Part 1 - The Competition
About Me: I have installed ClearOS, Neth, Zentyla, and UCS at least 3 times each in the last year, and for the most part Neth is my preferred option, just I have had a lot of stability issues with it on the machine I want to use it on for my lab (HP Z240 running VMWare, on multiple occasions a hard power down of the server led to irrecoverable corruption of Neth).
- Zentyal seems to be changing up their model with the harder sales push and now calling the free version “Development Edition”
- UCS the bigger part of that email from them today is that they gave hints to the major version 5 roadmap coming, which sounds like a major revamp.
More so than following where the competition is going, I would advise, breaking down the main use cases for the product and look at where the industry as a whole is going.
Personally I think there are 4 main categories on the market which NethServer does each ok, none fantastic:
- Purpose (Services/Apps): Firewall, Router, DHCP, DNS, etc.
- Competition = PFSense, OPNSense, Untangle, ClearOS
SMB Authentication & Mail
- Purpose: Provide LDAP/Active Directory, Shared Drives, Mail and local Network services for a personal or business group
- Competition: Zentyal, UCS, SME Server
Home Media/Apps Server:
- Purpose: Services that intergrate Media servers like Plex/Emby, Storage, and other more personal use items like Home Assistant, Bitwarden, Jellyfish, Organizr, etc.
- Competition: OpenFLIXR, HomeLabOS (https://gitlab.com/NickBusey/HomelabOS), OpenMediaVault, etc.
Easy App Installers -
- Purpose: Easily deploy commonly used apps like WordPress, GitLab, Project Mgmt, Guacamole, CRMs, etc.
- Competition: Hosted Environments: Softaculous, Installatron; self-hosted: HomelabOS, ClearOS, UCS
As for where the industry is going, containers, containers, containers.
What i would love to see for enhancements:
- Improved Network Traffic Analysis - Ntop is ok. Untangle does a much better job displaying and analyzing network traffic data. But the interface is far more complicated and confusing than NethServer.
SMB Authentication & Mail
- It would be great to see a better LDAP/AD management application integrated or linked to NethServer.
Home Media/Apps Servers & Easy App Installers
- I think that having some form of integrated container based app catalog would address these concerns and help expand the overall functionality of the system and supporting apps tremendously. Offer a base catalog of applications that have been validated and integrate potentially with the cockpit interface. Customize the deployments to automatically integrate with the NethServer hosted authentication and NethServer Network management (IPs, Reverse Proxy, Let’s Encrypt, etc) to simplify the experience over running your own Docker/Swarm/Rancher/Kubernetes experience, so users can get these up and running in a SMB environment in minutes instead of hours. Additionally, allow users to use other public container registries to allow them to run whatever other apps they want as well.
Part 2: Search Trends
People are only searching for NethServer, Zentyal, ClearOS, etc when they already know that these items are potential answers to their questions/problems. The bigger question is are people searching with problems for a solution which NethServer can be solution to. For that a lot of the search terms I tried “Self hosted router” Google didn’t show trends on. But here are some other items, and you can see there is a drop off, but its not as significant. But the overall concept of self-hosted is growing.
And I would suspect a large part of that is the increase of other options like Re-eddit self-hosted group, Facebook IT Groups, articles on sites like Tecmint, unixmen, etc. That is where the real users of a system like NethServer are likely looking.