OpenNMS Training in September

Just a reminder that there will be formal training on OpenNMS to be held at our main offices in Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA the week of 21 September.

We have two seats left, so be sure to register if you are interested in attending.

Due to issues with scheduling, this will probably be the last training until January of 2010.

New URLs for OpenNMS Blogs

Just a quick note to point out some changes to the OpenNMS blogs. We are really trying to get organized this year and we’ve hired a company to help us organize the OpenNMS wiki information. There is a lot of good stuff there but it is sometimes hard to find.

They have a number of suggestions and we are working to implement them, but they wanted us to make two small changes to our blogs.

The first was to move my blog out of the domain. I rant on about a lot of things that aren’t project related and that may not interest the average OpenNMS user. So the new URL is

The second thing was that we had a number of separate blogs for certain members of the Order of the Green Polo. None of them had time to blog as much as I do, and with one exception blogging was very light. It takes a certain kind of loudmouth personality to actively blog, so rather than have multiple blogs to check we decided to combine them into one “development” blog. Sure you could always check but that still required separate logins for each blog if you wanted to comment. The new blog can be found at

Anyway, for those three people who actively read this stuff I wanted to let you know about the changes. Please update your links/RSS feeds accordingly.

Huot 2.0

This post is late (been swamped) but I am happy to announce the birth of Sarah Huot, daughter of Mike Huot (OGP).

Sarah was born on August 15th at 6:31PM. She weighed 6lbs 11oz and was 19 Inches long.

The whole OpenNMS team sends out best wishes to Mike and Katie on the birth of their daughter.

The UK's National Health System

I just finished some rare rest and relaxation over the weekend playing bridge with some friends in Oakland, California (for the record, 42.5 rubbers with a few slams and one grand slam that was made but not earned).

Over the table we started discussing the decline in rational discourse over the years. It seems that in the quest for attention, every discussion rapidly devolves into personal attacks and rhetoric. I’ve been a victim of this many times when trying to start a discussion of open source software, but my experience pales compared to what I am seeing in politics.

I don’t know why this seemed less in the past. Perhaps the media did a better job of calling it out and making people stop. The hot topic du jour is the debate over government sponsored health care in the US.

A great example of the problem was illustrated by my favorite news anchor, John Stewart. He contrasted video of Glen Beck trumpeting that “America has the best health care system in the world” with video from a little over a year ago where Beck experienced that system and was, shall we say, considerably less than satisfied with it.

It’s worth a look.

One health system that is commonly trotted out as an example of what not to do is the one in the United Kingdom. Now this blog is not the place to discuss health care but I felt that, as one of the few Americans who have experienced the British NHS first hand, I should relate my story on something that could “end democracy in America as we know it”.

I live in rural North Carolina and there are lots of deer around. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see three or four, and as a consequence I am exposed to a number of deer ticks – little disease carrying, blood sucking insects.

While I take steps to minimize this exposure, I still manage to get ten to twenty ticks bites a year. They’re no big deal – more of a nuisance really – but I do keep an eye on each bite just to make sure everything is okay.

In the spring of 2006 I got bit by a tick, removed it, and forgot about it. A few days later I found myself in the UK to do some work on OpenNMS. One morning I noticed a large, target shaped rash around the tick bite, which is a classic symptom of Lyme disease.

Being the digital age, I took a picture of it and e-mailed it to my physician back home. He replied that it was definitely Lyme disease and I needed to get a prescription for antibiotics. Since this requires a doctor’s involvement in the UK, I had to ask my client to help me get an appointment.

Now, this was about 11am on a Thursday. They made some calls and I was given a 1pm appointment at the local “surgery”. Since I wasn’t covered by NHS insurance, I was told I’d have to pay the “consult fee” out of pocket, which was £60, about US$100 at the time.

I walked in and was asked to sign a piece of paper with my name and address on it. That was it. I was ushered into an examination room promptly at one and the doctor arrived immediately after that.

She asked me to take off my shirt and in an instant recognized that the rash was due to Lyme disease. Then she asked if I would mind if she had the medical student look at it, since the New Forest, where I was, does have deer and the very rare case of Lyme disease. I had no problem with that and when he came in, he got excited and asked if he could take some pictures. I said “sure” and while he went to get his camera, the doctor got on the phone to call in the neighboring physicians. After the photo shoot and doctor parade, she even asked if the triage nurses could come in and take a look.

I was very patient through the whole thing and as a reward they waived the fee. They said it was the most interesting case they’d had in six months. I got a prescription and had it filled around the corner at the “chemist”.

I’m telling this story for two reasons. First, I like to joke that I once got paid $100 to take my shirt off (and for those of you who have seen me you realize why this is funny). Second, I hope this story will help counter some of the fear, uncertainty and doubt being spread about the whole issue of health care and specifically attacks aimed at the NHS. I found the whole experience as pleasant as one could expect, and on par with, if not better than, my average trip to the doctor in the US.

I can only imagine what a foreigner without insurance would have to go through in order to get similar care here.

More Adventures in Open Source

A friend of mine pointed me to a blogger in the UK who also calls his blog “Adventures in Open Source”. Sweet! The more the merrier. I’ve been promised a pint next time I’m in Liverpool.

The more people who get excited about open source the better. Perhaps it will help prevent more of this:

This is a picture of the monitor in the elevator at the Marriott in downtown San Francisco. It works about half the time.

I see a lot of this in my travels. I have yet to see a public screen displaying something like a Linux kernel panic, however.

2009 OpenSource World – Day 2

Not to start this post off on a down note, but wandering around OpenSource World I couldn’t help but think I was attending the last LinuxWorld Expo.

I’m not sure where the show lost its way, but the once huge conference was just a shadow of its former self. OSCON has become the main show for open source, and with Linuxcon coming up in a few weeks I can guess why the hardcore Linux crowd stayed away.

For example, the Linuxcon keynotes will include Linus Torvalds and Mark Shuttleworth. The first keynote at OpenSource World was a replacement speaker from Dell who simply went through their standard cloud computing slide deck. The hall was so empty they removed about 200-300 chairs from the back before the next speaker to keep it from looking so sparse.

Not a good sign.

I did actually have some fun at the two sessions I attended. The first was Brian Aker’s Drizzle talk.

As most of you know, Drizzle is sort of a return to the MySQL roots. It is designed to be a small and extremely fast database for use on web sites (yes, I’m oversimplifying so check it out if you need more). Being sort of a ground-up re-imagining of MySQL it tries to take the best of the older platform with an eye on the future. For example, Drizzle is being designed solely for 64-bit architectures on machines with lots and lots of RAM, the assumption being that once the project is ready for production that will be the default system anyone would want to use for it.

What I really enjoyed was his strategies for getting the community more involved in the project. He related a story of when MySQL started growing and they realized that everyone in the community who was a serious contributor had been hired by the company. I hope to adopt some of his ideas for community involvement in Drizzle for use with OpenNMS.

The second session was a panel hosted by Larry “Dark Lord of Open Source” Augustin on open source compliance. As Chris Dibona says “All Panel Discussions Suck” and this one was no exception.

The thing I hate about panel discussions is that there is little give and take between the audience and the panel members. For example, there was a lot of talk on concerns of using open source inside an organization with license compliance, compatibility and things like that, when the truth of the matter is that as long as code doesn’t leave an organization, open source software is pretty close to public domain. The rules don’t usually kick in until it is distributed (as the license is normally enforced under copyright law) and so many organizations can see huge benefits from taking and using open source software internally.

But I wasn’t able to ask about that.

Two of the panelists seemed to have a real solid understanding of open source software. Tim Golden, of Bank of America, brought up something near and dear to me: work for hire.

At OpenNMS we make a large portion of our revenue from custom development. All the work we do gets put back into the product, so the client gets exactly what they want out of OpenNMS and we get to make OpenNMS more powerful.

However, most standard contracts have a “Work For Hire” clause that states the client owns all the code, so we have to either remove it entirely or rewrite it extensively to make it more in line with the ideals of open source software.

He also brought up this scary concept of “residual knowledge”. It would seem logical that if I am doing work for a client and I come up with an idea during that time that I should own the idea. But what if that idea was triggered by some confidential knowledge I obtained from the client? Do they have any claim to future work based on it? Apparently this is a hot topic within cloud computing since previously confidential business practices get more exposure. It was a term I had not heard of before and one that I plan to keep an eye one (plus adding a new “residual knowledge clause” to our contracts).

I also was impressed with last minute panel replacement Steve Wretling, from Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser seems to have a real grasp of how to deploy open source within their environment and they have put in place processes to take advantage of it.

So, overall, while I hated the format I enjoyed the session.

The next keynote was by Debra Bowen, the California Secretary of State. She is a good speaker and very tech-saavy, but she has also been branded a Luddite due to being outspoken in her criticism of electronic voting machines. The stories she told were scary, and it made me value the optically scanned paper ballots still used in parts of North Carolina.

Then the fun began. I met up with John Mark Walker, Michael Coté and Luke Kanies for lunch. John Mark is starting a new venture promoting open source on Windows, Coté was unusually quiet, and this was the first time I’d met Luke.

I think I know why Coté was quiet.

Let’s just say if you ever need to kill a couple of hours, put me and Luke in a room and press “Go”.

I found Luke to be quite charming, and we found a lot of things in common between his team’s creation of Puppet and our team’s work on OpenNMS. We both can talk at length about a variety of subjects. But we are also very different: he’s skinny, I’m fat; I eat animals, he does not, etc.

Based on my experience with the morning panel discussion, we thought that ours should have more audience interaction and I think it went okay. We had a few people walk out and Luke says he saw one person sleeping but for the small crowd that stayed (and stayed awake) I hope they got a little something out of it. I had fun.

That evening Luke and I met up at the View Lounge at the top of the Marriott and continued our discussions on everything from open source, running a business, popular culture and shoes. We were joined by filesystem hacker extraordinaire Valerie Aurora and later by Michael Coté.

Val came up with a game to name three topics of conversation that should be banned when geeks meet socially. Last year her three were computers, the election and the financial crises. The new three became computers, health care, and social networks.

Hence the discussion about shoes.

After awhile we split up and Coté and I continued over sushi and sake. I always enjoy talking with him because he is an analyst who used to be a programmer. I think he gets where I’m coming from. The best technology salesperson I know is a guy named Doug Gilkey who has an advanced degree in aerospace engineering, and in much the same way Coté is one of the best analysts in the management space since he’s been there.

All in all I’m glad I came, but I don’t think I’ll be back. I can’t make Linuxcon this year, but perhaps next, and OSCON is apparently returning to Portland so I might have to combine a trip to that show with visiting clients in the area.

But I gotta buy some new shoes.

2009 OpenSource World – Day 1

Just a reminder that I’m in San Francisco for OpenSource World. Today I’m at Gareth’s FOSS Dev Camp and tomorrow I’m on a panel discussion with Luke Kanies and Michael Coté, moderated by John Mark Walker. If you’re in town, remember the conference is free and I’d love to see you.

If you’re nice to me, I’ll show you the alpha version of the OpenNMS iPhone app that Ben is working on. It’s pretty nifty:

Last night I got to visit with Jason Aras, a member of the Order of the Green Polo.

We went to a restaurant called Firefly that was really good, and it was nice to see “fastjay” again.

One of his coworkers at imeem asked him to thank me. I asked “what for?”

Well, apparently they just switched to OpenNMS from one of the “little four” and for two weekends in a row the on-call guys had zero false positives versus a usual run of about fifty (yes, that’s five-zero). I told him to get them to post their story for the Order of the Blue Polo and I’d send them a nice shirt.

Spring in San Francisco

Okay, so I get on a couple of planes, watch five episodes of The Wire (finished Season 4) and land in San Francisco only to hit the VMWare/SpringSource news blizzard. As I assume my three readers know, yesterday VMware acquired SpringSource for around US$420 million – a nice chunk of change and one of the top five largest open source acquisitions of all time by my count (including MySQL, JBoss and XenSource in that mix).

I don’t understand it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that SpringSource wasn’t worth the price. Heck, we use Spring technologies throughout OpenNMS and love it. We had Ben Hale out to our Dev-Jam conference way back in 2006 (when they were called Interface21) so Matt recognized the potential even then, but it just goes to show you how much I don’t know about this whole investment thing.

Let’s examine this deal. Matt Asay reports that the annual revenue at Spring Source was US$20 million. That means that VMWare paid a multiplier of 21 for the company (I believe 6-8 is much more common). That is amazing.

Second, Matt also reports that most of that revenue was in services. Huh? I’ve been told for 7 years now that services companies aren’t worth anything. In fact, I was told that by Benchmark, the people that just made a bunch of money on this sale. Tricksy, no?

One thing I do understand now is the acquisition of Hyperic. Not only did it benefit the VCs (the investors in Hyperic were pretty much the same as those for SpringSource) it brought extra revenue and products to the table. I am certain that Hyperic was responsible for a good portion of that multiplier.

Which makes me happy for the Hyperic team. While they were my favorite whipping boy for their unique use of the term “open source,” I know a few of the founders and they are genuinely nice people. It’s good to see them do well, and to Javier, Doug and Charles – next time, drinks are on you. I’ll eat a little crow as long as it is served with a nice Scotch.

Since I obviously don’t understand the world of mergers and acquisitions, I’ll stick with what I do know – enterprise management, helping customers and having fun doing it. OpenNMS is not only an application but a framework on which management applications can be built, and that seems to be pretty hot right now. Business is booming, but while I don’t see any US$500 million acquisition in the near future, check back in a couple of years.

We might just surprise ya.