Open Source Management – Commercial or Libre

by jcannon on July 05, 2006 03:17pm

Free open source management projects have existed for years, as illustrated by nagios and webmin, and exist as BYOC (bring your own console) free alternatives to commercial management systems from HP, BMC, CA, IBM and Microsoft.  In the last few years, we've seen a rise in commercial software companies moving to support Linux and heterogeneous environments - including but not limited to Centrify, Vintela (Quest) and Centeris, three vendors with whom we've worked in the lab.

It makes good economic sense to make money managing a free product - after all, Microeconomics 101 will tell you that commoditizing your complements maximizes revenue.  Sell a database?  Then make the operating system and application server free.  IBM's move into open source can be seen in this perspective (free operating systems on for-profit hardware and services) as can HP's (with management software revenues thrown into the mix).  The same logic should apply to management, especially given the relative lack of enterprise-class open source management software.  While nagios is impressive, the fact that it has been used to manage 5,000 node systems alone does not make it enterprise-class.

Recently the Open Management Consortium was founded to unite free/libre open source management projects around a common vision for what management systems should be capable of, and under a common philosophy of open source software.  Founders include Qlusters, EmuSoftware, Zenoss, and Ayamon.  They also have a list of OSS management projects.  Notably, they don't mention OpenSSI as a cluster management technology.

Open Source can be taken to apply to management in several ways:

    • Console
    • Monitor
    • Agents
    • Adapters

Each of these layers is open to displacement by open source software, some more easily than others.  Agents and adapters seem to me to be the best fit for the typical open source development model - where it's easier to serve the long tail of different endpoints than under standard commercial rules.  Consoles and monitors, while at the most basic levels of logging, parsing, alerting, and displaying are well-understood, are areas of deep research and increasingly rarified technology.  The developments in the area of event aggregation and scalable management UIs require significant directed investment (and Matt Asay has disagreed with me on this before) in which commercial software companies have an advantage.

A few Port 25 readers have contacted me about building open source integrations between Microsoft products and OSS management technology - as well as OSS projects and Microsoft management technology.  For both of these categories, it makes good sense to me and I'd like to see them developed at, where we've built an infrastructure for the community to build open source projects.

In the management arena, where we spend significant time in the lab testing different approaches, I'd be happy to spend money and time helping to test or develop projects on Codeplex.  Drop me a note if you have something cooking and would like some help or direction.


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