch now.

I only connect via Facebook with old and dear friends. Almost all of them I’ve known since high school, and I use it to air out random thoughts, to make rude jokes, and to feel a sense of connectedness when I’m away from home. I never post anything online that I wouldn’t say in public, but the stuff I post on Facebook is usually something I’d rather keep amongst a small group, versus, say, my favorite public social network LinkedIn.

So imagine my disappointment when I found out the the Diaspora project didn’t really exist. My guess is that it will fail to unseat Facebook.

Please, before any of my three readers gets all upset and figures out how to use the comments section of this blog, I don’t want them to fail, but now the expectation has been set so high that they won’t be able to pull it off. In order to compete with Facebook, they’ll have to quickly get up to a large number of registered users, but operating on scale is hard. It took OpenNMS years to iron out the scalability issues we found with our software (and we are still looking for ways to improve it), but Diaspora will have to do it much more rapidly.

Facebook started out with a very limited deployment and slowly built up its application. Diaspora will have no such option. With such a bright spotlight on the project they will get mired down in trying to make the application perfect. No software can be made perfect, but now that important step of iterative growth will be removed. Heck, back in the 1.0 days OpenNMS used to actually die occasionally, much less monitor tens of thousands of devices, but our organic growth and obscurity let us fix those problems until is it extremely stable now.

And here’s the promised tie-in – Jason Fried summed the whole situation up nicely on his blog: they have too much money, the spotlight is on too early and expectations are too high.

He left off one thing that was mentioned in REWORK which was “Don’t Copy”. When you base your business or project on another’s work, you lose control. For example, all Facebook would have to do to stop a potential exodus over privacy would be to tighten the default privacy settings, or make it easy to “opt-out to all” by default. Probably less than a day’s worth of code and Diaspora can’t hit critical mass.

This does not mean I want them to fail – I would love an alternative to Facebook, especially an open one – but I have my doubts. This is one reason at OpenNMS we talk about things we’ve done, not what we are going to do.

Europe 2010 – Bergen to Nice

After hosting me for a delightful weekend in Norway (the beautiful weather was all due to me, by the way) Alex did me one more favor by waking up early on Sunday and driving me to the airport.

I got hassled a bit going through security. The line I chose was slow (I think they were using it for training) and my laptop bag full of wires and other electronics merited some extra attention. Still, it is hard to get upset when the security officer could moonlight as a Victoria’s Secret model.

I made my short connection through Oslo with little issue and arrived in Nice around noon.

Now, Nice is on the French Riviera, and it is quite busy at this time of year. In addition to the Telemanagement Forum conference, there is also the Monaco Formula 1 race and the Cannes film festival going on nearby. This means that it can be very hard to find a place to stay that doesn’t cost a ton of money.

There was some debate within the OpenNMS Group about which of us would be attending the conference, so I didn’t attempt to make any reservations until late, and that’s when I found that most of the inexpensive hotels had been booked.

Thinking out of the box, I started looking for “holiday” rentals. These are local apartments that can be rented by the week. I found a number of websites that managed such places, but only when I stumbled upon a site called the “Riviera Rental Guide” did I find one with the availability listed on the page. Others required you to inquire, and the few places I asked about were all booked.

I found an affordable three bedroom place not far from the conference and booked it. I quickly received an e-mail confirmation with lots of details. Unfortunately, the only downside to the experience was that I had a number of questions and when I contacted the e-mail address on the confirmation letter I got no reply.

When I was in Norway I was going to call, but then I received a letter from Sarah, the local agent in Nice. She was extremely responsive, and told me, to my great relief, that the apartment was equipped with Internet access (as well as a washer/dryer and other amenities). I met her associate Gosia at the apartment and the check-in process was quick and painless.

The apartment itself is awesome, with great views. Situated at the top of Nice Port, it has a decently sized eat in kitchen and four enormous rooms along the road. The largest is a living room with a flat screen television, and the others are bedrooms. There is only one bathroom and it is quite small, but larger than some I have used in Europe.

In addition, via e-mail, Sarah has provided lots of information about places to eat, places to shop, and how to get around the area by bus and train.

Based on this visit, I would highly recommend their services to anyone coming to the area.

Craig arrived around 9pm (there was some confusion as to what time he was to get here and I thought he might have been impacted by the ash cloud) and we went down to a nearby Irish pub for dinner. Craig wasn’t too keen on eating Irish food in France, but as the most crowded place in the area he thought it must be good (it was).

Then it was time for some much needed sleep. The apartment is right on a busy road, so it can get loud, but that didn’t bother me at all.