Exciting OpenNMS Projects and the Industry's Future

We’re continuing our conversation with Alan Brown, who joined NantHealth as SVP and GM of OpenNMS in February 2024. In part one, we covered his background, what brought him to OpenNMS, and his leadership philosophy. In this post, he’ll share what he’s most excited to take on and where he sees the industry going.

Now that you’ve been here ~4 months, what have you learned about OpenNMS that the world should know?

We're clearly at a transition point where the business model that served this company so well and allowed it to prosper over its 20-year history needs to evolve.

That brings its own set of exciting challenges. The one thing I want folks on the outside to know is that we are reinvigorated. Our parent company, NantHealth, has been recapitalized. We're moving forward, we're investing in the future, we’re refreshing our roadmaps. We're building new capabilities in our products to address our customers’ pain points. We're not sitting down. We're on our feet; we're moving forward.

What is amazing is that our previous business model fostered this incredible diversity of customers because it was very much a relationship-driven business. It started with a small open-source capability that attracted a complete ecosystem and community around it where people engaged either by writing code or sharing their ideas.

Fortune 500, even Fortune 5 companies, use our product as well as people who are servicing just 15 nodes. That's an incredible diversity for technology to be viable across that entire range. The challenge is how to build a different flavor of business on top of that customer landscape and make sure that we're addressing pain points in a way that really provides value. So that's what the team's working on.

Alan Brown

"Fortune 500, even Fortune 5 companies, use our product as well as people who are servicing just 15 nodes. That's an incredible diversity for technology to be viable across that entire range."

What initiatives or projects are you most eager to take on?

With any business, customer focus is a key tenet so one of the initiatives we're most excited about is the virtual customer road shows we’re planning. We’ll get feedback on our roadmaps directly from our customers and ensure we are well aligned to address their business pain points.

I’ve learned that if you stay customer focused, your business will thrive. I think the technology will be there, but I'd like to see us really understand our customers and let that drive the tech we build and offer.

Following on that we’re excited about the development plans, both for our existing product line and for our cloud-based solution. We will be investing heavily in our current core capability to ensure it continues to appeal to our client base, solve their problems, and deliver greater business value, which will translate into what we're building for the cloud.

In addition to our core capabilities, we'll be focusing on the healthcare vertical. Being a part of NantHealth, a company that builds innovative technology to simplify healthcare and deliver better patient outcomes, we have a well of unique, built-in intelligence that we can leverage to alleviate pain points for customers in that space.

Alan Brown

What trends are influencing the network monitoring industry, and how is OpenNMS positioned to respond?

The elephant in the room is artificial intelligence/ machine learning. Everyone is trying to figure out how to take advantage of these capabilities and how to use them in a way that really offers value. Everyone's trying to separate reality from the hype.

One of the ideas that stuck with me from my strategy MBA is we tend to overestimate the impact of change in the short term and underestimate it in the long term. I think this will be the case for AI and ML. So, if we focus on the customer pain points and what's real value versus what is technology for technology's sake, then I think we'll be in the right place.

OpenNMS has tried some proof-of-concept activities to dip your toes in the water, and we learned a lot. We're taking what we learned and revitalizing our AI/ML roadmap. And a key part of our conversation with our customers will be how we see the world moving forward in bringing this intelligence to monitoring. Can we build the type of intelligence into the software that replicates that 20 years of IT experience an IT expert has so he can focus on fixing the problem rather than having to diagnose what is causing it?

The whole idea is to automate the mundane so that IT professionals can truly provide their expertise in a way that really focuses on the direst of issues. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen evidence that some of these large language models can be led astray. We’ll only be able to offload the mundane when we trust that these models can provide reliable advice and can be trusted to handle the responsibility.

There will continue to be a lot of hype around this, so OpenNMS will be careful not to be one of the companies that over-promises and under-delivers.

What are the biggest challenges facing the network monitoring industry?

AI/ML represents a transition point, not only in network monitoring but also in the core capabilities vendors offer. As AI/ML comes into the customers’ business and changes their network, it will also change their pain points, which may leave some vendors behind if they can’t make that transition. I think it's going to be very interesting to observe how all the disparate solution providers are able or not able to take their tech baseline and apply it to the future.

I’m excited about this for OpenNMS because one of our biggest strengths is we have a highly extensible platform approach to our solution. We don't have a product; we have a platform that can be used for a Fortune 5 company as well as Joe’s managed services out of Luling, Texas. Our bet is that having a solution that can be used in a wide variety of environments gives us the broadest opportunity to push forward versus a product that's been limited to a very narrow niche space of just one particular customer type or one particular technology.


Check back for part 3 where we explore Alan’s view of the evolving network monitoring technologies and where OpenNMS goes next.