Order of the Blue Polo – Southway Housing Trust

I’m back a few posts, but since I always enjoy hearing from our users I thought I’d post this latest Order of the Blue Polo submission from Keith Spragg of the Southway Housing Trust in the UK.

I work for Southway Housing Trust – a Didsbury (Manchester, UK) based, Not-for-profit Housing Association, looking after approximately 5,900 properties throughout the South Manchester region.

Southway Housing Trust operates a small ICT team, split between business applications and just two people on Support and Infrastructure.

When I started at Southway, there were several paper based methods of looking after the assorted systems and the only way we knew something was wrong was when users piped up to report a problem. I went looking for a free solution to my problems, and came across OpenNMS. I was very impressed with what I saw, and because of the size of our network (approximately 120 nodes) was able to take one of our old servers and repurpose it for this application.

Installation was quick and simple – I didn’t have to learn much more than I already knew, and because the system is very extensible, I was able to add bespoke monitors very quickly.

As soon as I had got OpenNMS set up, I was rapidly able to ditch the paper based systems, and trust that not only was OpenNMS going to record the history of this information, but that if there was a problem, my team would know before the users did. I equate it to putting a whole extra member of staff in the ICT team, as it’s always got its eyes on the systems on my behalf.

The only money we’ve spent on this project is my time – but we’ve lost count of the amount of money we’ve saved because our systems are not going wrong as often because we’re pro-actively monitoring them.

I love using OpenNMS, and would recommend it for any sized business – even a small network can benefit from an extra pair of eyes.

Order of the Blue Polo Update

It has been awhile since we had an entry into the Order of the Blue Polo, so I thought it would be cool to blog about it.

While the Order of the Green Polo (OGP) is the governing body of the OpenNMS Project, we wanted to find a way to recognize users who didn’t quite have the time necessary to dedicate to the project for OGP membership. It also solves a problem for us: we have lots of amazing users of OpenNMS, but we can’t always talk about them.

Membership in the Order of the Blue Polo is pretty straightforward. Simply send us an e-mail on why you like OpenNMS, preferably with a quick list of the number of devices/interfaces/services you are monitoring. If we can publish it on the wiki along with your name and your company’s name, we’ll send you a limited edition blue OpenNMS polo. So please, no gmail.com or yahoo.com e-mails – we really need to be able to verify your company.

This helps us because like attracts like, and perhaps someone will read about how you are using OpenNMS and decide that it fits in with their needs.

The latest entry into the Order comes from Paul Cole, a contractor and Environment Canada. He writes:

I am a contractor working currently for Environment Canada (under Shared services Canada).

It was a beautiful thing to be given the OpenNMS project in order to map out and bring together teams to monitor and work on the very large LAN. A multitude of tools and scripts were used custom to each area, and we are now moving towards unification.

The visibility and baseline abilities of OpenNMS are fantastic, and the new topo-mapping/geo-mapping features are looking fantastic come version 1.14!

Our network size is larger than the current scope of nodes we are testing with, but OpenNMS is managing it pretty smoothly and seamlessly.

I have released some of the scripts I wrote to contribute back to the community that are based on version 1.10-1.12 and hope they help more people realise the power and scalability of the product.

Currently our OpenNMS build is monitoring over 15k nodes and 20k interfaces and 25k or more services (exact numbers can be extracted but it grows every quarter), on an 8 core server with 16GB of RAM using the discovery method.

It is keyed to discover every IP and node it can, and monitor switches/UPSs and routers and select key devices for management, to send email alerts to the appropriate regional teams when a device is down or a specific threshold or alert is received.

I can’t of course send out network diagrams , but I can send a screenshot of the geo-map to give an idea of how it goes.

Order of the Blue Polo: British Telecom

It’s nice to be able to post a new Order of the Blue Polo entry. We haven’t had one in while, so it’s good to have an excuse to remind everyone about the program.

One of the best ways to promote OpenNMS is through customer stories. If a company like your company is using OpenNMS, then it makes it easier to convince the decision makers in your company to consider it. However, it can be a real pain to get approval to share a story. A lot of companies are hesitant to talk about the software they use for a variety of reasons, ranging from a perceived liability that they are “endorsing” a product up through security issues. In fact, the short testimonial in Rob’s entry had to be approved by BT lawyers, and you can see what little remained.

Thus, in exchange for taking the the trouble to get such an approval to use a story on the website (complete with company name), Order of the Blue Polo members get a nice little certificate, the coveted blue OpenNMS polo, as well as being immortalized on the wiki page. (grin)

A few weeks ago I got to go to historic Adastral Park near Ipswich, Suffolk, UK to spend a week with BT working on their OpenNMS deployment. I was a little nervous (this is British freakin’ Telecom after all) but Rob and John made me feel at home. They really understood what we are trying to do with OpenNMS, and John would even go home and play with the application after a long day of working on it with me, They were tasked with coming up with a management solution for a large number of remote sites, and their current standard of using $COMMERCIAL_PLATFORM coupled on $COMMERCIAL_OS was not only cost prohibitive it would have been hard to maintain, not to mention that it wouldn’t meet their needs. OpenNMS running on Linux, coupled with a high level of customization, fit the bill just fine.

I did miss seeing the sun, however (usually I bring great weather with me to England but my luck didn’t hold out this trip) but they made it up to me by finding a pub with a bar billiard table for Friday’s lunch.

I love playing this game, but I’ve only had the opportunity to do so twice. Both times I shot out to an early lead only to lose it after the bar fell.

I guess I need more practice, more ale, or both.

Order of the Blue Polo: Bill Daniels

I just added a new person to The Order of the Blue Polo: Bill Daniels.

Bill works for Vision Net in Montana and is responsible for managing their Enhanced 911 infrastructure. For those of you outside the US, 911 is the emergency telephone number for police, fire and amublance, similar to 112, 999 and 000 in other countries.

It was cool to get his e-mail for a couple of reasons. First, we haven’t had an Order of the Blue Polo submission for awhile now. In exchange for his story, he got a really nice, limited edition, royal blue OpenNMS polo shirt, and this is open to anyone who is willing to tell us about why they like OpenNMS. The only caveat is that for these stories to be perceived as genuine as possible, we ask that we be able to publish your company name. With all the astroturfing going around these days, being able to actually name a company goes a long way.

Second, one of my jobs at Northern Telecom was working on E911 software, so when he wrote to me about his PSAP project, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Finally, even though at 627 nodes his installation isn’t large by OpenNMS standards, those devices would add up if choosing a commercial solution. One vendor charges US$150/managed device which would be over US$94,000 per year whereas Bill is able to get all of that functionality for free.

I’m happy Bill took the time to share and I hope he enjoys his shirt. I’d love to be able to send out more, so please send in those stories.

Sourceforge CCA Voting Ends Monday

Just in case you haven’t voted yet, this is one last reminder that the Sourceforge Community Choice Awards voting ends on Monday.

If you like OpenNMS, please be sure to give us some love with a vote (the link should pre-select OpenNMS for “Best Project for the Enterprise and if you don’t have a Sourceforge account you can just enter in an e-mail address).

Remember to vote early and often, and we really appreciate your support.

Plus, if you haven’t had a chance to check out our video, I think it’s worth a look.