Welcome to 2015

I don’t know why I like the new year so much. It’s a pretty arbitrary holiday. I mean, yeah, the Earth has circled the Sun one more time, but is there really any difference between December 31st and January 1?

I think I like it because, no matter what happened in the previous year, the slate (to a large degree) has been wiped clean. You get a fresh start, and after 2014 I am excited to have one.

For the OpenNMS Group 2014 was bookended by two departures. The first came in January when the man we had hired to take over as CEO decided to leave us for a very senior position at Blackberry. Now considering the compensation Blackberry bestows upon its major executives, I really can’t blame him for taking the job. I am certain, however, that he could have handled the situation better. His departure was so sudden and we had a number of things going on that depended on him that it left us spinning for several months and put me in a bit of a depression.

The second departure was that of Matt Brozowski, our CTO and one of the three founders of the company. This hit me much more than Ron’s departure, because when a founder leaves any company it has to be seen as a vote of no confidence and at a minimum is a failure to meet expectations. I do understand his reasons for leaving, however. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. What we are trying to do is hard. People who have never attempted it must think it is a life of leisure – being your own boss, calling all the shots and taking vacation whenever you want. What I’ve found is that I spend most of my time acting as an umbrella to keep the crap from falling on the rest of the team so they can do the real work, and I’m tied to obligations that aren’t mine to control. I end my day by checking my e-mail and start it the same way. Only in the last few years has OpenNMS gotten to the point that I feel comfortable in taking a vacation, and even then I have a system for getting notified if something needs my attention.

Now I thrive on that, but not everyone does. I understand the lure of the safety and security of a big organization. Every so often I find myself wanting to swap places with some of my clients who make a lot more money than me and work in large corporations. But I know that, ultimately, it wouldn’t make me happy. We spend a third of our adult lives at work, and it is a shame if you aren’t doing something that makes you happy. We all wish the best for Matt and hope he finds happiness in his new position.

While both of these events were serious downers, there was a lot of good in 2014. We had the best Dev Jam ever, I think. We’ve been doing these for a long time and I think the whole team just gelled this year (plus, the Twins won). We released OpenNMS 14, which marked a new philosophy with releases with an emphasis on “early and often” and I think it’s great. I constantly discover new things in it that I didn’t realize I needed.

From a financial standpoint, the company lost money in 2014 for the first time. It took us awhile to get our focus back, but the last quarter was awesome, with revenue in December, always our strongest month, setting a new record and being up over 40% for the same month in 2013. We have a number of major announcements in the next six months that should get us back on track for an awesome 2015.

So, my parting thought to my three readers is this: if you had a great 2014, here’s hoping that 2015 is even better. If 2014 knocked you down, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and leave it in the dust. It’s a new year.

Go do great things.

Pictures at an Exhibition

While I wrote previously about the tenth anniversary of The OpenNMS Group, because it happened over the Labor Day holiday meant that we had to wait a week to celebrate. So on September 7th we gathered at a really nice restaurant in town called The Oak Leaf for a celebration.

We rented out the place so we had it all to ourselves, and it started with an open bar and amazing appetizers. We were able to socialize as people arrived before sitting down for a three course meal.

Of course, to paraphrase Heinlein there ain’t no such thing as a free open bar, so I subjected everyone to a speech before we could eat. I had the restaurant seat us at one long table with me at one end and our newest team member Ken at the other. It turned out to be a pretty long table. I wanted to demonstrate how we had grown in those ten years, from the three founders in one cramped office into something much larger.

I must admit I got a little verklempt during my speech when I thought back on all the people that made The OpenNMS Group possible. I did miss having Eric there as he couldn’t travel due to a recent surgery, but with that one exception I was surrounded by people who are almost as close to me as my own family (and include some of them as well).

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.

Ten Years On …

There are a number of significant dates in the history of OpenNMS. I wasn’t around when the project was started, but I’ve been told it began some time in the summer of 1999, most likely in July.

We do know, however, that the project and first bits of code were posted on Sourceforge on 29 March, 2000, so we have used that as the official birth date for the OpenNMS project.

My personal involvement with OpenNMS started on Monday, 10 September 2001, when I joined Oculan. For obvious reasons it is an easy date to remember. I decided that I was going to take over the OpenNMS project when Oculan decided to stop working on it on 7 May 2002, which happens to be my mother’s birthday.

But probably the most important date in the history of the project is 1 September 2004, which was the first day of business for the OpenNMS Group, Inc., the company I started with David Hustace and Matt Brozowski. It’s been a wild ride this last decade, but we’ve managed to survive if not prosper when a lot of other companies, including Oculan, are no longer around. The office in which I write this was the first office for the company, when all three of us squeezed into its 120 square feet.

I meant to write something yesterday, but I was off on my usual Labor Day retreat in the mountains where there is no electricity and no mobile phone coverage. I spent most of the day climbing a mountain, and so it seems appropriate to end with this song.

To paraphrase Mr. Shatner, why do I work on OpenNMS? Because I’m in love.

♫ Georgia, Georgia … The Whole Day Through ♫

I spent a few days this week down in Atlanta with both Jeff (OpenNMS consultant extraordinaire and Georgia resident) and the gang over at Wellstar, one of our older clients (since 2004). It’s funny how much work with do in the health care industry, with companies like Cerner, Fairview, Hershey Medical Center, as well as having our oldest customer in Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota (circa 2001). There seem to be growing requirements on hospitals for network-enabled services, and thus a solid network management platform like OpenNMS is becoming even more of a requirement.

I’m not a huge fan of Atlanta the city, as the sprawl is a little too much for the country boy in me, but we’re actually up in the Northwest corner (Smyrna/Marietta) which has been quite enjoyable.

First I want to apologize for not posting in awhile. When you write a blog you are always on the lookout for new “blog worthy” ideas, and I have about 20 posts in the queue, going all the way back to April and the OUCE. While I still hope to get to those, I figured the best way to break the silence would be to just write something, so here it is.

I’m still playing Ingress, and so after Jeff picked me up at the airport we went hunting for portals. There is a tremendous amount of history in the area, often reflected in the available portals, and it is amazing to see really nice monuments and museums to rather specific things, such as the role trains played in the Civil War.

It’s always fun to visit with customers as well, and to help me absorb some of the local flavor we went to the Marietta Diner for lunch. It was hard to walk past the dessert case without wanting to dive right into it.

Toward the end of this short trip we went up to Kennesaw State University. They had a gorgeous campus with some of the largest brick buildings I’ve ever seen at a school. While the students had just left, one of them left a little reminder in the concrete that gave me a chuckle.

Welcome Ken!

As you might imagine, things have been a little hectic around here this week, so I almost forgot to share a great piece of news.

Ken Eshelby, a longtime OpenNMS user and frequent attendee at the OUCE, has joined our team as a consultant. I am excited to be working with him, as in his previous job he did one of the most amazing OpenNMS customizations I’ve seen.

I asked him for a picture and this is what he sent to me. Not sure of the context …