Open source is a term that was coined in the late 1990s to encompass a series of free software licences that give various levels of freedom to the users of software. On the one hand you have so called copyleft licences like the General Public License or GPL that place some restrictions on the user to other much more liberal licences like the BSD license that place very few restrictions on the user. All of the licences give the user access to the source code of the software and allow them to modify the software. The user is then able to re-distribute the modifications as they see fit.
I am currently messing around in the pits of .NET e-commerce. I thought it would be the last place I’d find open source inspired disharmony. But no, even here it is to be found. 😉
OK, a bit of background.
NOP Commerce is an ecommerce platform based on Microsoft’s open source ASP.NET platform. The project has been around for five or six years or so. Gets very good reviews too. Last year SmartStore.
How time flies.
It has been six years since I wrote about Network management’s “new wave” and thought it would be interesting to go back and see what has happened. We are now at the outer envelope of the VC funding cycle so things should be sorting themselves out one way or another.
The “new wave” was Hyperic,Zenoss and Groundwork Open Source VC funded, open source network management companies.
Open source wasn’t new to the network management scene in 2007, there had been well known projects, like Nagios, MRTG and OpenNMS, around for a number of years prior to that.
One of the nice things about Linux is the ability to install apps (and dependencies) very easily using apt-get or similar. Windows users have been missing a similar tool for a long time. Never fear, the Scottish Alt.Net group have written Hornget, a tool for installing open source .NET projects.
Quite a few projects are supported, though most are of interest only to programmers. It would be nice to see a lot more user oriented tools like games and the like.
One of the things you’d expect from an active open source project is that the code base is likely to grow as more and more features are added.
In An exploration of open core licensing in network management I mentioned that one possible side effect of open core software is the creation of a functionality ceiling.
A functionality ceiling is a level of functionality beyond which the community edition product manager is unwilling to implement because of the fear that the enterprise product will be less attractive to potential customers.
Open core refers to a business strategy employed by some commercial open source companies. The open core strategy is popular amongst companies within network management.
The open core strategy is largely defined by creating an open source community product that is freely given away, and another product, the enterprise edition, that is sold as a regular commercial software product.
The open core business model is useful to software vendors because it permits them to build a community surrounding the open product who will form the nucleus of the people who upgrade to the enterprise product.
I did a comparison of the buzz for the leading open source network management tools in 2008 so I thought it would be interesting to do the same comparison for 2009 and see what’s changed.
As I did last year, I’ve compared the number of searches for the project name using Google Trends. As always, this post is not intended to be indicative of the usefulness of a particular tool to your requirements.
One of the things I’ve found very interesting about being involved in open source, and indeed business for that matter, is customer expectations.
Just because you give something away does not mean that you or your offering will be judged more kindly as a consequence. It does not mean that there will be a lower expectation of your support either.
Take this exchange on the Hyperic support forum. HyperMike plainly has an expectation that Hyperic offer technical support via their forum for free.
The recent controversy over the ICINGA Nagios fork brought into focus the relative activity of the various network management projects.
One of the main complaints aimed at Nagios was the slow speed of development. The following graphs, taken from the open source directory ohloh, show the number of commiters and the number of commits over the last three years for Nagios, OpenNMS and Wireshark. I can’t vouch for how accurate the stats are but I think they do provide some insight into the development processes of the respective projects.
A real world example of what Tarus Balog from OpenNMS has been banging on about recently with his critique of open core or fauxpen source.
A product manager who has an open product and a closed product plainly has a decision to make over which features go into which product. Give too much away and the value add of the closed enterprise product is insufficient to warrant the licence fees. Put too many features into the enterprise product and the open source offering becomes useless.
The first ICINGA beta has been released with a new GUI written in PHP 5 utilising the Agavi MVC framework. A project roadmap is available so you can see where the project is headed.