OpenNMS, Eben Moglen and Cittio

OpenNMS has retained Moglen Ravicher, LLC (a for-profit law firm organized by the Software Freedom Law Center and run to support their non-profit operations) to represent us with respect to issues relating to GPL license violations of OpenNMS code by the Cittio Watchtower product.

A couple of weeks ago I posted on “Ask Slashdot” my concerns about possible GPL violations. While most of the comments were not very helpful (grin), it did cause a number of people to contact me with more information about Cittio’s use of OpenNMS code in their product, and it was enough information for me to go to Eben Moglen with my concerns. Since we’re a for profit enterprise, we aren’t eligible for SFLC’s pro bono services. Thus, we retained Moglen Ravicher to represent us. With their involvement, I am certain that the best interests of the OpenNMS community will be represented and I look forward to a resolution of these licensing issues.

Since this matter does involve lawyers, I will be limited as to what I can share about this process from here on out, which goes against both my open nature and my big mouth. This is a very unpleasant process for us but we feel it is necessary to be true to ideals that drive our project. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Uhuru Source

John Mark over at Hyperic posted a blog the other day in part about Bruce Perens’ candidacy for the OSI board and he asked me to comment about it.

Now, John Mark works for Hyperic and I work for the OpenNMS Group and our two companies are partners, so I look with fondness on the folks over at Hyperic (heck, they even invite us to play in their NCAA bracket). But I disagree with their business model being called “open source” and every time I do it publicly, it results in a little more bad blood between our companies. That is something I really don’t want, to be honest.

What Hyperic does is publish some of their code under the GPL, a fine and noble open source license, but a portion of their code is proprietary and requires a commercial license to use just like any other commercial software product. This is much better than, say, HP, which requires that you purchase their API to integrate with OpenView, but it is a long way from the ideals set forth when open source was started.

The sad part is that this form of “open source” publishing, what I call the “shareware” model, is much more the norm than, say, what we do with OpenNMS. If you want VC money in “open source” these days, you have to adopt this model. The idea of having 100% of the code free and to put the majority control of a project into the hands of others scares the hell out of investors.

It’s not that the shareware model is wrong, or bad, or evil, it’s just different from what I’ve always known as open source. The sad fact is that “open source” these days is little more than a marketing term.

When we go to trade shows, people will come up to our booth and ask about our “per node” pricing. I give them a confused look as say that OpenNMS is open source. They will have often come from another booth where they were told that to get all of the features of an “open source” product they had to pay. Thus the fact that I have “open source” on my booth sign now implies to the market that there is some “catch” in order to get the most features out of the product. The term has been diluted and made almost meaningless.

While I wish Bruce the best of luck with his campaign, I’m thinking it’s time to simply come up with a new term. Something with less interpretive leeway than, say, the word “open”.

I’ve suggested to a few friends that we name the new initiative “Uhuru Source”. Taking a cue from the Ubuntu folks, “uhuru” is the Swahili word for “freedom” (and also where Lt. Uhura of Star Trek fame got her name). Uhuru Source would embrace the concepts of free software set up by Bruce and esr so long ago, and mean more than just the ability to see some source code.

OpenNMS Takes Bronze

OpenNMS Takes Bronze

Last year OpenNMS was awarded the Gold medal in TechTarget’s 2007 Product Leadership Awards in the “Network and IT management platforms” category. We beat out HP and IBM for the honor, so we were pretty excited.

This year they didn’t have that category, but OpenNMS did take the Bronze in “Applications and network management“. Not nearly as exciting as winning Gold against two of the big four but we’re still honored to be a winner, and one of only two open source projects to win an award (the other being the most excellent Asterisk, which won the Silver in the “IP telephony systems” category).

All of the other winners have much deeper pockets than our project, yet this demonstrates that a strong community can still create an application that can play with the big guys. It comes from driving the value up the chain from the user perspective, and not top down. Many thanks to everyone who supported us in this year’s survey.

A New Coat o’ Paint

There’s an old Tom Waits song that goes “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town” that I hear in my head every time I, well, paint. Been humming it recently.

We’re getting the new OpenNMS training center in shape for next week’s class. It should be fun. We’re installing Linux onto the iMacs, got a nice new projector (1280×768 – not 1080p but a good value for the price) and we’ll put together the IKEA tables and hang the whiteboard this weekend. We got a guy coming in from Trinidad and another from the UK (plus others from the US) so it should be a good class.

For those of you really into interior design, the main walls are done in “Toast” with the accent wall in “Timeless Taupe”. They are both in the family of “tan”. (grin)

OpenNMS and the Google Summer of Code

Things are always pretty crazy around here. I write this blog in the hope that other small companies in general and open-source ones in particular might recognize a kindred soul, or perhaps get a tip or two that may help them in their business. I’m still looking for tips on work/life balance myself, because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

The key, obviously, is to set priorities. I think that’s true of any business, but I have no problem in stating the obvious. Since the goal of OpenNMS is to become the de facto enterprise management framework, our priorities must be set to help us realize that goal.

I have said from the beginning that the key to the success of the OpenNMS Project will be its community. That’s why it’s run by the OGP and not the OpenNMS Group, and why 100% of the OpenNMS code is free. That may not be the quickest way for me to make a whole bunch of money, but in the long term this is the best way to reach our goal, and in the end the money should follow.

Some would say as the CEO of an open source company, I should do things like hang out with all the “open source gurus” in San Francisco at conferences. Well, I guess I suck at being the CEO, because I think we should be focusing on the next crop of open source gurus.

Which is why I am so excited about the involvement of OpenNMS in the Google Summer of Code project. A lot of credit goes to Ben Reed for doing most of the legwork to get us considered, and most of the OGP has volunteered to be mentors.

This is our first year as a participant, and we hope to do some great things as well as interest more people in becoming involved with OpenNMS. It’s humbling to be in such great company as the other GSOC projects, and we plan to make the most of it.

We’ll be using the opennms-devel mailing list to coordinate once we get underway, and of course there is a wiki page about it as well.