Welcome to 2015

January 12th, 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.

OpenNMS 14.0.2 Released

December 11th, 2014

Today we released version 14.0.2 of OpenNMS. It is a recommended upgrade for all OpenNMS 14 users because is addresses a memory leak caused by the version of Vaadin we were using.

Here is a list of all the changes.

Sub-task

  • [NMS-7238] – Citrix Netscaler trap events

Bug

  • [NMS-6551] – Syslog Northbounder throws exceptions on certain alarms
  • [NMS-7073] – ICMP availability with custom packet size doesn't work with JNI
  • [NMS-7092] – Node page for a switch or router is unusable with Enhanced Linkd enabled
  • [NMS-7130] – Vaadin applications show Page Not Found error
  • [NMS-7186] – The XML Collector is not storing the proper data for node-level resources
  • [NMS-7187] – The XML Collection Handler is caching the resourceTypes
  • [NMS-7190] – Edit an existing scheduled outage from node's page doesn't work
  • [NMS-7193] – The report "Total Bytes Transferred By Interface" is not working with RRDtool
  • [NMS-7195] – When the DNS name of a discovered node changes, Provisiond doesn't update the node label.
  • [NMS-7218] – Null pointer exception removing services from node
  • [NMS-7227] – Some GWT pages are not working on IE
  • [NMS-7231] – The downtime model never removes the nodes when it is instructed to do it
  • [NMS-7243] – XML collector in JSON mode assumes all element content is String
  • [NMS-7245] – NPE on "manage and unmanage services and interfaces"
  • [NMS-7250] – Clicking On View Node Link Detailed Info Give java.lang.IllegalArgumentException

Enhancement

  • [NMS-7194] – Move the "Add new outage" to the top of the page.
  • [NMS-7230] – The Wallboard app makes OpenNMS unusable after a few days even if it is not used.
  • [NMS-7237] – Mikrotik RouterOS trap definitions

Meeting the J-Team at opensource.com

December 6th, 2014

This week I was able to visit the Red Hat corporate headquarters in downtown Raleigh for the first time. While I had been on their other campuses in the past, this was my first time in Red Hat Tower, a tall building that they leased from Progress Energy a few years ago to turn into their HQ. While I was using Google Maps to get there (downtown Raleigh has a lot of one way streets that confuse me) it was pretty obvious where I was headed once I turned off the highway and saw the Red Hat logo on the top of a building off in the distance.

I am a huge Red Hat fanboy. First, I love where I live in North Carolina, and this is an NC company. Second, they truly understand open source and are able to help others realize the value it can bring to their business while making money at it. With a market cap greater than US$11.5 billion, this is a real company that is also doing a lot of good (for comparison, note that as I write this CA has a market cap of US$14 billion).

Red Hat gets a lot of disrespect in certain circles because it isn’t headquartered in Silicon Valley. There is a huge “not invented here” complex out west, and I think it is in part because the Valley has been unable to duplicate Red Hat’s success with open source.

When you visit the campus you get a sense of how the idea of open source pervades every aspect of company culture. Open source is about sharing and working together, and that can be applied to many things in addition to software.

Part of that is exemplified in the website opensource.com. I believe it was started in 2010 (prior to that, the URL pointed to Red Hat’s corporate page) as a method for promoting the “open source way“. It is sponsored by Red Hat but does a great job of not being Red Hat centric. This isn’t a marketing platform for Red Hat’s products as much as a platform for marketing the Red Hat philosophy.

Despite being less than an hour away, I don’t get to see the people behind opensource.com often. I used to write for them pretty regularly in the beginning until time constraints made that harder, but we have a healthy e-mail correspondence. I do run into Jason Hibbets (author of The Foundation for an Open Source City) at conferences, but this was the first time I got to meet almost everyone in person.


The J-Team: Jason Baker, Jeff Mackanic, Jen Wike and Jason Hibbets

I didn’t notice until later that a lot of people I know at Red Hat have names that start with the letter “J” – even the CEO is named Jim.

I ended up spending about two hours there and had a great time talking about technology and open source society. Red Hat looks like a great place to work, and the red fedora is pretty much everywhere.

Thanks to a swag trade with my friend Kevin Sonney many years ago (at least a decade), I have an authentic Red Hat fedora and I learned that it is truly “old skool” due to its having a gold Red Hat logo on the inside. Cool.

I am hoping that my schedule will free up enough in 2015 that I can write for them some more. As I was telling stories, Jason B. or Jen would jump in with “that could be an article”.

In any case, with over 400,000 page views per month at opensource.com they are obviously doing something right, and it has earned a prominent place in my RSS feed. I look forward to visiting the Red Hat HQ and seeing them again soon.

Review: The LG G Watch R

December 5th, 2014

This past summer I was lucky enough to be gifted a Samsung Android Wear watch as I don’t always get to play with the new toys. As xkcd pointed out, a lot of people no longer wear watches, but I still do, so I was curious as to what a “smart” watch could do for me.

However, I preferred the look of the round Moto 360 which was going to be released soon versus the Samsung, which was square, so I ended up selling it on eBay. I felt a little bad selling a gift but I rationalized it by earmarking the funds for some sort of Android watch to replace it. I was all set to buy the 360 when LG announced its G Watch R. I loved the way it looked, so that’s what I decided to get. I disagree with the Wired reviewer who prefers the Moto 360 as compared to the G Watch R, as that watch just looks to me like a round slab of glass, but de gustibus non est disputandum.

Having had it for a month now, I find I really like having a watch tied to my phone. I can leave the phone in my pocket and interact with most notices through the watch. Despite my penchant for droning on and on to my three readers, even I would have trouble describing the features of the phone in a post, so I made a little video.

If you view it, the first thing you’ll notice is that I have no future as a hand model. I also did it in one unedited, continuous take, so forgive the pauses. It was really hard to light, since when the watch face switches from dark to light it tended to get washed out, so apologies for the quality.

One of the features I didn’t talk about is the integration with Google Maps. It would be difficult to demo, but when you are using Google Maps, each maneuver is alerted on the watch. It’s pretty cool. It also has a surprisingly good battery life, which seems to be a complaint among smart watch users.

All in all I like having the watch a lot more than I thought I would. It is perfect in social situations where constantly pulling out my phone would be awkward, and I can see the future imagined by Scott Adams where you combine a watch with a smart ring on your other hand to enable gestures and spacial recognition while your phone (or handy or whatever we decide to call it) sits in your pocket.

Wow – CA Knows About OpenNMS

December 3rd, 2014

While we position OpenNMS to compete with products from giants such as HP, IBM and CA, I had doubts that we were on their radar. But yesterday I saw the following in an article on Network World:

While not quoted, it appears that the CTO of CA dropped the name of our project, so one can only assume he is aware of what we are trying to do.

Cool.

I do agree with him that network management, especially at scale, is a “freaking hard problem”. Note that we are both using the term “network management” as an umbrella term for managing anything that is connected to the network, which ranges from traditional networking gear such as routers and switches all the way up the stack to applications and mobile devices – Internet of Things style.

It is the main reason we designed OpenNMS as a platform versus an application. It is a requirement that it be flexible enough to meet the unique needs of our users, and that can only be done by writing OpenNMS to be extensible while also automating as much of the work as possible. It is a complex problem.

It made my day that the CTO of a nearly US$14 billion company mentioned our effort. It means we are on the right track. We definitely don’t have the resources of CA but our team is talented and they understand the network management space.

It was also cool to see 451 Research mentioned in the article. I really like those folks, so much so that we just contracted with them. Perhaps we can get more people talking about us.