2009 Open Source Monitoring Conference

I’m in Nürnberg, Germany this week to speak at a Nagios conference of all things. I was a little disappointed, however, to learn that Nürnberg is no where near the Nürburgring, but so far I am happy I came.

The conference is sold out, and the people I’ve met so far are pretty cool (although I haven’t met all of the 260 in attendance – yet). It’s an interesting ecosystem that has been built up around Nagios, and in many ways it is a microcosm for open source as a whole.

OpenNMS and Nagios are about the same age, but Nagios is much better known, in part because it is written in C and has been available in a number of distributions for years. OpenNMS, being written in Java, has always faced some resistance from users who just don’t like Java, and until the recent advent of the OpenJDK there as been a hurdle to getting something like OpenNMS included in major distributions.

Nagios and OpenNMS share some overlapping features, but from the beginning OpenNMS was aimed at large scale enterprises and was designed with that in mind. Nagios appealed to users at a smaller scale, who liked the ability to add almost any check they could think of to the system very quickly.

But there are more differences. Ethan Galstad, the author of Nagios, always kept pretty close control of the core software. As I write this, OpenNMS has over 40 people with commit access to the code, while Nagios has 9 (up from 3 just a few months ago).

This has caused some tension and has resulted in a number of new projects based on Nagios and at least one outright fork. I can count at least two here at the conference: Opsview and Icinga, and while Ethan used to attend this show he is not here this year.

Maybe it is a coincidence, but last night he announced Nagios XI. This appears to be an “open core” version of his monitoring product, with the old Nagios now being called “Nagios Core OSS”.

As you can imagine, I’m not excited to see more open core software. Groundwork has raised nearly US$30 million and continues to fail with its open core fork of Nagios, and while I consider Ethan much more capable I think it is a bad move. The popularity of Nagios was driven by its community, and it seems obvious that this community is not happy. Driving another wedge between them by splitting development into open and closed versions will not help.

But this is the beauty of open source software. It doesn’t matter what I think. The users get to make the decisions, and Nagios has a great group of users.

Perhaps I can get a few of them interested in OpenNMS.

4 thoughts on “2009 Open Source Monitoring Conference

  1. First off, don’t forget to try the brats and bier while in Nürnberg. 🙂

    There will always a segment of any OSS community that isn’t happy where things are, or where they’re going. You can’t, nor should you try to, please everyone. That’s a surefire recipe for disaster in any venture.

    Open Source is great in that it helps foster choice and freedom. Real freedom, however, is having the choice of using OSS or commercial apps where you choose. The choices people make are usually based on the end-value they get from they get from a particular solution, rather than its openness or license. There may be OSS alternatives for things like Illustrator and Visio, but they don’t provide me with the same value as the real deal, so I choose to use proprietary solutions that solve my problem effectively. That’s freedom to me.

    Companies like Groundwork – while they may have received a lot of investment over the years – haven’t gained the traction they need to make a significant difference in the space. Their lack of market penetration and brand recognition have limited their progress, so investment dollars and sweat equity don’t have the impact they should. I also personally think companies like GW lack some credibility due to their involvement (or lack thereof) with the OSS community in the past. It doesn’t help them any when people think their products are overpriced for what they deliver either.

    Order the kraut with your brats, but avoid the red beet-like thing you sometimes get with dishes. Just my two cents.

  2. Thanks for the mention. I wouldn’t class Opsview as a Nagios fork, essentially it builds on top of the standard Nagios code base. Our approach has been different but Opsview isn’t a reaction to how Ethan manages the Nagios project. Two of the team have have Nagios commit access so we’re sending any changes back upstream. Just my two cents worth 🙂

    Anyway, hope you had a good conference!

    James @ Opsview

  3. As a Nagios user I’m a bit disappointed about the way it’s progressing with regard to the open source/commercial split. OpenNMS is far clearer on this – if only it was written in C instead of Jave… 😉
    If you can get to the Nurburgring next time you’re in Germany I’d definitely recommend it – great fun!

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