2010 Dev-Jam – Day Six

The last day of Dev-Jam is always about commitment – well, commits to git anyway. After a solid week doing all things OpenNMS, parting is always bittersweet.

We took our group picture late, so we’re missing Bill and Matt R. The camera is Alex’s but the photo credit goes to Jen, one of the dorm advisor’s that Alex convinced to take our picture. I was stylin’ in my Doktor Kaboom t-shirt.

After we cleaned up the Club Room, 19 of us headed over to Town Hall Brewery for our last meal together this year. I think most people felt this was the best Dev-Jam ever: great facilities, awesome bandwidth and wonderful weather.

On Saturday the shuttle picks half of us up at 9am, while the rest will leave over the course of the day (well, except for Ronny who has decided to stay another week in the US). It will be nice to be home, but I’m not looking forward to a return to the hot and humid weather I’ve managed to avoid for the last two weeks.

We should be publishing a Dev-Jam wrap up in the next week or so, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

2010 Dev-Jam – Day Five

Things are starting to blur together now, so I can’t really remember all I worked on Thursday. I know I played around more with RT, and in the early afternoon, Ethan came over and we did a podcast with John Willis and Michael Coté.

I’ll post a link when Coté puts it up, but I think it was one of my favorite podcasts of all time. Willis got to gloat when I said that I liked “the cloud” and I got to talk about some of the scalability features of OpenNMS, such as the ability to discover and manage devices with 32,000 interfaces each (virtual, of course) and a test we ran for the Department of Energy where OpenNMS was handling 125,000 syslog message a minute – more than the Netcool/Omnibus syslog probe could handle.

Oh, and OpenNMS did it for 8 straight hours before we stopped the test.

Ethan got to talk about Nagios XI and we had a friendly debate on the open source services model and the commercial software model. If you are in to that sort of thing, it will be worth a listen.

For dinner that night we ate leftovers, and then went to Big 10 for the weekly pub quiz. We started to play but got distracted by a game that Ben introduced to us called Mafia.

There is a moderator, who removes all of the aces and face cards from a standard deck, except for two aces, a king and a jack. They then add enough “plain” cards so that everyone playing gets one, and they are dealt out.

The people with the two aces are “mafia”. The person with the king is the “inspector” and the person with the jack is the “doctor”. All of the rest are villagers. The moderator then launches into a story about night falling on a village and every goes to sleep. Everyone playing shuts their eyes.

He then instructs the “mafia” to open their eyes, and then silently decide which person in the game they wish to kill. Once a decision is made, the moderator has them shut their eyes.

He then asks the “inspector” to open their eyes. The inspector can then indicate a person at the table and ask the moderator if that person is mafia. The moderator will then indicate “yes” or “no” and the inspector closes their eyes again.

Finally, the “doctor” opens his eyes and the moderator asks them to indicate if there is a person at the table they want to save, and then they close their eyes.

The moderator starts their story again, stating that dawn has come to the village, and tragically someone has died. The game is then opened up for discussion and the villagers must decide on someone to lynch. That player “dies” and the game repeats until either all of the mafia are dead or all of the villagers are dead.

If the mafia targets the person the doctor chooses to save, no one dies in the night.

It’s actually a pretty fun game. Even if the inspector knows who a mafia member is, it is doubtful that they would flatly state they were the inspector since the remaining mafia member would obviously target them next. It is also doubtful that the doctor would save anyone but themselves in the beginning (although if the inspector identified himself the doctor might protect them in the next round).

In our game the mafia targeted me in the second round, but the doctor saved me so I didn’t die (you don’t learn this during the game but I was told afterward). The villagers were victorious but it had nothing to do with me, since the final mafia member was Antonio and I kept arguing that it was stereotypical to blame the only Italian at the table.

I was wrong. (grin)

GPGMail 1.3.0 – Open Source In Action

Yes, I use a Mac. Yes, I hate freedom. Yes, I use Mail.app.

And I am a bit of a security nut.

One of the most useful pieces of software I’ve used over the years is a plug-in for Mail.app called GPGMail. It was originally written by Stéphane Corthésy and released under an open source license, and it allows one to easily decrypt, encrypt and sign GPG messages right from Mail.app.

The problem is that Apple doesn’t really have an API to make such an integration easy, so with every new release of Mail.app it would usually break the plug-in, and Stéphane was responsible to fix it.

Well, after awhile Stéphane wanted to move on to other things, and with the advent of Snow Leopard GPGMail was broken – seemingly for good.

Stéphane writes:

I’ve just read the latest emails on the list, without participating. Actually I haven’t participated to the project since a very long time, for personal reasons. Situation will not change in the future, I guess.

It’s been now 10 years since I started GPGMail. At that time we were working on Rhapsody, the ancestor of Mac OS X, the link between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. gpg had just gone 1.0. I started the project because it might have been a critical piece of code for us at Sen:te in the near future, and it was really fun to develop :-)

Plugin was then made public, and received some interest in the Mac community, though it was still for geeks. Interest in PGP became bigger, the MacGPG project was born a year later, thanks to Gordon Worley. This encouraged me to go on with GPGMail development, and also MacGPG sub-projects. I spent many week-ends and nights coding for those, and have been very happy to see interest growing more and more.

Then time passed, it became hard to find people able to help on MacGPG development, and very few people were able to spend time to understand the underpinnings of (GPG)Mail, except me, unfortunately. By making the project open-source I had expected that people would come in and make the project go further. I was rather deceived by this, I must admit. There was no real momentum.

On my side, I wanted to explore also other projects, and became tired of working on GPGMail. I wanted something new. It was getting boring, I had less time to reply to user requests, and code had got very messy. GPGMail development quite stalled from that time, I spent time on it only after major system updates. I was still hoping some people would enter and help on the project in the long-term, not only for a single patch. Thus I opened up the project by putting it on SF, with a real OpenSource license that would’t prevent people from working on GPGMail.

To be honest, I waited a rather long time to upgrade to Snow Leopard specifically because GPGMail support was important to me. When Stéphane backed out of the project, the list was abuzz with people wondering about its future. Luckily, a number of people stepped up to take it over. The project launched a new website, the code and bug tracker was moved to github, and various patched versions started to come out.

Stéphane continues:

When Snow Leopard arrived, I was already spending no time on coding during spare time, and was not really willing to. Finally people entered into the dance and started coding, not only whining. And I must admit I’ve been really surprised by the results they obtained (congrats Lukas and others!). I kept telling myself I would update the project, and make a public release, when I’ll find time to, but the fact is that I cannot, for several reasons.

For so many years I’ve been hoping to find people helping me on the project in the long-term, without finding any, but now that time has come, project can fly without me. I hope there will always be enough people to take care of it. Till now, project was organized by only one person, and depended only on me. I took care of every details. It’s time to change that model and let the project be managed more flexibly. The bazaar model, as I would say.

So please, move the project out of SF, leave it opened to developers, designers, writers, aficionados of all kind. It’s no longer dependent on me, it will depend on all of you. I will close the SF project (and mailing list), and redirect the Sen:te web pages to the new site, once you completed the migration, then I’ll have a glance at the project, from time to time, probably to complain 😉 . My baby’s no longer a baby; it no longer needs me.

Thanks all for your support, and now take great care of GPGMail.

Today the team released version 1.3.0 of GPGMail, the first real release under the new model. It installed for me without incident, and I am happy that this project will live on. Thank you Stéphane and thanks to the whole GPGMail team for making this happen. Plus, none of this would have been possible if GPG itself wasn’t open source and packaged by a number of groups. Score one for the open source ecosystem.

Had GPGMail been commercial software, I would have been out of luck, but because it was open source, and that there were many who found it valuable, it lives on and propers.

Awesome.

2010 Dev Jam – Day Four

This was an incredibly long and busy day.

In a normal week I think about OpenNMS a lot, but during Dev-Jam there is so much energy that I think about it more (if that is possible) and it makes it hard to sleep. I stayed up late the night before working on the new opennms.org website and I woke up around 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep for all of the new ideas swimming around my head.

So I got up, did a bunch of .com work (including payroll – it’s that time of the month once again) and wrote what may be my last post on open core (probably not, but we can always hope). I then went downstairs to join the rest of the team.

It was distracting. Mike Huot brought in his smoker and was cooking what would become our dinner and it smelled amazing. They had to start on it the night before and, to jump ahead, the results were delicious.

There was a lot of work going on, and on a whim Bill decided to discover the network we were using. Here is a screenshot of the unfiltered nodes:

I worked with Alex on RT for most of the day, and managed to take a short nap just before Ethan Galstad and Mary Starr showed up.

Ethan has been a visitor to Dev-Jam before (he lives nearby) and Mary is his business partner at Nagios Enterprises. Nagios Enterprises is Ethan’s commercial software company that builds on the open source Nagios platform to deliver an extended and supported commercial version. That differs greatly from the OpenNMS business model, so we had a lively debate about it.

First, even though Nagios is open source, Nagios XI is presented as commercial software. Just like my Hyperic example yesterday, go to nagios.com and search on “open source”. No matches. Ethan is 100% transparent about the commercial nature of his product. Nagios XI is not open core.

Second, I have often said that I see software taking two paths: either becoming a commodity or becoming open source. Ethan has structured his business around commoditizing the Nagios platform and it is priced accordingly.

Finally, people have been building proprietary software add-ons on top of Nagios for nearly a decade, and Ethan quite simply wants a part of it. As the main person responsible for the project, he has built a brand of considerable value. Just now a Google search on “Nagios” returns “About 9,470,000 results” (OpenNMS is only around 123K hits). That’s an impressive number.

It does illustrate a difference between the communities around Nagios and OpenNMS. From the moment I took over the administration of the project, I have relied heavily on the community to keep it going and make up for my considerable shortcomings. In contrast, Ethan has been the primary author of most of the Nagios core code.

He asked me point blank why we didn’t produce a commercial version of OpenNMS. I pointed out that our market was squarely aimed at “open source network management” and that we didn’t have any expertise in selling commercial software, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel the same ownership over OpenNMS that Ethan has toward Nagios. While The OpenNMS Group does hold 100% of the copyright, it would just seem wrong to me to build on that work and not give it back to the community, in any fashion.

If you have never met Ethan, please understand that he is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in this business, and his business partner Mary seems very competent and brings a strong business background to the company. Note that what I have written here our my thoughts on our conversation and Ethan may have a different take on some or all of them.

So we stuffed ourselves with barbecue and talked business for several hours, then Ethan and Mary left and many of the rest of the gang went off to an outdoor showing of Sherlock Holmes.

It had been a long day. I went to bed.

Open Core is Dead

I was wanting to take a break from Dev-Jam to put down some thoughts I’ve been having during this recent renaissance of the “open core” debate when I realized something:

Open core is dead.

At least as a business model. While I don’t expect it to go away overnight, I do expect to see very few new companies using the model and those commercial software companies that tout themselves as open source reframing their marketing to de-emphasize it.

I base this on observations of my own market. Even though searching on “open source network management” in Google returns OpenNMS as the first hit, for years the industry press omitted us from articles on open source management to focus on three VC-backed firms: Groundwork Open Source, Hyperic and Zenoss. All of these companies are what I would classify as “open core” and it is interesting to see where they are now.

Groundwork Open Source (GWOS)

This was one of the first open core companies to try and commercialize open source projects. When it started in 2004, GWOS sold commercial software “wrappers” around a number of open source projects without releasing any open source code on their own. In 2006 they started to distribute the “Groundwork Monitor Community Edition“. After four rounds of funding, they have raised $29 million (A: $3MM, B: $8.5MM, C: $12.5MM, D: $5MM) but they still come across as a company looking for a business plan. Once known for selling software licenses in excess of six figures, they now sell a “quickstart” version for $59.

Since I am pretty much known for running my mouth, people tend to contact me with their experiences with companies in this space. I received one such e-mail a few weeks ago:

Hey, I was just told that GWOS is no longer putting out a community (free) edition. I was told this by one of their support guys, was told that was the reason why they are now releasing version 6.2 while the 6.0 CE version hasn’t been updated since December. He said they were just going to quietly “let it go to the community” … Also interesting is that the $59 “quickstart” is just that, not really meant to be production, no upgrades or updates come with that, and no guarantee that you can even purchase the upgrades later

I thought this was interesting, so I did some poking around. I found an entry on their forums (which doesn’t seem to be policed for spam anymore):

Interesting, seems like all traces of the free/community version are gone from their site. Still available on sourceforge, I’d grab the latest version while it’s still there.

Not one to just publish hearsay, I sent a note to Tara Spalding, their Chief Marketing Officer, asking if the rumors of GWOS dropping support for their community edition was true, and she replied:

Thanks for reaching out. That is untrue, and the rumor mill is pretty lame.

I replied to ask her when we could expect the next community edition, but I haven’t heard back. The latest enterprise edition is 6.2, but the last community edition is 6.0. That’s pretty high number for a VC-backed firm – most have an exit between versions 3 and 4. (grin)

I was reminded of this exchange this week when I saw a GWOS ad in the Wall Street Journal (click to embiggen):



It was about 1/6th of a page, which runs around US$40K, so it must have been important to them. Note that the term “open source” does not appear at all in the ad.

So it seems, at least on the surface, that GWOS is trying to distance itself from the term “open source”. It will be interesting to see how they deal with their name. Perhaps after all that money and all that time they will find success marketing themselves as a commercial company.

Hyperic

Another open core firm that used to be referenced a lot was Hyperic. I would often use them as an example of the problems with the “feature wall” inherent in open core solutions. The difference between Hyperic and the other VC-backed companies is in the quality of the VCs. Benchmark and Accel seem to know what they are doing. Hyperic was rolled into SpringSource just before the latter company was sold to VMWare. Thus the VCs got an exit and I assume the five founders of Hyperic did okay financially.

What’s funny is that, although Hyperic products are owned and sold by a very commercial software company now, the interest we receive on the OpenNMS and Hyperic integration has actually gone up. It seems that framing the Hyperic products in the context of commercial software has actually made the buying decision easier, and the term “open source” does not appear anywhere on their home page.

Think about that – being honest and representing Hyperic software as commercial software with an open source component (versus open source software with a commercial component) has actually increased interest.

Zenoss

Zenoss has a very popular “core” product that they publish under an open source license, coupled with a variety of “enterprise” software offerings that they price per device per year. Their enterprise “silver” package is listed at $100/managed resource. Note that this is the subscription price – that is $100/resource/year. So if we take an average OpenNMS install of 2000 devices, that would run $200,000 a year, or $1,000,000 over five years.

It is really hard to argue that a Zenoss enterprise solution is any less expensive than, say, a solution using HP OpenView. In addition, most software from HP and IBM is licensed in perpetuity: i.e. once you’ve bought it you get the right to use that version forever. It would be hard for an enterprise of any size to base its management solution on something that must be renewed year after year, with no guarantee that the price will remain the same.

Now, this is a post proclaiming that open core is dead, so I’m not here to pick on the way Zenoss prices their software. What I want to examine is the usefulness of their business model. As a VC-backed firm that has raised around $25 million, I assume the desired exit would be an acquisition. But how would one evaluate them? A number of past Zenoss commercial clients have talked to us as an option to Zenoss, simply because their revenue structure is not sustainable. In addition, as part of the OpenNMS project we are targeting those enterprise features users of Zenoss find most valuable, and we plan to offer them for free. Heck, $200,000 can go a long way toward funding a lot of custom development, so a Zenoss user could spend that money once and get what they need under a truly free and open source license. Thus the value of the Zenoss commercial software has a very short shelf life, and since they have no revenue model based on their open source software, so does the value of the company.

I think investors are wising up to this. In their latest funding round the target was $5.2MM but they only raised $4.83MM. Thus it would appear that at least one of the investors pulled out of the deal at the last minute. That was a smart move.

[Note: our goal at OpenNMS is to produce the de facto network management platform, so I’m not targeting Zenoss specifically but all commercial software vendors in this space. Our free software will continue to erode the value of their commercial software. This is also not meant to be taken as an attack on anyone who uses any of the products listed here – if it works for you, great. This is more an examination of the business of open source.]

With the backlash hitting SugarCRM and NASA spurning Eucalyptus in favor of OpenStack, it seems that the market is wising up to open core and demanding more from companies that call themselves open source. With examples like Hyperic above, it seems to be in a commercial software company’s best interest to avoid referring to their offerings as open source. It looks like Groundwork is moving down that path and Hyperic is already there.

Open core is dead.

2010 Dev-Jam – Day Three

I am happy to announce that I was finally able to get the new www.opennms.org website to a point where it could go live. We started this process nearly a year ago and managed to get the www.opennms.com site finished early in the year, but for a variety of reasons we just couldn’t finish the other one.

Outside of cosmetic changes, not much has changed. At the heart of the site is still a wiki, but we wrapped a few information pages in front of it to help introduce people to the project.

There is also a tighter coupling between the .org and the .com sites, but we will strive to keep the commercial content on .com and the project content on .org. I do hope that this will end the occasional question we get on the mailing lists about whether or not one can get commercial support for OpenNMS, however.

I’ve been pretty heads down on the site, so I’m not sure what everyone else has been working on, but there is a scratchpad page that is tracking some of it.

Dinner was catered by Brasa and most agree that it was in the top five Dev-Jam meals of all time.

2010 Dev-Jam – Day Two

I’m not sure how much blogging I’ll be able to do this week, since it is way more fun to hang out with the gang, but I thought I needed to post at least one picture.

Thanks to Chris Rodman and Papa Johns sponsoring dinner, we were inundated with pizza and wings yesterday and it was nice to be able to eat without interrupting work.

2010 Dev-Jam – Day One

Well, while not really the official start of Dev-Jam, that’s tomorrow, today was when most people showed up. Despite some travel delays due to weather, as I write this most people have arrived. Craig’s plane should be in soon and Johan should be arriving by motorcycle from Denver any minute now.

Plus, today, people actually got to see a little surprise I planned. While in Portland I got a hair cut:

Like it? It actually took about three hours, since they had to bleach my hair first for the green “swoosh” of the logo. If you want your very own OpenNMS logo, head to Bishops Barbershop on Columbia and be sure to ask for Jake. He’s the only one who would even attempt it, and I think he did a great job.

Today Mike took me to an unusual place for lunch called Brasa. It was really good, and I plan to have them cater at least one meal while we are here. Then we went to Sam’s Club and stocked up on “supplies” for the week.

Then there was a bit of downtime while we waited for others to arrive. After moving into the Yudof Hall Club Room (where we will spend most of our time) we all went out to dinner at Sally’s.

Now, time for bed.

2010 OSCON to Dev-Jam

Okay, I really wasn’t going to blog about this part of the trip, but it did turn into something of an adventure, so why not?

I got a notice Friday night that, due to weather in Chicago, there would be a crew delay for flights out of PDX the next morning. Since that put me on a pretty tight connection time through DFW, I called and got myself on an earlier flight. That one, too, was delayed, but it was then scheduled to leave about the time of my original flight (if it had left on time) so everything was cool.

I took the MAX to the airport, checked my bag, got put on the waiting list for an upgrade and I went to the gate.

I’m sitting there reading when I look up and there is Jesse Vincent staring at the upgrade list. I said “hi” and he looked at me, then back at the list and then said that it was rare that he wasn’t number one for upgrades. It turns out that his name was second, behind mine. Then Kevin Falcone shows up (also from Best Practical) and his is the third name on the list.

Never seen something like that before.

Anyway, so I didn’t know that another thing Jesse and I had in common was an interest in collecting frequent flyer miles and air travel in general. He’s way more of a geek at it than me – in fact he has an active Sabre account so that he has access to the same information as travel agents.

While we are sitting there, Amber Graner shows up (it was like a little OSCON). She was on her way to DFW and then Charlotte, but then had to stay one more night in a hotel since her husband’s flight from Europe was delayed until Sunday (they were to meet up and drive home together).

First Class checked in full so none up us got upgraded. I went to my seat at 21F, Jesse went to his seat at 21D and Kevin to his seat at 21C.

I had pity on the person who was to sit in 21E, since I figured Jesse and I would be talking across them the whole way, but we behaved (I got caught up on Burn Notice and watched two episodes of Dollhouse).

When we made it to Dallas, Kevin and Jesse’s original flight to Boston was backing out of the gate, so they had some time until the next one. We hit the Admiral’s Club and had some lunch, and then they took off. My own flight to Minneapolis was still an hour or so away, so I made some calls and caught up on e-mail.

As I was leaving, I noticed a couple sitting nearby traveling with two small dogs. I like dogs so I couldn’t stop myself from talking to them (yeah, yeah – I know). It turns out that they were originally from West Virginia (I spent some time in WV back in 1986) but now lived in Los Angeles, and that they traveled about as much as I do. There names were Scott and Kristan, and they had met while in WV, gotten married and now were both working in television. Since Kristan had “model” good looks I asked her if she was someone famous that I should know.

They both laughed and said, well, maybe. Kristan had worked with Rachel Ray for several years and she is a host of the HGTV show “Design on a Dime“. Since I only have “over the air” television (no cable or satellite) I could plead ignorance at least, but I must say that they were both incredibly easy to talk to, so much so that I had to run to catch my plane.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I watched two more episodes of Dollhouse (three more to go) and while the plane was a little late as they had to route around some thunderstorms, both myself and Alex landed pretty much at the same time. Mike Huot met us at the airport and we headed toward UMN and Dev-Jam.