Why All the Hate?

I got a note from Javier this morning with the title “Why All the Hate?”. It made me sit up, because I like Javier, a lot, and if my post on VC money came across as hateful, I want to try to patch things up.

I met Javier at last year’s SCaLE conference and took an immediate liking to him. He loves his company, his product and his people as much as I love mine. We’re hermanos. Heck, you can even rearrange the letters of his name to spell “i.e. Tarros Veloj”, which means we have almost the same name, too.

This is why I hate writing about the industry. For people who do not know me it seems like I hate VCs, I hate the big four, I hate the little four, and I hate their communities.

Let me quickly address those points in reverse order.

First of all, to the users of all those other network management products out there: if it works for you, great. Don’t even consider OpenNMS. There is no reason to replace something that works. If this means you can take a shareware open source product and make it do what you need it to do, within your budget (of both time and money), then it is a great solution. If it requires a fully commercial product to do what you need done, great. Sometimes it makes better sense to spend a little money to save a lot of time.

As for the “little four”, I don’t agree with shareware open source models and nothing is ever going to change that. That doesn’t mean I “hate” them. In the context of traditional software companies it makes a lot of sense. Heck, the creators of MySQL and Xensource can thumb their noses at me from their Ferraris. But I truly believe that years from now the projects that are still recognizable as open source won’t have a commercial software component. I’m betting my Ferrari on that.

The “big four”? Heck, they don’t know we exist. They are so big and so far away I’d be surprised if they cared very much about open source at all. The guys in the trenches tasked with making those solutions work are still cool, as I rediscovered at barcampESM, hangin’ with the guys from BMC and Tivoli. No hate, I just believe there will eventually be a better way.

And finally, VCs. I don’t hate VCs. They are out to make money just like I am. Shareware open source models have made a lot of money for some over the past few months.

I will admit that VCs scare me a little.

They scare me because, as I mentioned in a comment on Jack Hughes’s blog, the goals of a VC firm that invests in open source based on a software revenue model are not the goals of the community at large.

Case in point: if I used the free version of a shareware open source product, wouldn’t I benefit from having the entire software available at no cost? Wouldn’t I be able to contribute more if I could focus on new features instead of trying to replicate existing “enterprise” ones? Thus the community goal of getting as much functionality as possible into the open source part of the product negatively and directly affects software revenue.

I would love for someone to point out to me the flaw in my logic here.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider investment from a VC firm. If the focus is on revenues outside of software, then a strong community means a stronger product and ultimately more money. Thus VC investment works to drive the community and everyone benefits. I’ve even laid out how I’d do it should we decide to accept such an investment.

Note: for those of you who think I’m being naive and that I just don’t want to give up control of the OpenNMS Group, I already have.

So, enough of this for now. Time to get focused on 1.3.10. And remember, I’m not a hater, yo.