Nagios founder gives in to commercial support

With the creation of Nagios Enterprises, Nagios creator Ethan Galstad has finally opted for paid support services for his open source systems monitoring application.

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Integrating Nagios with Netcool"

Ethan Galstad, creator of the Nagios network monitoring project, has created Nagios Enterprises LLC of St. Paul, Minn., to provide commercial support and consulting services for his nine-year-old open source project.

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"Two years ago, I left my day job to work on Nagios full time, and I realized very quickly that it would take a lot to fund development time on an open source project," Galstad said. "I looked at where I wanted to take Nagios in the future -- especially in terms of new features -- and I decided I wanted to really speed up development time."

Galstad said commercial support would be the best way to generate the revenue necessary to fund the ramped-up development effort. For the time being, Nagios support will be handled by Galstad and several active Nagios community members, he said.

I looked at where I wanted to take Nagios.  ...  I decided I wanted to really speed up development time.
Ethan Galstad,
CEONagios Enterprises LLC

A community advisory board will also be formed to hammer out general trademark issues, venture capital fundraising and the role of the Nagios developer community in the company. While support pricing and structure were not yet finalized, Galstad said they would resemble back-end tier 3 support provided by vendors like GroundWork, an open source systems management company that based its suite of monitoring and reporting applications on Nagios.

Other goals of the advisory board will be the completion of an official Nagios training curriculum and developer certifications. Galstad said he expected these programs to be completed "sometime this winter."

Matt Aslett, an analyst at the  451 Group, said Nagios Enterprises is an about-face for Galstad, who had previously rejected a commercial support offering.

Others in the open source community foresaw the Nagios commercial support offering. In a March blog posting on Open Sources, MuleSource CEO Dave Rosenberg wrote, "The benefit of [Ethan Galstad's] joining up with a commercial entity (under his terms} would only make Nagios better and give him time to work on the product rather than having to worry about how he's going to make money."  MuleSource is an open source infrastructure and integration software company based in San Francisco.

Commercial Nagios challenges status quo
Along with the challenge of finalizing a support structure for Nagios Enterprises, Aslett said the commercial world could pose hurdles for Galstad. For several years, open source vendors Hyperic Inc. in San Francisco and Zenoss Inc. of Annapolis, Md., have had commercially supported open source monitoring applications on the market. Zenoss in particular presents a unique challenge for Nagios because both companies have similar download numbers at open source project repository  SourceForge.net—approximately 400,000 each year to date.

Various competing companies, Zenoss included, noted Nagios' previous lack of commercial-level support.

Zenoss Inc. CEO Bill Karpovich criticized Nagios for its lack of support. "The maintainers never thought of it as a project that an IT manager would use to monitor an entire enterprise environment," he said.

John Shin, the director of systems at online rental services agency MyNewPlace, dumped Nagios when the community couldn't find a fix for Simple Network Management Protocol false alarms it generated when coupled with his Resin 3.0 application server. Shin eventually migrated his servers off of Nagios and onto Hyperic HQ.

Nevertheless, at the Tech Teapot, a blog for U.K.-based network management value-added reseller Openxtra Ltd., co-founder Jack Hughes was optimistic about Nagios' chances even when set against established commercial network monitoring vendors.

"I don't think there is much doubt that both Zenoss and Hyperic have brought commercial levels of setup and configuration to the open source network management market. And yet Nagios, a tool that relies on manual configuration, is still gaining traction," he said. Hughes was also impressed with Nagios' steady growth compared with the sometimes erratic download numbers posted by Zenoss, Hyperic and OpenNMS on SourceForge.

Galstad was also optimistic about Nagios Enterprises' chances, and said his enthusiasm is all about the community. "We've got a great resource in the Nagios developer community and perhaps the advantage we have over some smaller firms is that Nagios Enterprises-provided support includes a more direct relationship with its community," he said.

Aslett shared Galstad's enthusiasm. "Nagios Enterprises is an interesting addition to the open source management market," he said. "I suggest we all leave Galstad alone to get on with it and don't bother him again until he's preparing the IPO."

Email Jack Loftus with your comments and suggestions. You can also check out our blog, the Enterprise Linux Log, for more information on Linux and open source software.

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