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GotVMail gets open source

GotVMail is a virtual PBX seller that says it delivers “big company” telephone sound and functionality for a small company price. GotVMail used to run Windows and IBM’s Tivoli to manage the network that supports its phone system, but recently this young company moved to Dell servers running SUSE Linux and the Nagios open source monitoring package.

GotVMail claims to make small businesses look big from the outside because it gives business owners the ability to have incoming calls transferred seamlessly from one location to another, whether that’s to another office or a cell phone. GotVMail launched in June 2003 and has been on a steady growth curve since then. To manage that growth, it needed the ability to quickly and efficiently add network monitoring for new products and services and an increased customer base. CTO David Hauser says the company decided it was time for a change because it was increasingly difficult to get that need met with Tivoli on a Windows platform. “Whatever we wanted to monitor, each time IBM would come back and say sure, we can do it, but its gonna cost huge amounts of money and it will take three months.”

Hauser considered migrating to Hewlett-Packard’s OpenView, but that was before he discovered Nagios. He liked the fact that Nagios was open source; his staff could easily and quickly add modules and expand the capabilities of the network monitoring software without having to rely on an outside company. The only thing missing, Hauser says, was the secure feeling of a traditional support package. So GotVMail hired open source consultancy Groundwork to provide a helping hand throughout the migration, which began in late 2005 and was up and running by February 2006.

“We set it up ourselves,” Hauser says, and “there were some challenges. Anytime you’re working with an open source product you run into documentation issues that you don’t with a commercial product. Most of those were overcome with Groundwork.” Hauser says Groundwork provided supplemental documentation that GotVMail may not have been able to locate on its own.

Hauser says the biggest benefit that open source software has brought to GotVMail is “the better monitoring we can accomplish, and the faster way in which we can do it.” He says the reduced licensing costs were not as big an issue as the ability to effective add new monitoring. “With Nagios, the standard language is Perl, or C, or C++, and we can create our own monitor in 15 or 20 minutes. Nagios has a huge library of pre-built monitors, so we don’t have to start from scratch unless its something custom or a brand new device [to monitor].”

Nagios just opened the door to open source for GotVMail. Hauser is also converting the company’s 40+ workstations from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org. For that migration, Hauser says the dramatic cost savings were a big factor leading to the switch. “It’s gone well so far,” he says. “There has been some interest from employees about using a different operating system, but the first step was moving to OpenOffice.org and seeing the impact on my staff in terms of support. We haven’t noticed much of a difference.”