Rich: I’m speaking with Sancho Lerena, and we are speaking about the Pandora FMS Open Source project. And we’re also speaking about the company behind Pandora FMS.
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Tell me how this project got started initially.
Sancho: This began about 8 years ago. I was working in a bank as a security consultant, and I had a lot of spare time. I was working with firewalls, with all systems like BSD, Solaris, AiX. I need to monitor different things – strange things – in that system. And with the usual tools from the big ones like Tivoli and HP – it was pretty difficult to extract information from that system. So I started with a few scripts that just collected data and sent it to me, and the thing started to grow up as an experiment for my day to day work, and after a year or two, the whole thing was something more than a few script. Later I have something – a product which was useful to monitor different kinds of servers – unix servers, Windows servers – I started to monitor network equipment. So I thought that could be something I could do for a living, and I started a company with that idea.
Rich: How is the open source edition related to what you do for your company? Are there some things that you add to that in an enterprise version?
Sancho: The most difficult part of the project was how to make profit from an open source project. So at the first versions, until, I think it was in 2007 or 2008, the product was 100% free. Free as open source, and free for people to pay nothing. We saw in that period that it was very difficult to earn money, mainly because – not because of the license – big companies don’t trust you if all is open. It doesn’t seem professional – for some of them, not for all, but I think it’s difficult. So we focused our strategy to identify what parts of the product will be useful only for big companies. So, our enterprise features are only for big companies. It’s not the same to monitor a small company with 20 servers than to monitor 2000 servers. It’s completely different. So, in Pandora FMS I think 80 or 90% of the features are open. Everybody can just download the package and install and use it. There are thousands of servers using the Open Source. But companies like Telefonica, or other companies in Japan like Rakuten, or Casio, need something specific to monitor a lot of systems in a homogenous way. We call it policies. Probably there is a lot of other applications which use the same approach.
Rich: Where did you get the name for the project? Is it related to the greek myth, or is there some other history behind that?
Sancho: Yeah, that’s it. You need something to warn you if something wrong escapes from the unknown. You need to know. The first logo was an octopus inside a box. Later we added the ‘FMS’ – because “Pandora” is too generic, and it was difficult to search in Google. The ‘F’ initially was for ‘Free Monitoring System’, but someone told me that ‘Free’ is a bad marketing word, so we renamed it as ‘Flexible Monitoring System.’
Rich: How does Pandora compare to some of the competition out there like Nagios?
Sancho: We like to think we are better. The real thing is that the Nagios community is huge, and everybody, when you ask, how do you do monitoring in your company or in your experience, everybody thinks Nagios, because Nagios was the first, or the first in importance to the community. I believe Nagios is not evolving in the same way we do. I think the user interface, and letting the user have the complete power from the console, and not need to enter into screens, or start a process from the shell – it’s very important. And also reporting. It’s one of the most important difference between other solutions and Pandora. Monitoring is very very complex. There’s more than 100 applications for monitoring in the market. There’s a lot of differences between each of them. We like to think Pandora is a horizontal approach, that means you can use Pandora for almost any kind of environment you need. Networking, servers, performance, business applications, reporting, even data mining. Of course, you can integrate all the pieces together. Other applications more focussed on performance, or availability, or even management. Pandora likes to put all these features together.
Rich: On the community side, how involved is the community in the development of the code? Is it primarily your company that develops the code, or do you also have participation from an outside community.
Sancho: The first time we started Open Source, we had some developers who were involved in the project. We have a few developers from the US, another one from Europe, another one from New Zealand. But the kind of development help they provided was only for small features, and not for long-time commitment. More like – I think that feature is OK and I would like to help you do that, or give us suggestions, or bug reporting. Later, when we moved to a more enterprise level, trying to focus on the features big companies need, we lost that kind of contribution, but in exchange we got in contact with companies which were interested in helping us to adapt Pandora to their needs. At this moment we have a full committer relationship, not only for development issues, also about business relationships, with a company in Japan, one of our partners. They have six people in their development team. All of them have access to the repository code. and we have also a company in Ecuador who are helping us also with some development. And we increase a lot of people giving us suggestions, ideas, and of course bug reporting. We have a very populated tracking server – Very active.
Rich: What is in the future for your project? What sorts of new things are you looking at doing in the coming year?
Sancho: We are now working in two different versions. We call it the stable version – we’re probably releasing any time now. It contains just a few new features and a lot of bug fixes, like usual in this kind of development. But we are working also in the next minor version – version 5.2. We are doing now a lot of huge improvements. We are adding the NetFlow feature to Pandora, for free, for Open Source. And we also are adding a new layer for management of different sites of Pandora. We call it metaconsole. We’ll provide a service provider to offer monitoring services to other companies, and be able to manage, why not, 10,000 servers from a single console.
One of the first things I had clear when I started Pandora was that the product should be on SourceForge. Because SourceForge was, for me, the source of knowledge about Open Source projects. It’s the site to be on – to be there. At first we had problems with the product name because it was taken. I had to wait two years until the Pandora name was free again. That’s because your site is really important on the Internet. If it’s an Open Source product, it should be on SourceForge.
Rich: Thank you Sancho for taking the time to speak with me.
Sancho: Thank you too.