Let the Sun Shine In

It’s been cold and snowy for most of my stay in Milan, but today the temperatures warmed and the sun came out.

We held a seminar on OpenNMS and open source for over 20 of Italy’s best and brightest IT decision makers and professionals (I know this because they were interested in OpenNMS, so it goes to reason that they were intelligent, amazingly witty and very attractive to the opposite sex).

I was limited to a 20 minute presentation and 10 minutes of questions which is extremely hard for me to do (since the guys in the office say it takes me more than 20 minutes to introduce myself) but I think it went well.

I started off with a discussion of software business models, and then talked about the various permissive and restrictive open source licenses. I couldn’t resist doing a slide on open core software since it is my own personal goal to make sure that open core is seen as the commercial software business model it is versus an open source one, and this being Europe I think it was well received. While I think it is quite possible for open source and proprietary software to live side by side, I don’t think this is possible within one company (well, at least a small company – IBM might be able to pull it off).

The reason is simple: If there are proprietary features that drive software revenue you can bet that they won’t ever become part of the “community” edition. In fact, I bet that any contribution from the community that threatens that revenue stream will be refused. The goals of an open source community and a commercial software company are hard if not impossible to align.

I then talked about the OpenNMS business model. Since our mantra of “Spend Less Than You Earn” allows us to exist year after year, there is no danger of OpenNMS ever going away. With our active and growing community we will keep improving OpenNMS and thus provide pressure to our commercial competition. In our target market of large enterprises and carriers, solutions are driven by knowledgeable professionals both within these companies and via outside consultants, and by making OpenNMS the best tool for the job we expect to see widespread adoption both through the commercial side of OpenNMS as well as from the community.

It may take ten years, but I fully expect OpenNMS to one day be the default platform for any large scale management solution.

The people in the room today together spend more than 10M€ a year on network management. They have suffered through expensive solutions that never delivered on their promises and they have had few options but to switch to another expensive solution.

While downloading OpenNMS doesn’t instantly fix their problems, combined with the right hardware, services and perhaps some custom development it can immediately start to reduce costs while increasing functionality. Once in place OpenNMS does not require expensive maintenance contracts and can represent a much lower cost of ownership than a commercial product.

But most importantly OpenNMS represents freedom. The fact that the code is 100% open moves the power from the vendor to the client. This seemed to be important for the people in the room.

I managed to get all this and more in my allotted time, and I think it was well received. We have a number of large projects going on in Italy and, while challenging, it gives us a chance to shine.

Just like today’s sun.