Archive for August, 2011

Nagios Spreads FUD About OpenNMS

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

It was brought to my attention that Nagios Enterprises has decided to go after OpenNMS by publishing a document called “How Nagios Compares to OpenNMS“. I am always flattered when companies feel the need to compare themselves to our project, especially when Nagios is considerably better known than OpenNMS, at least according to a quick look at Google hits (5.3 million to 453 thousand just now). I assume they feel that positioning themselves against our product is useful.

And I guess it could be, if they weren’t so wrong.

I would not pretend to make such a list from the OpenNMS viewpoint, since I don’t know all that much about Nagios, and what I do know comes from replacing it at a number of our customers’ sites. But let me correct some misunderstandings presented by this document.

Almost every missing check mark on the OpenNMS side is wrong. OpenNMS can’t monitor “Web Transactions”? What about the Page Sequence Monitor, used to insure the performance of such websites as papajohns.com? It doesn’t have “Google Maps Integration”? Well, not just Google Maps, but Mapquest and Open Street Map as well. It can’t do Active Directory Authentication? Please, I set it up all the time.

I really chuckled when I saw that the product can’t do Data Export, Advanced or Scheduled reporting, since I just spent a week doing just that at a large bank based in Chicago (one that caters to institutions and wealthy individuals).

With the JasperReports integration, OpenNMS can generate amazing reports, and since we’ve extended it to be able to mine JRobin/RRDtool data directly, we were able to get OpenNMS to report on a huge Virtual Machine server farm at the bank on things such as CPU utilization, process memory utilization and load average in a format that could be exported to Excel without the need to even glance at a graph. It was fully automated, including the report generation, distribution and even provisioning the devices to be included in it.

The kicker is that OpenNMS can run any Nagios checkscript, even using NRPE (although I strongly recommend using the Net-SNMP extend function versus that protocol for reliability), so I fail to understand where OpenNMS fails in the “Custom Plugins” department.

They even get our pricing wrong, even though we publish it online. The package they refer to as “1 year of standard support and one 1 week of consulting” maps to our Greenlight Project, which is $23,000 not $30,000 (that is for the Greenlight Plus Project, which includes two weeks of on-site services).

But if you are choosing to use Nagios XI based on price, I think you should go with with it. OpenNMS is designed to be a network management application platform, and as such has a much wider scope than Nagios, which, let’s face it, is at its heart a script management interface. I’m not sure how one provisions devices in Nagios, but since that was left off of their chart I must assume it isn’t a key feature, whereas it plays a huge role when you are trying to manage a network of any size, such as the one at Towerstream. Considering the scale at which OpenNMS is useful, our prices are a bargain when truly compared to competitors’ products.

Two years ago at the Netways Monitoring Conference I saw a presentation from Audi where they implemented Nagios. It took them over a year. We have done the same at similar sites in less than three weeks. If you have more than one thousand devices, you are going to be very unhappy with the performance of Nagios, whereas OpenNMS has a track record of monitoring tens of thousands of devices on a single server for numerous companies over several years.

And finally, every bit of OpenNMS code is published under an open source license. Nagios XI is not.

On Thursday, The OpenNMS Group turns seven. We don’t have a million customers, but considering how awesome our customers are, I know that I couldn’t find a million of their caliber.

And never once have we resorted to this kind of FUD to promote our products.

Towerstream

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

One of our clients, Towerstream, a large ISP in New England providing 4G wireless services, was kind enough to share some of their experiences using OpenNMS and working with the OpenNMS Group.

If you are interested in such things, check out their story on our website.

Ready Player One

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Note: This is a somewhat long review of the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The short version is that if you are over 40 and you self-identify as a geek, you’ll love this book. Even if you are not over 40, you should check it out, but it will really resonate if you were a teenager during the 1980s. The following is as spoiler-free as I can make it, but if you are a purist, you might want to skip it.

I was first introduced to Ready Player One on the blog of Patrick Rothfuss. Usually, that is enough to make me at least check it out, but it was also item number three in Entertainment Weekly’s top ten list, and that surprised me since EW isn’t exactly known for its coverage of science fiction/fantasy.

Now before you start teasing me about reading EW (or even referring to it as “EW”) I don’t do it to keep up with the latest antics of Brittany Spears (she’s such a little scamp, isn’t she?). In my job it is sometimes a good idea to have some handle on popular culture, so now I know about that nice young man named Ted Situation who lives in New Jersey with his sister Snookie and they do that charity work on the coast. Plus, I keep it in the bathroom, and I find that the articles are the perfect length for the amount of time I spend there. Assuming I’m eating right, I can get through an issue in about a week, which is how often it is published.

Anyway, the basic plot is as follows: it is the year 2041, and the world is not a pleasant place. World economies have collapsed, the environment is a wreck and energy is scarce. Most people escape the drudgery of their lives in a online simulation called the OASIS (think Second Life crossed with World of Warcraft with a dash of Gibson’s Cyberspace). The creator of the OASIS is videogame designer James Halliday, who quite naturally is also one of the world’s richest men.

When the story opens, Halliday has just died. Having no heirs, he has placed his entire fortune, including a majority stake in the company that owns the OASIS, into an Easter Egg (extra, undocumented code put into a game or application) hidden in the simulation itself. The first person to find it, gets it. The story follows one such egg hunter (or “gunter”) as he searches for clues, all of which are based on things from the 1980s.

With that premise, I expected a nice little stroll down memory lane with nostalgia.

I did not expect nostalgia to punch me in the gut.

The book brought up memories of things I haven’t thought about in decades. For example, Halliday’s first video game console was an Atari 2600. My first video game console was an Atari 2600 – which I still have, by the way (and in the original box). At one point in the novel the plot involves Dungeons and Dragons, specifically a module called Tomb of Horrors. I can remember playing Tomb of Horrors. I didn’t remember it before reading the book, but as the scene was described I was thinking to myself “isn’t that the module with the sphere of annihilation at the end of the first corridor?” and sure enough, there it is, in the next paragraph.

I can also remember coming home from school and turning the antenna toward Charlotte to bring in this UHF station that carried Japanese shows (yes, kiddies, back in the day television came in over the air and not in on a little wire). One I remember involved a giant gold robot/rocketship named Goldar and his wife, a silver robot/rocketship named Silvar. Apparently that was The Space Giants. There was also an animated show involving a World War II era battleship flying through space. That, apparently, was Space Battleship Yamato.

There were also copious references to 80s music and movies, all of which really resonated with me. At one point the video game Tempest is referenced, and I was once part owner of a Tempest machine when I was at Harvey Mudd.

Cline even uses the term “open source” on a number of occasions. The bad guy in the novel is the IOI corporation, a services provider that has made a lot of money in the OASIS. From the book:

Like most gunters, I was horrified at the thought of IOI taking control of the OASIS. The company’s PR machine had made its intentions crystal clear. IOI believed that Halliday never properly monetized his creation, and they wanted to remedy that. They would start charging a monthly fee for access to the simulation. They would plaster advertisements on every visible surface. User anonymity and free speech would become things of the past. The moment IOI took it over, the OASIS would cease to be the open-source virtual utopia I’d grown up in.

Now the OASIS is in no way an open source product or platform. It just isn’t, but I so much prefer someone misinterpreting the term to mean “freedom” instead of “well, all I have to do is just expose the code”. The heroes in the book do embody a lot of what is sometimes called The Open Source Way in their behavior, goals and interactions with others.

Cline claims that the first ever Easter Egg can be found in the game Adventure for the Atari 2600. He states that back then, game designers were never recognized or given credit for their creations. This changed when Warren Robinett hid his name in Adventure.

There is a secret room in the game. In order to get to it, a number of things must happen. First, you have to retrieve a tiny, one pixel object hidden in a maze. Second, in the room next to the hidden room, you have to bring a number of objects (I think it is three). When you do this, the objects will start to flash. That has nothing to do with the Easter Egg but is instead an artifact due to the processor in the console being so slow that it couldn’t refresh more than two objects at a time. It is the same reason that the aliens in Space Invaders sped up as you kill them – the processor could then make fewer aliens move faster.

Once the barrier on the side of the room is flashing, and you have the “grey dot”, you can pass into a room that looks like this:

That was taken from my Atari Flashback machine – I didn’t want to have to dig out the old CRT television to hook up the original one I have.

Since so much of my enjoyment came from the fact that I lived through this time period, I am not sure how younger people will find the book. At one point in time I thought I’d figured out a plot point that would have really disappointed me (think deus ex machina) but I was wrong. I think the story stands enough on its own that geeks of all ages will enjoy it.

Ohio LinuxFest 2011

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Just a reminder that I will be speaking (along with a lot of people much more interesting than me) at the Ohio LinuxFest the second weekend in September. On a side note, September 10th will mark 10 years since I started working on OpenNMS.

In any case, the organizers are offering a prize to the 1000th person to register for the conference. The Enthusiast level is free, so if you can be in Columbus, Ohio, you should check it out.

Open For Business: The Practice Effect

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Just a quick note that my latest column for opensource.com on running an open source business is now up.

It’s on the the practice effect, a term I use to understand the iterative and playful nature of open source software development.

Hope folks find it useful.