Unlocking Innovation: Why Sentry Software is (finally) Embracing Open Source

Bertrand Martin, Sentry Software's co-founder and CEO, talks about open-sourcing MetricsHub®, the new generation of the company's monitoring solution for datacenters.

Can you tell us about your company and the product you’re considering making open source?

Certainly, Sentry Software has been around for two decades now. We first designed a product that exclusively integrated with BMC platforms to provide IT administrators with exhaustive monitoring of their hardware infrastructure. It was (and it still is) a proprietary and closed-source solution, just like most commercial software back in the days.

In light of our recent achievements, mainly developing a solution to report and optimize the carbon footprint of our customers’ data centers, we realized we wanted to make our solutions available to the broadest range of users. To achieve this goal, we chose to leverage the OpenTelemetry capabilities to integrate with all major observability platforms.

This significant shift naturally led us to consider democratizing our technology to make our cutting-edge solution accessible to as many people as possible. Open source is a natural extension of that principle. It aligns perfectly with our vision of empowering innovation and driving positive change through technology.

What experience do you have in open-source?

Then, we started to actively participate in a variety of third-party open-source initiatives to contribute and “give back” to the community. This involvement entails tasks like documenting issues, resolving bugs, and introducing new features. Such projects include very popular products as well as lesser-known tools: Apache Maven, Jawk, OpenTelemetry Collector, Prometheus, Atom, Prism.js, angular-bootstrap-toggle, etc. We think it’s only right to pitch in for projects that have given us a lot of value.

What benefits do you see for your company in making this move?

There are several benefits we anticipate. Firstly, we hope to see accelerated development of MetricsHub® through contributions from a global community of developer. This means more features, integrations, and faster bug fixes, ultimately leading to a better product.

Secondly, open-sourcing will enhance our brand’s reputation as an industry leader committed to transparency and collaboration. It demonstrates that we trust the broader tech community to help shape the future of the product.

Finally, we anticipate an increase in adoption of our solution, which means a growth in our user base. As more organizations use our products, they may turn to us for support, customization, and additional services, creating new revenue streams for our company.

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What challenges or concerns do you foresee in this transition to open source?

Transitioning to open source software comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is figuring out which open-source license is the right fit. This decision is super important because it helps protect our interests and the larger open-source community. There are loads of different licenses out there, like Apache License 2, GPLv3, AGPLv3, MIT, and plenty more. As I looked into all these options, I couldn’t help but think, “Brother you need a lawyer!”.

One of the main concerns is ensuring the long-term durability of the project. To make sure the project runs smoothly and gets input from the community, we need to set up clear rules and solid guidance. We’re actively working on documenting our codebase, creating clear contribution guidelines, and establishing a strong community presence through forums, mailing lists, and regular meetups. We want to ensure that anyone who wants to get involved can do so easily.

A challenge we didn’t foresee was the technical implications of open-sourcing one product as it necessitated the open-sourcing of all its associated technical dependencies. In our situation, this has far-reaching consequences, requiring us to open-source a dozen sub-projects beforehand.

Additionally, while open source brings more eyes to the codebase, it requires us to be more diligent regarding security. We’ll need robust mechanisms for vulnerability disclosure and response to ensure the safety of the users.

How do you plan to engage the community and encourage contributions?

Our future project will be a great addition to the OpenTelemetry ecosystem, which already has a large community and is fully open-source. We expect a lot of interactions with these guys!

Like most open-source projects, we’ll be leaning on GitHub as it provides the majority of the essential tools required for managing our project. But, this presents a challenge for us as we are accustomed to the Atlassian stack (Jira, BitBucket, Confluence) and Jenkins.

What’s the timeline for going open source, and what can users expect regarding the transition process?

We’re currently in the planning phase, working out the finer details. While I can’t provide an exact timeline, we’re committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for our users. We’ll provide documentation, resources, and support to assist users in migrating to the open-source version of our products.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about this exciting development?

This journey towards open source is exciting and arouses great enthusiasm within our teams. We see it as an opportunity to build something extraordinary with the global developer community. We envision a diverse community of developers, users, and organizations coming together to improve and extend the product. We aim to continue providing a robust, feature-rich core product while supporting various use cases and integrations driven by the community.

Ultimately, by going open source, we’re not just sharing our product but also fostering a spirit of collaboration, innovation, and empowerment that will benefit everyone involved.

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