Disruptive Innovation

Okay. I love Netflix.

There, I said it.

For those of you reading this outside the US, or who aren’t familiar, Netflix is a new way of renting movies. For US$20 a month, you sign up on-line and pick as many movies on DVD that you would like to see. They then send you three, and you can keep them as long as you like. Watch them, stick them back into the postage-paid envelope, and get three more. Since I live out in the country, I have no access to cable. I don’t watch enough television (too much time spent on OpenNMS) to warrant a satellite subscription, and if I did it would still be considerably more than US$20 a month. With the new Netflix hub an hour away in Greensboro, I get two day turn-around on my movies, which is faster than I can watch them.

What does this have to do with OpenNMS?

The Harvard Business School has an interesting article on Netflix as a “disruptive innovation”. I think OpenNMS is disruptive. Having worked with most of the major network management applications, I can say that OpenNMS is rapidly approaching the ability to replace many classic and costly commericial alternatives, and that ability is only going to grow over the next year.

What makes us different? We are extremely customer-focused. Like Netflix, we listen to what our customers want, and then provide it. This occurs when a client purchases custom development, when a support contract is purchased (let me be honest – a feature a support customer wants gets more attention than a non-support customer) and then when the community votes for an enhancement bug. Believe it or not, we read every mailing list post and consider every suggestion.

Other companies sit around a big table
and try and guess what customers want.

We are also profitable. This is really important to me: to be able to offer services at a
reasonable price

and still keep the doors open is a challenge, and I am glad we are meeting it. I seriously don’t know where some network management software companies come up with their numbers. It’s like they said “We want to make a million dollars, and we can hope to get 100 customers, so $10,000 a head”.

I would really like to hire 20 coders and get to OpenNMS 2.0 in six months instead of sixteen, but the only way to be sustainable is to continue to be profitable. So we move as fast as the community will allow. Just so you know, we hired two top-notch wunderkind in the last month. I’ll introduce them soon.

Finally, we love what we do. We can truly look at our community members as partners. Every bug that’s reported, patch that is submitted or suggestion that is made makes us stronger, to the benefit of all.

And this is disruptive. People who are not part of it can’t seem to

understand it
, but it works, and is working. Many people are scared by change.

But I love it, even more than Netflix.