2017 Red Hat Summit

I had never been to a Red Hat Summit before this year. We are exploring running OpenNMS on OpenShift and so Jesse, David and I decided to head to Boston to see what all the fuss was about.

RHSummit - Airline Sign

I noticed a couple of things are different about visiting Boston in spring versus winter. First of all, the weather was quite nice, and second, Boston can be freakin’ expensive.

And Red Hat spared no expense on this conference. This is the premiere event for companies in the Red Hat ecosystem and they obviously wanted to make an impression. I’m an “old guy” and I can remember going to huge shows put on by HP and IBM and this was on par. It took place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) which takes up about a half a million square feet. Red Hat used all of it.

RHSummit - Convention Center Sign

Nothing quite demonstrated the size of this conference than the main auditorium. The centerpiece was a huge screen for the presentation flanked by two smaller screens to show the speaker. That was needed since the place was so big you could barely see the person talking.

RHSummit - Main Auditorium Screen

In addition to the general sessions, there were a large number of talks on pretty much anything related to Red Hat products, philosophy and partners. As a major player in “the cloud” there was a lot of emphasis on OpenShift and OpenStack, but the whole range of offerings was covered from Fedora and CentOS to JBoss and Gluster.

As with most tech conferences, there was an expo floor. This one was dominated by the color red.

RHSummit - Expo Floor

I spent a lot of time wandering around talking with people. Over the years a large number of my friends have been hired by Red Hat, and as I’ve curtailed my participation in a lot of the big Linux conferences, it was nice to see them again. I ran into Brian Proffitt and Ruth Suehle near the center of the expo:

RHSummit - Brian Proffitt and Ruth Suehle

It was also nice to run into the Latvian army. The Zabbix crew had a booth and it was cool to see Alexei and Alex again, although it was ironic that I missed them on my trip to Riga (they were actually driving north to Tallinn when I was heading south).

RHSummit - Zabbix Booth

Zabbix, like OpenNMS, is 100% open source and thus not only do we get along, I quite like them and look forward to chatting about the joys and challenges about running an open source business when we meet.

Speaking of meeting, I also got to meet Brian Stinson of the CentOS project.

RHSummit - Brian Stinson from CentOS

We swapped some stories and recounted the strange and funny time when Jerry Taylor, the City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma, claimed the CentOS project had hacked his city’s website. Has it been eleven years? Wow.

As part of the conference, Red Hat provided lunch. It was always a pretty hectic time since the show was packed and nothing demonstrated this more than trying to serve lunch to all those people.

RHSummit - Lunch Crowd

As far as conference lunches go, it was above average, but I did find it funny that they only served water to drink (usually there are cans of soda, etc.) I overhead one Red Hat employee say to another, you know, we can afford that gigantic screen but all we get is water?

On Wednesday night, Red Hat purchased a ton of tickets to the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. While I can’t find a reference to actual conference attendance figures, I heard the number 5000 being batted around which was a significant portion of the ballpark (it holds a little over 37,000). They gave us all red baseball caps and you could definitely see them in the crowd.

RHSummit - Fenway Park

For our annual developers conference, Dev-Jam, we have about one-one hundredth the amount of people to see the Twins play, but we also get better seats. (grin)

It was my first time at the historic Fenway Park, and the fans were almost more fun to watch than the game. I also enjoy trying to explain the game of baseball to people from outside the country, and this was made more interesting by some bad blood between the Sox and the Orioles that resulted in the ejection of the Orioles’ pitcher for hitting a batter.

Fenway is relatively close to Cambridge, so I took the opportunity to visit a friend of mine who is a professor. I decided to walk to Harvard Square along the river, where the rowing teams were practicing.

RHSummit - Rowing

Now whenever I see a movie featuring Ivy League students on the water, I’ll know where that was shot.

It was also nice to be able to spend some time with David and Jesse. While I work with David almost daily, we’re so busy that it is hard to find time to talk strategy and plan for the future of OpenNMS. Jesse, our CTO, moved back to Canada after the birth of his son to be closer to family, and it was also nice to have time to spend with him. Walking to dinner one night David took this picture

RHSummit - River and Bridge

which turned out so much better on his iPhone 6S than my Nexus 6P.

I often say that Red Hat, as a company, doesn’t get the credit it deserves since it is headquartered in North Carolina and not Silicon Valley. Our companies share a similar philosophy of taking care of customers, creating great open source software and producing steady growth, versus, say, chasing unicorns. It was wonderful to see that work demonstrated in such a large and professional conference, and I hope next year I’ll get to speak (although I doubt it will be on the big stage).

LinkedIn

I’m at Red Hat Summit in Boston this week so expect a longer post on the conference later, but I wanted to mention that I’ve reopened a LinkedIn account after an absence of several years. You can find me here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tarusbalog

I left the network due to how they were handling privacy issues. I’m still not 100% happy with it now, but I think I can control how much information I share and I do have a need that I think the service can provide.

I was walking in Boston yesterday and I saw a sign for Harvard Medical School. They used to use OpenNMS and I really enjoyed working with the guys who worked there. Most of them have moved on, so I was curious to know where they were and if they were still in the city. It dawned on me that LinkedIn would have helped in this situation.

I don’t like a number of changes that have been made to the site, such as the inability to feature external links (such as to this blog which will remain one of my main ways to communicate) but it may be just my inability to navigate the website. OpenNMS is also on LinkedIn, and it looks like you can “follow” the company as well:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-opennms-group

Anyway, let’s give this a go. See you in the toobz.

2016 PB and Jam

OpenNMS is headquartered in the idyllic small town of Pittsboro, NC, sometimes just called “PBO”. Since a number of people who come to Dev-Jam travel a fair distance, we’ve started a tradition of a “mini Dev-Jam” the week after, hosted at OpenNMS HQ.

This is much more focused on the work of The OpenNMS Group, but it is still a lot of fun. Last night as a team building exercise we decided to try an “escape” room.

This is a a relatively new thing where a group of people get put in a room and they have a certain amount of time to figure out puzzles and escape. Jessica set us up with Cipher Escape in their “Geek Room” which was the only one that could accommodate 11 of us.

It’s a lot of fun. For our experience we were lead into about a 15×15 room and given the following backstory: you are watching your neighbors cat while they are on vacation and after you feed her you realize you are locked in their house. You have 60 minutes to escape.

One thing I thought was funny was that the room was dotted with little pink stickers and we were told that these indicate things that don’t need to be manipulated (e.g. there was a picture frame that when you turned it over you would see the stickers, which meant you weren’t supposed to take it apart). I can only imagine the beta testing that went into determining where to put the stickers (our hostess specifically mentioned that you didn’t need to take the legs off the furniture).

To tell anything more would spoil it, but I was extremely proud that the team escaped with over 10 minutes to spare (we missed the best time by ten minutes, so it wasn’t close, but we did beat a team from Cisco that didn’t escape at all).

Escape Room Success

It was a ton of fun, and I’d put this team up against any challenge.

Afterward, most of us went out for sushi at Waraji. I’ve known the owner Masatoshi Tsujimura for almost 30 years, and even though they were packed they were able to set us up with a tatami room.

Waraji Dinner

It’s a bit out of the way for me to visit often, so I was happy to have an excuse for a victory celebration.

Avoiding the Sad Graph of Software Death

Seth recently sent me to an interesting article by Gregory Brown discussing a “death spiral” often faced by software projects when issues and feature requests start to out pace the ability to close them.

Sad Graph of Death

Now Seth is pretty much in charge of managing our Jira instance, which is key to managing the progress of OpenNMS software development. He decided to look at our record:

OpenNMS Issues Graph

[UPDATE: Logged into Jira to get a lot more issues on the graph]

Not bad, not bad at all.

A lot of our ability to keep up with issues comes from our project’s investment in using the tool. It is very easy to let things slide, resulting the the first graph above and causing a project to possibly declare “issue bankruptcy“. Since all of this information is public for OpenNMS, it is important to keep it up to date and while we never have enough time for all the things we need to do, we make time for this.

I think it speaks volumes for Seth and the rest team that OpenNMS issues are managed so well. In part it comes naturally from “the open source way” since projects should be as transparent as possible, and managing issues is a key part of that.

Dublin OpenNMS Meetup

I’m working in Ireland this week, and our UK/Irish Ambassador, Dr. Craig Gallen, used the opportunity to put together an OpenNMS meetup, featuring beer and pizza (grin).

We held it in an office space near Temple Bar thanks to Barry Alistair. Among his many talents, he is also one of the organizers behind IrishDev.com, an on-line community for the Irish Software Developers Network.

Ulf at Dublin Meetup

It was a lot of fun. We socialized for a bit, and Craig had arranged the pizza to arrive at the end of our talks in order to reward folks for listening to us hold forth on the wonders of OpenNMS (the beer was on offer first, ‘natch). Once again I ran long and the pizza was consumed between my introduction and Craig’s presentation. I did an overview of the history of OpenNMS and why using open source, especially for a network management platform, is a Good Thing™.

Craig at Dublin Meetup

Craig’s presentation was much better, and covered a lot of the new features that have recently been added to the application as well as the direction the product was moving (such as being positioned for SDN/NFV/Internet of Thingies). No one left or fell asleep and there were lots of good questions.

Events such as this are one of my favorite things to do, so I want to thank Barry and Craig for making it possible.

Convince Your Boss to Send You to the OUCE

With this year’s OpenNMS Users Conference a little over a month away, I plan to be writing about it more in the run up to the event. I figured I should probably start on why you should go and, better yet, how to convince your boss to pay for the trip.

First off, if you aren’t using OpenNMS, why not? (grin)

In all seriousness, if you are happy with your network management solution you can stop reading now. But if you aren’t happy, are in the process of considering alternatives, or if you have a serious interest in discovering the benefits of an open source network management platform, the money you will spend to investigate OpenNMS through the Users Conference is a rounding error compared to the price of similar commercial solutions.

Second, OpenNMS is more of a platform than an application. I know of a number of organizations who manage billion dollar budgets using Microsoft Excel, but it didn’t work for them out of the box. They had to build the spreadsheets, integrate it with databases and other applications, but now they have a custom system that fits their needs. Most network management applications require the user to adapt their processes to fit the application. For most IT organizations those processes are what differentiate them from their competitors, so it makes more sense to use a platform like OpenNMS which can be customized to better complement them instead of the other way around.

Third, OpenNMS does have a steep learning curve. It is a broad and powerful tool but it does require an investment in time in order to realize its full potential. One way to get such knowledge would be to attend a week-long training class at the OpenNMS HQ. The cost would be US$2500 plus travel.

Contrast this with the OUCE. The full four day package runs 1000€, currently about US$1100, or less than half the price of the standard training course. Even with travel expenses (assuming you aren’t in Germany in particular or Europe in general) it should make more sense to go to the OUCE than to the usual training course (plus, the next one isn’t until January of next year). If you don’t have the need to go to the one day OpenNMS Bootcamp, it is even less expensive. It makes good financial sense.

Fourth, this is a *users* conference. If you come to training you will most likely get to listen to me for five days. At the OUCE you get to meet and talk with the people who *use* OpenNMS. Got a common problem? Find out how others solved it using OpenNMS. Got a weird problem? I can guarantee that someone at the conference will have a weirder one that they used OpenNMS to fix. The initial list of accepted talks is awesome and will only get better.

Fifth, a lot of the key people behind OpenNMS will be there as well (including yours truly) and so you can experience first hand what makes the OpenNMS community so special. Plus, since we don’t “unveil” new features, you can see first hand what is currently available in the development version of OpenNMS, including “big data” storage, new and improved graphing, elasticsearch integration and distributed polling via “minions”.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun. I can remember meeting Ian Norton during an OUCE several years ago. He had been forced to attend the conference by his (now previous) employer and was very unhappy about it. Not knowing who I was, he candidly ranted about issues he saw with the product. I assured him that we would work hard over the next two days to address them. Now he is one of our biggest supporters, and all it took was two days to “get it” and understand what makes OpenNMS so magical (in the interest of full disclosure, schnapps was involved).

In conclusion, if you are not using OpenNMS you are probably paying too much for a lesser solution. This may not be true in your particular case, but you should at least seriously investigate the possibility. It makes financial sense to do this at the Users Conference, even with travel expenses, plus you can see how real users, just like you, are getting the most value out of the tool. And even if you decide OpenNMS is not for you, you’ll have had some fun and can rest assured you did your due diligence when examining management options for your employer.

Hope to see you there.

2015 Community Leadership Summit

I’ve been working full time with open source software for fourteen years, and I can remember a time when we were pretty much making everything up. No one had experience with this market which most of us now take for granted, and there were a lot of questions about dealing with an open source “community” versus paying customers for open source related software and services.

Out of this arose a role, for lack of a better word, called a “Community Manager”. It doesn’t quite fit since “manage” isn’t accurate. It is hard to apply old school management techniques to a group of sometimes anonymous volunteers, many of whom you might only know by a name such as “Zaxxon476”.

One of the first people to document this role was Jono Bacon. He was one of the leaders of the Ubuntu community, one of the larger of such communities in existence. He wrote a book called The Art of Community and he also founded the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) which meets the weekend before OSCON. Due to scheduling I have never been able to be there, but OpenNMS has been a sponsor every year it has been around.

CLS - Sponsors

This year I was finally able to attend, and I wasn’t disappointed. A large, eager group of people showed up, and I really enjoyed the diversity. Not only were women strongly represented (in both attendees and session leaders) there were many people from outside of the United States.

Jono kicked off the conference:

CLS - Jono Bacon, the delicious meat

with help from another amazing fellow, Stephen Walli:

CLS - Stephen Walli, the other white meat

The format was in the “unconference” style, meaning that the attendees set the agenda. After an initial group of planned 15-minute presentations, those people wanting to host a session would write a short description on a card, get up in front of everyone and announce the session, and then go post it on a large schedule “wall” in the main hallway.

I’ve been to a number of such conferences but rarely seen such participation levels. We actually ran out of Saturday spots, but in the true cooperative style a number of people were able to combine sessions so I think it all worked out.

CLS - Schedule

The whole event had a really good vibe. It wasn’t just open source people, either. The “open source way” can be applied to a number of different fields, and it had to be stressed that in any given session you couldn’t make assumptions about the open source knowledge of the people in the room. One woman discussed how she was dealing with mental illness, and an on-line community was key to her becoming healthy. Another woman was discussing how concepts from the formal study of psychology could be applied to make communities stronger. Even proprietary companies such as New Relic were there because the user community has become key to the success of almost any technology endeavor.

I got to make new friends and catch up with old ones, so I have to admit like many conferences I spent more time chatting in the hallway than in actual sessions (as some of those session were in the hallway, I had to be reminded that my voice carries. Ooops and sorry).

For high school I went to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and I constantly run into alumni in this field. OpenNMS’s own Seth Leger went there, as did Spot Callaway and Gina Likins from Red Hat. I got a cute picture of Gina (pronounced “Jenna”) with Ulf.

CLS - Gina Likins

It looks like the second day might even be stronger than the first, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it. As OSCON is moving to Austin next year, it will be interesting to see how that changes CLS, and I plan to make every effort to be there.

The OpenNMS Calendar

As I was spending this morning trying to get organized, I thought it would help me to post some of the OpenNMS events coming up over the next few months.

July: OSCON

The O’Reilly Open Source Conference, being held the week of 20 July in Portland, OR, USA, is probably the last great commercial open source conference. I’ll be there on the Expo floor and would love to chat with folks about OpenNMS and open source. We are also sponsoring a free concert with MC Frontalot and the Doubleclicks at Dante’s on Thursday night the 23rd:

August: Training

We are holding our formal week-long OpenNMS training course the week of 10 August at OpenNMS HQ in Pittsboro, NC. This is the best way to get up to speed with OpenNMS, plus you get to meet a lot of the people who make it happen.

September: Users Conference

This year’s users conference is shaping up to be the best yet. It will be held from 28 September to 1 October at the University of Applied Science in Fulda, Germany, which is just outside of Frankfurt.

Sponsored by the independent OpenNMS Foundation, The Call for Papers is still open. Also this year we’ll have the gang from the Bad Voltage podcast doing a live show for your entertainment.

October: All Things Open

From 18-20 October, the All Things Open conference returns to America’s Open City: Raleigh, NC (home of Red Hat). This is a great time and OpenNMS will be a sponsor this year.

Hope to see you at one or all of these events.

2015 Mini Dev-Jam

So, after this year’s Dev-Jam, several people followed us back to Pittsboro. Markus von Rüden, Ronny, Christian and Dustin all came to visit, as did Antonio. It was an extra week to get even more work done and a chance for us to socialize.

On Thursday Ben suggested we visit a really nice Japanese restaurant called Dashi in Durham. While downstairs serves noodles, upstairs is a bar with small plates. We rented the place out for a few hours.

Dinner at Dashi

It was excellent. The food was delicious and unusual, and the drinks were splendid as well.

Since our guests weren’t leaving until July the 5th, it was only appropriate to have everyone over to celebrate July the 4th. I was finally able to make Fish House Punch (there is so much of it you need a large number of people to help drink it) and we did the usual 4th of July things such as cooking out on the grill.

The one thing we couldn’t do was fireworks, as there are pretty strict limits on them in North Carolina. I thought we could substitute a bonfire (I generate a lot of stuff to burn on the farm) but with the large amounts of rain we have been getting it really wouldn’t catch.

Then Jesse asked “Do you have any gasoline?”

Against my better judgment, I got some gas and while it improved things, the fire still wasn’t blazing like a bonfire should. Then someone suggested I get the leaf blower.

Tweet about the 4th party

Now, I have a really nice leaf blower. It’s a four-cycle Makita that makes me feel like Magneto. It did the job.

4th of July Bonfire

Remember, don’t try this at home.

Speaking of home, everyone made it back safely. It was nice seeing them for an extended period of time.

The next chance I get to see old friends will be OSCON coming up in two weeks. Remember that OpenNMS is sponsoring an MC Frontalot concert with the whole band at Dante’s on July 23rd. Hope to see you there.

Free Frontalot Concert at OSCON Sponsored by OpenNMS

Hey. Lots to catch up on in this post, but the TL;DR is that the OpenNMS Group is hosting a free concert to coincide with this year’s OSCON conference in Portland.

(Please read to the bottom to see how this ties in with the EFF and Ulf)

It will be held Thursday night, July 23rd, at Dante’s, which Google Maps describes as a “Hip, dungeonlike rock venue”.

Map of Dante's and OSCON

Lookie there – we’re “hip”.

The Concert (note how I capitalize it because it is just that epic) will feature MC Frontalot along with his band. This will be the first time I’ve ever gotten to see a Front show with the band (thus “epic”) and I’m really looking forward to it.

And just to throw a little whipped cream and a cherry on top of this huge nerdy/geeky sundae, the opening act will be the Doubleclicks. Yes, you read that right, Angela and Aubrey will be there bringing their unique brand of nerd-folk to the same stage as the man who invented nerdcore rap.

And did I mention it is free? Doors open at 8pm, show starts a little after 9pm.

Plus, for you free and open source software fans, there might be a little extra surprise. Be there to find out what it could be.

Now, the long version on how this all came about.

Chris Dibona once said that his job was to give money to his friends. While our budget here at OpenNMS doesn’t come close to his, I did take his words to heart and we strive at all times to support the FOSS community.

I consider part of that community to be the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). If it wasn’t for the EFF defending a free and open Internet, open source would have a much harder time existing. Usually we give a fairly large donation at the end of each year to support them.

Last year I didn’t. To be honest, 2014 kind of sucked for me for a variety of reasons, and we really weren’t doing well enough to support a donation.

A few months ago I got introduced to Chad Essley. He is the animator behind the MC Frontalot video for the song “Shudders”. While I had yet to meet him, he shared my love of the EFF’s work and decided to auction off some of the artwork from that video and to donate the proceeds. The “grand prize”, if you will, was to have a special remix of “Shudders” made to include some new artwork. Since 2015 is going much better than last year, we decided to bid on that prize and we won, so now I can present the new and improved “Shudders”, which includes everyone’s favorite kiwi, Ulf.

Note that about 1:25 minutes in you can see a pretty accurate rendition of the OpenNMS headquarters.

Anyway, I really enjoyed working with Chad, and I found out he lives in Portland, Oregon. Portland is also the usual venue for the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON). While OSCON has definitely become much more focused on the latest Valley fads over FOSS, it is still the one place I can be sure to see all of my FOSSy friends each year, so I never miss a chance to go. Now I can add Chad to the list of people I get to see.

Then it dawned on me – why don’t we do a little guerrilla marketing and host a show? Thus after all the swag laden Docker parties are over, people can come by and enjoy some geek-centric music in a cool place.

So I approached Frontalot about doing a concert and, again, since we’re doing better this year, I felt we could spring for the whole band. He agreed, and then used his powers of persuasion to get the Doubleclicks on board. Dante’s is also helping us out, so be sure to come out and buy lots of beer in appreciation.

If you are new to the Doubleclicks, as I was, this is one of my favorite songs of theirs:

The show is open to everyone, so you don’t need an OSCON pass to attend. But I’ll be wandering around the OSCON Expo floor handing out some goodies that are just for conference attendees. I’ll post more when it gets closer to the date, and I’ll tell you how to find me.

I am extremely excited that we are able to do this. It promises to be a great time.