JRobin Alignment Fix In

We’ve gone ahead in the 1.3 branch and made JRobin the default storage model (versus RRDTool, but RRDTool is still available). Since the snmp-graph.properties file is in an RRDTool format, we have to translate all of the commands into objects that JRobin can understand.

When Sasha re-wrote the way graphs were produced in the 1.5 branch of JRobin, this changed the newline (\n) functionality so that JRobin-based reports didn’t line up nicely.

I tried to fix it a couple of months ago and failed.

Craig Miskell (OGP), however, figured out that “\\l” would perform the same function, so I committed a small patch to trunk today that should make the JRobin reports look a lot nicer. No changes to the graph data are necessary.

Will Fraley has suggested some more changes to JRobin, but since that was to the JRobin library itself we’ll have to adopt them a little bit later.

Note that the 1.2 branch uses JRobin 1.4 and is not affected.

Also note, if you want a workaround for 1.3.2 simply replace “\n” with “\\l” (four slashes and an “ell”) in your snmp-graph.properties file.

The Curse of the Upgrade

We travel a lot, and our airline of choice is American. They have their own terminal at Raleigh/Durham (the nearest airport) and they tend to be competitive with our second airline choice, Southwest.

The benefit that pushes the needle in favor of American is their BusinessExtrAA program, which give points to both travelers as well as businesses. So we earn points good for travel and the poor soul who has to fly a lot gets ’em too.

Now a little while ago I noticed that I had these things called “upgrade points”. I found out that I could get upgraded from coach to first class using them.

But I didn’t know about the curse.

The class of airfare when you get upgraded is “X”. For me that means “Cancelled”.

Continue reading

Amen, Nat – Preach it, Chris

Today has been an interesting day for me. For quite awhile now I’ve been crusading against using the term “open source” as a marketing strategy. The phrase has an exact meaning, and just making the source available does not make it open. Historically there have always been ways to get access to commercial source code with the right team of lawyers and the right contracts (i.e. money), but that is a far cry from being able to change it and distribute the derivative work – two pillars of the open source philosophy.

Well today a site called Datamation published “Ten Leading Open Source Innovators” which included a large number of companies that are neither open source nor innovators.

The one that caught my eye was Zenoss. As was reported at Infoworld Zenoss is based on Nagios. I have a hard time understanding how building a product on a five year old application achieves the definition of “innovative”. Nagios was innovative, we have yet to see if Zenoss can be.

But may day was made when I saw that this article made the usually peaceful Chris Dibona irate. Chris, as the open source guru at Google, has the second best job on the planet, and he has probably forgotten more about open source than I’ll ever know. “My outage is quite present” had me shouting alleluias in the hotel lobby.

“Damn kids. Get off my damn lawn.”

Heh. Priceless.

But then when Nat Torkington over at O’Reilly jumped into the fray, I started to get my hopes up that this might be the start of a trend of really questioning those companies who claim to be open source but aren’t.

Now listen – I don’t believe that software has to be open source to be good. I doubt that Blizzard would get any benefit from making World of Warcraft open source. I own several Macs, so I pay a premium price on hardware and often pay for both closed and open software. All I care about is using the best tool for the job. My goal with OpenNMS is to create the de facto platform for both open and closed management software, and the best way to do that is by nurturing the community that builds it.

So don’t think I’m trying to disrespect SugarCRM. We use the free version, and if it works for you, great. But let’s not call it open source.

Oh, I’m in California for the second week in a row, but will be heading home tomorrow. I promise to blog next week on more OpenNMS-centric things.

Open Source Is Not A Marketing Term – Part Deux

Slashdot has an interesting article Has Open Source Lost Its Halo?”. It seems to mirror a lot of my ideas in the first Open Source Is Not A Marketing Term post.

In a post by Gordon Haff he brings up the term “predatory open source” to describe the actions by some companies to open source non-strategic products in order to undermine commercial competition.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I have been saying for a long time that software is going to take two paths: it will either become a commodity or open.

Commodity software is not necessarily bad. The success of such things as World of Warcraft goes to show that there is a huge market for inexpensive, high-value software that “just works”.

But enterprise “anything” is hard – from network management, to CRM and ERP systems, to content management systems and databases. In these service intensive fields, solutions are best achieved by combining skilled experts with the proper software tools. I posit that it is impossible to come up with a “point and click” solution to enterprise problems.

As the goal of OpenNMS is nothing short of becoming the de facto network management platform of choice, I guess our project could be seen as being predatory to IBM’s Tivoli/Netcool, CA’s Unicenter, HP’s OpenView and BMC’s PATROL and other products, but I see it as just the natural evolution of the market. I doubt very seriously that we show up on the radars of those companies, but I bet we will soon.

The reason is that the fact that something is open source doesn’t make it successful, useful or cost saving. First and foremost it has to be better than other options. Eclipse isn’t the default Java IDE because it’s open source, it’s the default Java IDE because it’s extremely useful.

Which gets me harping on the community again. At SCaLE (presentations coming soon I’ve been promised) I had a slide paraphrasing Bill Clinton with “It’s the community, stupid”. If IBM open sourced Lotus 1-2-3, I doubt Steve Ballmer would be calling up Bill Gates screaming that Microsoft Excel was doomed.

The article mentions something else:

Rosenberg is more disturbed by the bandwagon jumpers: the companies, mostly startups, belatedly going open-source in order to ride a trend, while paying only lip service to the community and its values.

While jumping on the open source marketing bandwagon my produce a flurry of press and attention, in the long term it is doomed to fail. You can’t own a community and you can’t force a community to do something it doesn’t want to do, and in that fact is an inherent freedom. Piss off the community and they can just up and fork to another project. Try to co-opt a community and they’ll ignore you. But working with a community can change an entire industry.

I only have two rules with respect to OpenNMS:

  1. OpenNMS will never suck.
  2. OpenNMS will always be 100% free.

Luckily the community agrees with me.

Feelin' the luv

As I was getting on the plane to head home from LA, I overheard this from the cockpit:

“I don’t know about the Internet. I’m not much for all that techie stuff”.

Of course, me being me I had to open my mouth to point out that not understanding “techie stuff” doesn’t inspire confidence in a boarding passenger. “Hey Zeke, what’s all these here dials ‘n switches fer?”

They laughed.

I’m safely back in North Carolina, and I wanted to share this e-mail that came in from an OpenNMS user named Scott Cudney:

OpenNMS 1.3 is nothing less than an out of the park grand slam! When I deployed OpenNMS 1.2, the official word from my management was “I hope this thing works better than it looks!” The response to version 1.3 was “Grand Slam!” The new web UI is flat out sexy and the new functionality is making my life easier in ways you can’t imagine! I really think that you need to consider changing your logo when you label 1.3 stable. Your current logo is nice and all but it doesn’t describe what OpenNMS 1.3 really is. I’d like to suggest this:  

SCaLE – Day 3

Man, I am tired. It’s been a long day.

I’m beginning to think that SCaLE is one of my favorite shows. It had a lot of the technical talent you’d expect from larger shows without a lot of the blatant commercialism.

I woke up this morning in a mad scramble to get my presentation slides done. I had never given this presentation before and on top of it I am trying to wean myself from Microsoft Office so I was using NeoOffice (OpenOffice) Impress which I wasn’t familiar with.

When I got to the room I was informed that the presentation was being both audio-taped and video-taped, and that I was going to have to use a microphone. Now those who have met me know I don’t need to use a microphone, and since I refused to stand still behind the podium I had to carry it around with me. I felt like a televangelist, which I guess in some ways, I am.

The room was pretty full, and there were a number of people out in the hallway. I can only assume they were trying to see what the fat man was yelling about. I actually managed to finish right on time, which was a miracle for me. The talks should be posted on the SCaLE website soon, so check it out if you are not faint of heart.

After the talk I ran into Zonker Brockmeier from Linux.com, and he asked me if I would do a five minute video with him talking about OpenNMS. I thought it was going to be along the lines of my FLOSS poscast, i.e. give and take, but Zonker put the camera on me and basically started rolling. He gave me a tip to look at him and not the camera, so of course I started goofing off. He threatened to use it (and later thought better of it) but he did send me a still.

By this time I’m dead and it’s not even lunch. I managed to sneak away to In-N-Out and grab my signature Double Double, Animal Style, with Fries and a Strawberry Shake, to be followed by a bunch of Altoids so as not to offend those in the booth from the onions.

The rest of the day went on in a blur. About 5pm we torn down the booth and went to the bar.

Many thanks to Gareth and the whole crew at SCaLE for a fantastic show, and please invite us back next year.

SCaLE – Day 1

First thing this morning a guy leading a small group came up to the booth and said “Sell me on OpenNMS!”


I wish I had said it, but it was David. The guy was obviously taken aback, so David explained that what he needed to do was tell us what he required from a management solution, and we’d tell him whether or not OpenNMS was a good fit.

I’d been looking for a good example of how dealing with OpenNMS was different from other products, and this hit the nail on the head. Other products say “Come on in! Look at me! See how pretty I am! Buy me!” (sorry for all the exclamation points but if you’ve ever been to a trade show you know what I mean). OpenNMS is about solutions, and thus the first step is always to determine the nature of the problem that needs to be solved. Until that is done, there is really nothing to sell.

The first day at SCaLE flew by. We had steady booth traffic and I got to talk to a large number of cool people. The vibe here is much more along the lines of LISA versus, say, LinuxWorld, but without a lot of the “Why did you do it this way – defend yourself” that you get at the former conference.

By 5:30 I was really regretting having signed up for a Birds of a Feather session as I was wiped, but by 8pm I’d caught a second wind. We had about 20 or so people show up, and since the room didn’t have any A/V equipment (the projector had been removed promptly at the end of the last presentation) I just sat at the front and ran my mouth. OpenNMS is a fun story to tell, so I hope I didn’t bore the folks too much, and being tired I pretty much didn’t know when to stop. We met a couple of people who had been using the product and were really happy with it, and there were two guys from Doubleclick who had actually created a custom data collection plugin using OpenNMS 1.3. While they had little Java experience they were able to get it working, so I guess that’s a big compliment to Matt and his collectd rewrite.

Tomorrow I start off with my talk on OpenNMS case studies, and then I should be able to relax. I’m really looking forward to that.

SCaLE – Day 0

Last week we hit a low of 11F at the farm. The lowest I’ve ever seen there was 8F, but the winter is not over yet, so it’s really nice to be sitting here in LA where the temperature is closer to 70F.

We’re at the Southern California Area Linux Expo (SCALE) where 1300 like-minded geeks and geekettes will be gathered together for two plus days of open source excitement. We have a booth in the heart of the expo floor, and there is a Birds of a Feather Session scheduled for tomorrow night where we hope to meet up with some of the OpenNMS faithful (old and new) to chat about what’s going on with the project, and on Sunday I’m giving a talk on OpenNMS and some cool case studies.

So far I like the vibe of the show. It reminds me more of LISA and less of LinuxWorld Expo. Speaking of LWE, I think my rants on the subject have gotten us permanently banned from the .org Pavilion, but I thought I’d try again to get us invited. I went to their site and searched on “Pavilion” but was met with an IIS “missing DLL” error. This was new to me but apparently the IDG websites are run on Windows. Heh, I just think it is funny that LinuxWorld Expo, arguably the largest open source conference held in the US, runs its website on Windows. Well, maybe that Apache thing will take off some day.

There is some other fun news in open source network management world. There was an article on Techtarget talking about the open source network management space. Of course, OpenNMS wasn’t mentioned once again (we are included in their Guide to Open Source Networking Tools though). I wrote the author and he was quite nice but he just hadn’t heard of us. Oh well, at least my three blog readers know where I’m coming from (grin). He did interview the father of open source network management, Ethan Galstad. Ethan started Net Saint when open source wasn’t cool, and he still remains one of the nicest guys in the business. Many people think that OpenNMS and Nagios are an either/or proposition and that we have to be enemies, but nothing is further from the truth. I’m eagerly awaiting my Nagios T-shirt and I’ll post a picture of me in it as soon as it arrives.

Speaking of Nagios, it looks like Groundwork is at it again. They’ve raised an additional US$12 million. The less that is said about them the better, but note that with the initial ~US$12 million they’ve managed to get “some 200” customers. Heh, we’re bootstrapped and have a good portion of that number, and trust me we spent way less than US$60K per customer (heck, in the beginning we spent way less than US$60K in *salaries*). Solarwinds is also mentioned in the article. We actually lost a client to Solarwinds back in the 1.1 days, but since then we have several of their users come over to OpenNMS. As a services company we don’t market software, but it is nice to get the occasional unsolicited plug that compares us to other options.

There was a post on the discuss list about Ziptie. I don’t know much about them, but they did hit my Google news reader with an OpenNMS integration. As our goal is nothing less than to become the de facto network management platform for everyone, we welcome this, but they had up a page that implied that The OpenNMS Group (the commercial company that maintains the OpenNMS project) was a partner. I wrote and suggested that they use the OpenNMS project logo (the community is much bigger than our little company) instead, and that “integrates with” is probably a better phrase than “partner”, and I also asked that they make some reference to the trademark owners of the images they used on the site. I thought I was nice and polite, but I must have done something wrong ’cause they never wrote back and they just removed the logo.

Oh well. I was a little upset that they used the tiniest logo out there for us, but I’ll get over it.

[2007-02-09 15:58 PST] Update: I just got a nice note from Brett Wooldridge, the Ziptie project lead, apologizing for the way that page was created. It was a misunderstanding and I sent in a nice big OpenNMS logo for them to use if they wish. [grin]

Anyway, back to the show. Remember that we have training in Utah in March and we are close to announcing Dev Jam 007 to be held in Minneapolis again the last week in July. Perhaps 2.0 will be done by then. (grin)