Order of the Blue Polo Profile: Ho Trong Dat

When we started the Order of the Blue Polo, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s been interesting, since most of the OBP members so far are people I either didn’t know or haven’t heard from in a long time, and some people I figured would be the first to jump on it haven’t (probably due to the fact we require a company name).

Back in 2002, OpenNMS was pretty much just me in my attic (well, the room over the garage). The economy was still depressed post-9/11 and sometimes I wondered if it was all worth it (luckily I don’t give up too easily).

However, something happened in September of that year that gave me my first glance into how powerful an open source community could become, and it strengthened my resolve to make OpenNMS the de facto management platform used by everyone.

It was a letter from Vietnam.

Hi MAN.
I am calling you MAN because I consider you as a great man in NMS field. You and your band have made an wonderful product as I’ve ever seen and used. I am using OpenNMS 1.0 ( from 0.8.x) at my sites for approximately a year and it keep running well. In future, we will use NMS to monitor almost our VNPT’s network ( VNPT – Vietnam Post and Telecomunication ).

Here our information:
CDIT – Center for Development of Information Technology-VNPT
http://cdit.com.vn/
VietNam

I hope some day I will have a chance to contriubte my little knowledge for OpenNMS’s development.
Best regard.

It was from a man named Ho Trong Dat and it seriously made my day, if not my month. Here I was, working by myself in a little town in rural North Carolina, getting a great letter from a guy in freakin’ Vietnam (and while some readers will probably chuckle at the English, Dat’s English is a hell of a lot better than my Vietnamese).

Note: In most Asian cultures the family name comes before the given name, and I make sure I am aware of this when I travel. However, especially in Japan, some business cards will compensate by reversing them on the “English” side of the card. Note that I said “some” and since I don’t read Japanese I often can’t figure out if it has been done or not. It’s an example where accommodations made for Westerners cause more problems than they solve. So let me apologize in advance if I ever get your names backward.

Another Note: Vietnam has become a popular tourist destination. Think about it – in 40 years the in place to be might be Bagdad.

I was both surprised and extremely happy to see that Dat was to become one of the founding members of the OBP.

Dear OpenNMS users

My name is Dat and I am working for CDIT, a subsidiary company belong to PTIT (Post & Telecommunication Institute of Technology). We are R&D centre. We know OpenNMS when we researched about open source software.

We have been using OpenNMS in CDIT since 2002. From that time, OpenNMS did not release the first version, still 0.9, I remember. We had to install and reinstall OpenNMS a lot of time to get familiar with it. After six month, we finally and totally control OpenNMS in administrating our network. We deployed an WAN for our mother company (VNPT) with over 50 network nodes (router, firewall), a lot of servers (30). Using OpenNMS, we can monitor the status of links between subsidiaries, the performance of the link, of the server. We also monitor a lot of services such as : email, web of collaboration – our internal website, file servers, We think OpenNMS is a very convenient, flexible and highly configurable network management software. We feel happy when using OpenNMS.

Thanks you guys who have been developing such a nice and beautiful software.

So here is a guy from halfway around the world who used OpenNMS back when it first came out, and nearly seven years later he’s still using it (plus Dat’s English is much improved).

It’s letters like these that make me feel happy making OpenNMS.

Announcing Desloge 2.1

Rebekah Desloge, wife of one of our team members, Donald, gave birth to a son early this morning.

Jack Armstrong Desloge came into this world at 1:49am weighing in at 9lbs 8oz and almost 23 inches long. This is the second child for both of them.

Congratulations to the whole Desloge clan.

The Order of the Blue Polo

As many of you know, the OpenNMS project is run by a super-secret cabal of ex-Illuminati called the Order of the Green Polo. The membership requirements are pretty stringent (and the initiation process is obscenely biological) and thus only the clinically dedicated tend to be involved.

However, we know that there are others out there that simply enjoy using OpenNMS to solve their management needs (or at least enjoy downloading it – our servers post several days with greater than 300 GB of traffic every time we do a release) and now we want to hear your story.

Becoming a member of The Order of the Blue Polo is simple: write to us a testimonial about why you like OpenNMS and how you use it. It would also be cool if you tell us the size of your network (number of devices, interfaces, and services). In exchange we’ll send you a super limited edition, very nice Royal Blue polo shirt embroidered with the OpenNMS logo. This is open to anyone on any size network in any country, subject to a few small requirements:

1) We get to print your testimonial on our website.

2) We get to print your name on our website.

3) We get to print the name of your company on our website.

In our experience that last requirement is a bit of a sticky one. We have some commercial support clients in the financial sector that make us sign NDAs where we can’t even acknowledge they exist (seriously). To make things easier, we won’t use your company’s logo, and the header of the Order of the Blue Polo page will include the text:

These testimonials reflect the opinions of the people writing them and not their employer. This should not be considered an official endorsement or recommendation by any of the companies listed. Think of these as director’s commentaries you find on DVDs with the same disclaimer that the movie studios use (and we all fast-forward through) at the beginning of the film.

We need that information for two reasons: first, these shirts are really nice and they are not cheap, and second we are doing this to raise a greater awareness of how OpenNMS is being used, so we want to show that it is being used by real companies and not just some guy in his basement (although to all you guys in your basements using OpenNMS – we still love you, just not enough to send you a shirt).

To join, send your testimonial to bluepolo@opennms.com along with your shirt size and a mailing address. We’ll have your shirt to you within three to four weeks. If you send us a picture of you wearing your shirt, we’ll be more than happy to add it to the website.

Finally, we reserve the right to limit the number of members in the OBP (we don’t have unlimited money to spend on this joint). It will be first come, first served.

-T

Size     Neck     Chest
Small     14 (36)     34 (86) – 36 (91)
Medium     15 (38)     38 (97) – 40 (102)
Large     16 (41)     42 (107) – 44 (112)
XLarge     17 (43)     46 (117) – 48 (122)
XXL     18 (46)     50 (127) – 52 (132)
3XL     19 (48)     54 (137) – 56 (142)

size in inches (centimeters)

Mark Estill (1954-2008)

My friend Mark Estill died today.

I won’t pretend to have known Mark well. He had never been to my house, nor I to his. I knew him mostly through his brother Lyle and the fact that his company is in the same building with mine.

But Mark was one of those rare individuals who you could consider a friend pretty much upon meeting him. He was incredibly down to earth. Growing up in a family with three brothers, each of whom was really successful in their own way, Mark could hold his own.

He would sometimes come to the office in the late afternoon, with me neck deep in work, and say “let’s go get a beer.” His timing was always perfect, as I was usually stressing about work to the point where I wasn’t very productive. So I’d turn off the laptop and we’d head out to the General Store.

We’d just sit and talk about pretty much anything that came to mind. One beer would turn into two. I’d call my wife to tell her I’d be late for supper. Sometimes I’d call my wife to have her come pick me up – our quick beer having turned into a chat several hours (and beers) long.

Out of the past four weeks I’ve been gone for three. When I left, Mark seemed fine (I learned that he wasn’t, but he didn’t let on). During that time he was diagnosed with lung cancer (even though he is a non-smoker) and now he’s gone.

It just goes to show you how quickly things can change, and that you can’t take anything for granted.

Woody Allen once said he wanted to achieve immortality, not through his work, but through “not dying”. Unfortunately, we don’t have that option, so what we do and how we behave may be the only things left when we’re gone.

It’s one of the reasons we work on OpenNMS the way we do. We’ve had opportunities to take different directions with the business, but our goal is to build something lasting, to change the world, and not to focus on short term financial gains for a few people. Doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do is something Mark demonstrated every day.

When someone like Mark makes an impact on your life they never really go away. They help make you a better person, and by being a better person you affect those around you, and in turn they improve the people they know.

It’s the heart of “community”, and by that measure Mark will be around for a long, long time.

Holiday Cards

The OpenNMS office is full of festive cheer, made even merrier by some recent cards that have arrived.

One was from Tobi Oetiker, although it is in Swiss German so I’ll assume it’s positive (grin).

I got to meet Tobi many moons ago, and his RRDtool project drives a lot of open source tools as well as a number of closed source ones.

We also got a cute card from Mike Huot. He lives in the frozen mid-west and sent us “A Minnesota Christmas”.

Both have been enshrined on the amazing, wonderful Wall of Cards.

London: Day 4 – Me Tarus, You Jane

Today was the first day of the Linux Live show. The exhibition hours are pretty long, from 10am to 6pm Thursday and Friday, and 10am to 5pm on Saturday. Working a booth can be a bit tiring, so since this schedule is about an hour longer each day than I’m used to I expected to be exhausted by the end of the day.


Jeff, Me, Jonathan and Dr. Craig

Luckily the crowds were much larger than I thought they would be and we were kept very busy. The exhibition opened at 10am and when I first checked the time it was already 2pm.

I also got to meet Jane Curry. She’s an old-school network management consultant who recently reviewed a number of network management products including OpenNMS.


Me and Jane

Although OpenNMS did not come out on top on her list, we were a close second and as we are addressing most of her issues in the new releases I expect that if she re-evaluates it again in a year the outcome will be different.

Speaking of new releases, OpenNMS 1.5.99 is out. The guys back home have been working like mad to meet our 1.6.0 release deadline of next week, and I have a good feeling about this release candidate being the one that makes the grade. Please test it out and give us feedback.

London: Day One

The GPS tells me I am 3904 miles away from home. The flight was uneventful, although I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane.

I arrived to a pretty grey day in London, and due to traffic it took awhile to get to the hotel. Due to a misconfiguration I thought it was an hour later than it turned out to be, so I raced toward central London for a meeting with Rod Montgomery, thinking I was late. Turned out I was pretty much on time, which was wonderful since I really enjoyed our conversation.


Rod and Me

Rod is the guy responsible for services at Digium. I’ve alway been a fan of that company (just search for Digium or Asterisk on this blog) and it was really nice to meet Rod in person, especially with two hours available to chat versus the hour I thought we had (those who have met me would say that it takes two hours for me to tell you my name).

Digium and OpenNMS share a viewpoint on the issue that open source software should be 100% free and open, and while some would say you can’t make money on a “pure play” open source strategy, it doesn’t seem to have hurt Digium any. There is also a lot of synergy between the two products, and we’re working to make them more tightly integrated.


Jonathan’s Network Operations Center

Speaking of integration, today we can announce that OpenNMS now supports the OTRS open source trouble ticketing system. After Rod and I parted ways I met up with Jonathan Sartin for lunch. Jonathan is an OGP member and he has spent a good part of the last year working on getting the OpenNMS Trouble Ticketing API to talk with OTRS. While the amount of code is not huge, the effort that went in to understanding the SOAP interface that OTRS uses was pretty large. His work resulted in a module that was contributed back to the OTRS project which was released today. The wiki has all of the necessary details.


Me and Jonathan

I then took the tube back to the hotel where I crashed for a couple of hours.


Craig and Me

Dr. Gallen (OGP) showed up about 8 and we went off to a really nice Indian place called Eriki. He’s up in London so we can go and visit a couple of potential clients tomorrow. Should be fun.

Beautiful Music at OpenNMS

I’ve always been amazed at the talented people who work on OpenNMS. Not only can they work on software, most have other talents as well. One of those is Ben Reed, who in addition to being more adept with computers than anyone else I know is also a musician. I’ve been listening to his work for over seven years now.

Recently he managed to finally get an album released named, quite aptly, Finally. This week he received two rather impressive pieces of news concerning his work.

The first is that one of his songs, Pointillize, will be the featured track of the week on GarageBand. I guess at the next party we’ll have to see if he can actually play it.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Music Reviews gave his album four (out of five) “notes” with one song getting a perfect five:

This brings us to what I consider the strongest song on the album, “Perfect Paranoia”; Raccoon Fink now holds the record for being the first independent artist to obtain a rating of 5 on a track.

So if you like music you should check out his stuff. I only hope I can keep him working on OpenNMS when he becomes a big star. (grin)

Dev-Jam, News, OUCH and echo

Well, things have been a bit crazy around here getting ready for Dev-Jam.

This will be our fourth developer’s conference and it is one of my favorite times of the year. This year we are moving to Georgia Tech (a change from UMN) and I can’t say I’m looking forward to being in Atlanta in high summer, but the rooms we’re using have air conditioning and bandwidth so what more could we want.

We also have people from five countries in attendance. In addition to the USA, we have two guys from the UK, one from Venezuela, one from New Zealand and Alex – who is German, yet works in Switzerland and lives in France – I’ll let you choose which country we should count for him.

Almost all of the OGP was able to make it, so it should be a productive week. Stay tuned for updates from the conference starting this weekend.

Last Thursday I was invited to Michael Coté and John Willis’s weekly podcast. John was a bit late coming to the party, so Michael invited a friend of his, Matt Ray of Zenoss, to join us. I got to talk about OpenNMS (imagine that) as well as my current distaste for the overexposure of the term “cloud computing“.

When John joined the call he tossed OpenNMS a bone by bringing up software licensing. One place where OpenNMS differs greatly from other “commercial open source” companies is that while support and services are available, the software is 100% free and open. Matt’s company publishes some of its code under the GPL (which Matt quickly pointed out) but all of their “non-community” code has a proprietary license.

Matt seems like a nice guy, so I didn’t rise to the bait, plus he had a cold. Most “commercial open source” companies have a business plan that relies heavily (if not entirely) on software licensing revenues. Since it is difficult to sell open source software more than once, software developed for this model can’t be free and open. Since a smart business wants to maximize profit, these business should be finding ways to drive people from the “open” solution to the proprietary one. Most importantly, a smart business will make decisions concerning their “open” solutions to maximize the migration to proprietary software.

This isn’t a bad model, or even a wrong one. I just grouse at using “open source” in any fashion to describe it.

Matt did give us a compliment by mentioning that the new Zenoss Masters program is modeled on the OGP. Building community is fun and we wish them the best of luck with that.

The biggest comments so far on the podcast have been about the ability of OpenNMS to replace portions of Micromuse (now IBM) Netcool. I’ve always been a big fan of Netcool, and I worked with Micromuse even before they had an office in the US. But the price was always astronomical, so a couple of years ago we decided to implement some of the functionality of Netcool into OpenNMS. We have a number of clients who have replaced Netcool, but we are currently working with a large telco in Italy that will be our biggest challenge to see if we can take a very large Netcool install and replace it. David is spending several weeks a month in Italy with Antonio for the rest of the year to implement some of the migration. It’s hard work, but fun.

Both John Willis and Doug McClure posted about it on their blogs, so I hope to be able to send them some actual numbers in the near future.

Hrm, lessee, what else is going on …

OSCON is this week. I went last year, but with Dev-Jam next week I just couldn’t justify going this year. Plus, it is really more of a coders show and I’m not a coder.

LinuxWorld is the week after Dev-Jam. They have been kind enough to give us a booth for a couple of years, but the show has become too much “commercial open source” for my tastes, so we didn’t ask for one this year. Jeff is going there to work in the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) booth. While we’re not a member of the OSA, OpenNMS integrates with both Hyperic and Concursive, which are members, so we’ve been asked to demonstrate this interoperability. David decided to call this integration the “OUCH” stack (grin). It stands for OpenNMS, Ubuntu, Concursive and Hyperic. If you’re going to the show be sure to say “hi” to Jeff.

Finally, I want to send a “shout out” to Eric Bradford at echo. He sent us a card this week for the Fabulous, Amazing, and Incredible Wall of Cards. I’ve included it below, as it made my day.

Gettin' Our Marketing On

At OpenNMS it seems that we are always doing things backwards. We didn’t spend any time working on a business plan and seeking investment, we just started to provide services and running a profitable business. We didn’t hire any dedicated sales people, because we found that our technical people are the best at sales. And we pretty much let the project market our business.

I don’t like marketing. While I enjoy finding out about new things I might want to buy, or things that may help solve a problem, too much of marketing seems to be about creating an artificial need than actually helping customers. I know that’s a little harsh, but I’ve seen too many marketing campaigns that either rely on superlatives (“We’re the best, everyone else sucks, buy me!”) or fear (“You’ll lose your data, you’ll lose your job, you’ll lose your money unless you buy me!”) that I just get turned off by the whole mess.

And we’ve done well without any marketing. I still wince when someone posts to the opennms-discuss list with “Is there commercial support for this and where do I find it?” but I’d rather keep OpenNMS the Project distinctly separate from OpenNMS the Services Business than gain a sale or two.

But something happened that made me rethink our need for marketing. We were talking with a potential client in the UK. They had talked to most of the commercial players as well as the commercial “open source” players and then they came to us. David talked with them a bit, and this is the reply I got:

Talking with Dave was an eye opener for $COWORKER and myself, I was under the right impression already from the email discussions I have been having with Jeff and yourself. We find you guys very honest and easy to discuss with about our environment and the challenges we currently face.

We got the PO.

What we provide is a very personalized, results focused experience. The fact is that if OpenNMS is not a right fit for your organization, we don’t want you as a client. We’d just end up spending hours upon hours trying to get OpenNMS to do something it isn’t designed to do. It doesn’t work for us, it doesn’t work for the client. So we’re very eager to learn about the goals for a potential OpenNMS deployment as well as being quite honest if it doesn’t fit. A software company, on the other hand, hopes you’ll buy the product and not use it. If you use it, you might need support, and in their business model one of the best cases is if it becomes shelfware, since support costs money and reduces margins. At OpenNMS we have to provide great service since you can always just continue to use the product without us.

But how do I get this across?

Since I suck at marketing, I needed to find someone who understood it and who understood open source. Then I remembered a woman I met at BarcampESM.

As luck would have it, Michelle Greer understands both and she had just started her own company, SimpleSpeak Media.


Dave, Matt, Ben, me and Michelle

So for once I got to be the customer and order me up some of that consulting mojo. Michelle came up to metropolitan Pittsboro for a couple of days and really helped us work out a plan. For one thing, she pointed out that the .org site gets 50K unique visitors a month, and the .com site … 2500.

We still have a number of things to finish, but I think that soon we’ll have a … well, I think it’s called a “campaign”. Something that stays true to our free and open roots and makes it easier for our community to help overcome any resistance they may find in their organizations to FOSS.

If you’re in the same boat with respect to marketing, give Michelle a shout.