Europe 2010 – Bergen

I’m spending a few days in Bergen to fill the time between the OpenNMS users conference and the Telemanagement Forum conference. I had originally planned to fly back home, but I was only going to be there for less than two days before I had to leave again.

Alex Hoogerhuis has been supporting OpenNMS since 2003, and he is one of the early contributors to our wishlist. As the founder of Norway’s Boxed Solutions, Alex has been deploying OpenNMS all over the place, including Norway and Africa. I was able to visit once before in 2008 so I thought it would be cool to come back for a few days.

This is a fun time of year to visit Norway. The weather tends to be nice (it was sunny and warm – best weather on my trip so far) and since May 17th is the national holiday the mood is always festive.

As Alex and I wandered around Bergen, he would constantly point out places where OpenNMS was being used. One was for a restaurant chain, and using a 3G modem he was even monitoring the cash register on a cruise boat.

Bergen is a port city and seafood is a big part of that. They have a number of holding tanks for the catch, which includes crabs, cod, and lobster.

Also hard to miss are the Russ. These are students who are graduating from high school, and tradition dictates that they wear special outfits from 1 to 17 May, pretty much without interruption. They are highly customized, and students can earn the equivalent of merit badges for performing tasks, some of them outrageous (such as running naked around a large pond in the center of town). I saw a number of Russ crawling on hands and knees across the main square and was told this was one of the more common of these tasks.

Another thing I noticed was that young kids would often run up to Russ, who would hand them something. I asked Alex about it and he told me about the “russekort” which are fake business cards that the Russ have made. Apparently there is a lot of demand for collecting these cards, both among the students (who view it as a way to meet members of the opposite sex) and children.

Unfortunately I leave for Nice on the 16th so I won’t be here on Monday to watch the parades as well as partake of hot dogs and ice cream (another 17th of May tradition), but Alex did treat me to some traditional Norwegian food.

We had lamb knuckles and lamb sausage, coupled with potato balls and mashed turnips. It was very good but extremely filling.

Europe 2010 – Let's Get Sirius

I spent Wednesday at the world headquarters of the Sirius corporation. It was great to meet Mark Taylor’s team, and to see another pure open source company thriving.

The Rivermead House is right on the river, with a number of canal boats parked out front. It was one of the many eerily similar things between our two companies (the OpenNMS Group offices look out over two small ponds).

Everyone sits together (which is also similar to our office) and I must adopt their method for cutting down on the amount of profanity used in the workplace. They have mapped a number of common swear words to various IT vendors and products, so it is not uncommon to hear something like “that is a big, steaming pile of [insert vendor name here]”.

Later in the morning Dj Walker-Morgan arrived. Currently the editor-in-chief for “The H” (a technical website with an open source focus) I did not realize that he was also one of the early employees of Micromuse. I am hoping Mark didn’t feel too left out as we reminisced about all of the people we knew back then (and if you happen to read this, Angela, we both thought you were awesome).

The only downside was that I had to cut the day a little short to make my plane to Norway. It was a great day and I look forward to a closer relationship with Sirius and seeing Dj again in the near future.

Europe 2010 – Cambridge to Surrey

Being the big geek I am, I couldn’t wait to wander around Cambridge. While I have been to England several times before, to be able to walk on paths that I know Isaac Newton walked was exciting.

We walked down to King’s College, only to find a sign out front that said it was closed. Since I saw a number of young people ignoring the sign, I decided to as well, even if it was just for a few minutes.

Afterward, we decided to just wander around, which is incredible fun in a place like Cambridge. You never know what you might come across.

While I was busy looking at the history, Craig was sharped-eyed enough to spot this little sign at a business park as we walked back to the B&B which seem to be the offices of RealVNC.

On Tuesday morning we woke and drove to an OpenNMS client meeting just south of Cambridge. I think it went well. Lunch turned out to be from a small but very popular deli, which was quite good. Since our meeting wasn’t supposed to last two hours, but ran four, I take it as a good sign (although most who know me would suggest that I just talk too much).

We then took off for Surrey to try to beat the London traffic. Several years ago I met a man named Mark Taylor at a conference. He runs a company called Sirius that promotes free and open source software, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, his philosophy toward FOSS closely parallels mine. Since I was going to be in the area I suggested we get together, and Mark took it a step farther and invited me to stay at his house.

Craig dropped me off at the Sirius offices in Rivermead, and I spent a delightful evening at the Taylor residence. Most of the time was spent talking about open source, but we were also watching the change of power as David Cameron became the new Prime Minister.

While I am definitely not educated enough about the issues to have an opinion of the UK elections, I have been told by several people that the Conservative Party is very friendly toward open source (and here’s a comparison of different party views). As a country that, like the US, is facing a large deficit, moving toward open source solutions is one way to both improve services and reduce costs.

Now politicians have been known to say one thing whilst campaigning and do another once in office, but let’s hope this stays true.

Europe 2010 – Rochdale to Cambridge

I spent the morning in meetings with a client. They had a very nice office with a formal Japanese Garden just outside.

I think the meeting went well and that OpenNMS will be a good fit for their needs. In the early afternoon we got back in the car for the long drive to Cambridge.

Along the way we stopped for a bite to eat and I am constantly amazed by the wonderful little pubs in hidden place one finds in England. This one was right on the canal but hidden from the road. I just happened to notice a small sign as we drove by.

We talked with the guy running the place and he produced photos of some excitement they had recently experienced. It seems that early one morning a group of men had stolen a truck full of Corona beer, but the police found out and were chasing them. The driver made a wrong turn and ended up putting the truck in the river, nearly sinking a small boat that had moored there for the night (and its rudely awakened owner). Apparently some of the thieves tried to swim for it but they were all apprehended.

Luckily we made it to Cambridge without such an incident and I’m about to go and wander the same streets as Sir Issac Newton. That, to me, is incredibly cool.

Europe 2010 – Interlude #1

I made it to London with little issue, but before I got on the plane I stopped by the restroom. It’s part of my personal credo that I never pass up a chance to eat, sleep or … go to the bathroom. Of course I forgot that I was in a JAL lounge:

It was rather frightening when the lid rose all on its own.

On the rather short flight I managed to watch last week’s episode of LOST. All I can say about it is … damn.

My friend Martin picked me up at Heathrow and we drove off to his home in Lyndhurst. We had a delightful lunch and then walked around the New Forest. That evening we went to The Oak in Bank, which is probably my favorite pub in all of England.

Today Dr. Gallen picked me up and we drove for about 6 hours up to the northwest part of England to a town called Rochdale. We have a client visit scheduled for tomorrow, but Rochdale is probably best known for Gordon Brown’s “bigot” gaff during the election.

Tomorrow night will find us in Cambridge, long time home of Sir Issac Newton. I’ve never been but I look forward to it.

Europe 2010 – OUCE Day 2

I am writing this from the JAL lounge at the Frankfurt airport, waiting on my flight to London. It took awhile but I finally found that they have wired internet (RJ45s at certain seats) which is unusual but totally understandable. Good thing I aways carry a cable.

Yesterday was the second and final day of the OpenNMS Users Conference – Europe. While Day One was focused on the OpenNMS user community, the second was led by key members of the development team to focus on the application.

But before the workshops started we saw a keynote from Uwe Bergmann, the CEO of Nethinks, and how Nethinks is using OpenNMS to meet its clients’ needs. The OpenNMS Group and Nethinks have an interesting history. We got off on the wrong foot when one of our folks back in 2008 pointed me to an article on a German IT website about a product called MONET. MONET is based on OpenNMS, but includes integration with other open source tools. Unfortunately the article didn’t make any reference to this fact. This happened right when we were trying to deal with a company that was improperly using our code and I was hyper sensitive about it, and so I thought it had happened again.

This was not the case (MONET is distributed in accordance with the license) but since Nethinks had obviously seen the value that OpenNMS provides, it was the start of a good partnership. Nethinks sponsored last year’s conference and once again did most of the heavy lifting for this one.

Uwe discussed how OpenNMS was used to solve various problems that his clients experienced. Once the videos are online, it will be worth checking out.

After the initial talk, the conference broke into two tracks of workshops.

The first one I attended was Antonio Russo’s discussion of the new mapping features in OpenNMS.

I have never liked maps, but certain users, usually management, almost require them. Being an open source project, I’m willing to entertain any new feature in OpenNMS as long as it is good, and maps are no exception. But after hearing about all of the new stuff in our maps, I actually got excited about them and can’t wait to play with them on our own system.

At the OpenNMS Group we have a very flat organizational structure. However, since we are growing so fast, I am spending more and more of my time doing company administration. For this trip I’ve turned it into a joke. For example, when I got us upgraded to business class I told Ben “see, this is for management”. If I misspoke about something related to OpenNMS and one of my guys corrected me, I’d just say “pardon me, I’m management”.

So when I left Antonio’s presentation and was going on and on about how I liked the new maps, Ben said, “Gee, you really are management”.


Speaking of Ben, his was the next talk I attended. I don’t write much code anymore, and some of the recent changes, such as the migration to git, are still new to me. Having spent most of my life with this idea that there was one and only one repository for a particular piece of code, the highly distributed nature of git is something I’m still getting my brain around, but I asked a lot of questions and things are clearer now.

The final workshop of the day was Ronny Trommer’s presentation on the OpenNMS integration with JasperReports. As “management” this was also exciting to me, as now we can produce beautiful reports from any information that is available from the database.

We use the “community” edition of the Jasper server, and outside of flash and commercial support I am not sure what the “enterprise” version gets you, but it seems like the free version is pretty feature rich. The only thing that it doesn’t give us is the ability to import information from the RRD files but we’re planning on adding that and contributing it back to their project.

After the workshops were over it was like no one wanted to leave. We talked for at least an hour more, but then people started trickling out to catch trains, etc. A group of us who stayed around walked through the red light district to a Japanese steakhouse that was recommended for dinner.

It was a great conference and everyone who came seemed to get a lot out of it.

Europe 2010 – OUCE Day 1

Although it is cold and raining in Frankfurt, the atmosphere at the second annual OpenNMS Users Conference – Europe is pretty sunny. While there are less people than we had last year, the attendees are stellar and I believe everyone is having a good time.

Once again Nethinks has done a great job with the conference. We have two rooms, each with a projector, flip chart and drink cabinet, with one room in between for breaks, coffee and snacks.

Uwe started things off with a short introduction, then I did about 90 minutes discussing the current state of the OpenNMS project. I focused on two themes: OpenNMS as an application platform and the OpenNMS community. At the end I was able to present both Ronny Trommer and Jay Aras with their green polo shirts, which was the highlight of the talk for me.

We then took a break for lunch (the hotel has a wonderful buffet) and the afternoon started with technical discussions on how users were working with OpenNMS.

Since a number of people from The OpenNMS Group are here, I wanted to make sure that at least one of us was in every session, so while I wish I could have seen both tracks, I only got to see half of them. They were all recorded, so I plan to watch them once the videos are posted.

I started with Christoph Lagemann’s presentation on how his company uses OpenNMS. They started with OpenNMS 1.2 many years ago, so it was nice to hear what they thought of its progression over time, as well as areas for improvement.

This was followed by a discussion from Jens Michelsons on the OpenNMS notification system. He covered the basics but ended the talk with several examples of unique ways to use OpenNMS in order to send alerts. This is the thing I love the most about our project – by focusing on building a platform versus an application people are free to come up with new ways of using it that the designers never conceived.

The final talk was by Markus Schneider on his OpenUMR project. He has integrated OpenNMS with Microsoft’s OpsManager. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although being Windows focused it wasn’t a fan favorite for this conference crowd. (grin)

At some point, my friend Neils brought me stroopwafles. He knows my weakness for them.

Then it was time for beer and socializing. This was followed by an evening event at a local African restaurant. It was delicious food (you eat from shared plates using your hands and a type of bread) and since we basically took over the restaurant it was a great way to end the evening.

As I watched everyone interacting and having a good time, I couldn’t help but wonder at the power of free and open source software to bring people together. Here we had people from 10 countries laughing, talking and breaking bread together, and it was as if there were no national boundaries. We talked about technology, politics, art, music and everyone had something to learn and something to share.

If you haven’t experienced it, it is hard to describe, but for me it removes any doubt that my dedication to OpenNMS has been the right decision.

Europe 2010 – Arriving in Frankfurt

The trip from London to Frankfurt was uneventful. Due to high winds our flight was delayed about an hour, but I used the time to catch up on some sleep.

Once in Frankfurt I was happy to find my luggage had made the trip as well. Ben and I met up with Antonio and we took a cab to the OpenNMS conference hotel.

We got our rooms and then it was time for reunions with old friends and meeting new ones. Alon Rubinstein brought two coworkers in from Israel, and Uwe and the Nethinks team were also there. The group of us wandered off to find a place to eat and catch up.

Alex Hoogerhuis showed up, but unfortunately he became ill and didn’t join us. I was chatting with him on IRC this morning and I believe he is just going to head back home to Norway. I hope he feels better, especially since I am to join him in a week (grin).

Frankfurt is an interesting city. As the financial capital of the Eurozone, you see some interesting art:

I joked with Uwe and asked which star was Greece, to which he replied “the fallen one”.


We got back to the hotel around 9:30 and I called it an early night. Tomorrow the conference starts and I still have a lot to do.

On Growing

Sorry about the light blogging lately, but that is about to change. Tomorrow I’m off to Germany for the OpenNMS Users Conference (there are still a few spots available, and last minute registrations are welcome). This is followed by a trip to the UK, where I am looking forward to a couple of reunions, one at the Oak (one of my favorite places in the world) and one with Mark Taylor over at Sirius.

After that it’s off to Norway to visit longtime OpenNMS supporter Alex Hoogerhuis, then to Nice, France, for the TMForum conference where we’ll get our “cloud” on.

It will be a busy three weeks.

Luckily, my absence won’t really affect OpenNMS Group operations since we have been experiencing rapid growth lately. I’ve hired three people in as many months, and now the company is more than capable to run without me (well, at least for a little while until our supply of hot air starts to dwindle).

The first new hire was Brad Miesner as our VP of Sales (who I introduced a little while ago). Despite the title, we hired him specifically as an account manager since we wanted one person who was dedicated to nothing but insuring that our clients were happy. While that happiness is the responsibility of everyone in the company, having someone who is tasked with actively contacting our clients and noting any concerns seemed to be a good idea.

The next person we added to our team was Seth Leger as a full time developer. Seth was involved with OpenNMS back with Oculan, and we were very excited that our paths crossed in such a way that we were able to hire him. He did some contract work for us last year, and since he really fit into the team and had a lot of experience with the code, it was a no-brainer to bring him on full time. We expect great things from him.

Speaking of great things, today I am happy to announce that Barry Campbell has joined us as the new Director of Communications. While often associated with a marketing position, we actually mean “communications” in its purest sense. Like many open source projects, our documentation could be better, and Barry’s first task is to clean it up.

One could consider it marketing, of course. OpenNMS is an extremely powerful tool, and a common comment we get is “I didn’t know OpenNMS could do that!” If more people were aware of everything the platform was capable of doing, I believe we’d get more users and thus more customers.

Barry comes to us with quite a pedigree, and he often describes himself as a “suit to geek” translator, with a strong background in both project management, process analysis and ITIL. Most recently he was the Director of Communications at IPsoft, a network management outsourcing company based in New York. It’s good to have him back in North Carolina.

Barry will be blogging on a new site called ““.

It’s really cool to be growing, especially this fast, but that has moved my role into more administration than actually working with the product, and I kinda miss it. It’s also weird to have to post everyone’s extension taped to my desktop since I can’t remember them all.

At least we don’t need name badges.