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.