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From Craig L Russell <>
Subject Re: [VOTE] ALOIS to enter the incubator
Date Thu, 16 Sep 2010 17:49:20 GMT
Hi Urs,

My only concern is the request to have a chat channel. There's wide  
use of chat channels in Apache (the periodic board and members'  
meetings make use of them, and infrastructure uses channels to  

But for an incubating project, I'd strongly discourage use of chat as  
a communication channel.



On Aug 26, 2010, at 9:09 AM, Urs Lerch wrote:

> Hi,
> I would like to call a vote for accepting "ALOIS" for incubation in
> the Apache Incubator. The full proposal is available below and on the
> proposal wiki page ( 
> AloisProposal).  We
> ask the Incubator PMC to sponsor it, with Scott Deboy volunteering as
> Champion and Mentor. Additional mentors are warmly welcome.
> Please cast your vote:
> [ ] +1, bring ALOIS into Incubator
> [ ] +0, I don't care either way,
> [ ] -1, do not bring ALOIS into Incubator, because...
> This vote will be open for 72 hours and only votes from the Incubator
> PMC are binding.
> Thanks,
> Urs
> --------------------------------------------
> = Preface =
> ALOIS is a log collection and correlation software with reporting and
> alarming functionalities. It has been implemented by the Swiss company
> IMSEC for a customer about five years ago. GPL-licenced, implemented  
> in
> Ruby and completely based on other OSS-licensed components, it was
> designed for the open source community right from the start. Now that
> the software has shown its functioning over several years in  
> production
> with the one customer and one IMSEC-internal installation, it seems to
> be the right time to open it to a wider community.
> = Abstract =
> ALOIS stands for „Advanced Logging and Intrusion Detection System“ and
> is meant to be a fully implemented open source SIEM (security
> information and event management) system.
> = Proposal =
> While almost all other SIEM software, be it closed or open source,
> concentrate on the technological part of security monitoring, ALOIS is
> aimed to monitor the security of the content. It intends to be
> pro-active in the detection of potential loss, theft, mistaken
> modification or unauthorized access. ALOIS works on log messages and
> thus contains all the basic functionality of a conventional SIEM, as
> centralized collecting, normalizing, aggregation, analyzing and
> correlating of all log messages, as well as reporting all security
> related events. Therefore it can be used as any other SIEM.
> ALOIS consists of five modules interacting to ensure a scaleable
> functionality of a SIEM:
>  * Insink is the message sink, which is the receiving entry point for
> all the different log messages into ALOIS. It is partly based on the
> syslog-ng software. Insink listens for messages (UDP), waits for
> messages (TCP), receives message collections (files, emails) and
> pre-filters them to prevent from message flow overload.
>  * Pumpy is the incoming FIFO buffer, implemented as a relational
> database tables. which contain the incoming original messages (in raw
> format). In a complex system setup, there may be several insink
> instances, e.g. for a group of hosts, for specific types of  
> messages, or
> for high-avaliablity.
>  * Prisma contains logic to split up the text of log messages into
> separate fields, based on regular expressions. Actually, "prisma" is a
> set of "prismi", each one prisma for one type of log message (apache,
> cisco etc. Several prismi can be applied to the same message. This
> allows for stacked messages, i.e. forwarded log messages contained in
> compressed files contained in e-mail messages. The data retrieved form
> the log messages is stored in a database called Dobby. Due to prisma
> being written in Ruby, prismi can be applied interactively (when  
> having
> system access).
>  * Dobby is the central log database. It should be separated from the
> Pumpy database for availability and performance reasons. The current
> implementation is based on MySQL.
>  * The Analyzer contains the two sub-systems Lizard and Reptor. Lizard
> is the analysis engine and user interface of ALOIS, implemented in  
> Ruby
> on Rails using AJAX. It allows for interactive browsing through the
> collected data, exclusion/inclusion/selection of data, data sorting,
> data filtering, creation of views, ad-hoc textual and graphical
> reporting. Reptor allows for automatic activation of views and
> comparison of these views' results to a predefined result (pattern
> matching). In case of mismatch, Reptor sends the result to predefined
> e-mail addresses.
> Its modular design guarantees ALOIS to scale from little to large
> organizations. Since there exists a Debian package, it's easy to  
> build a
> test system or even a productive system for small environments.
> Although the software has been in productive use for a few years,  
> there
> is still a lot of desired functionality missing. The plugability of  
> new
> connected systems is given, but needs some revision. It is a given  
> goal
> of the project to allow modules in other programming language.
> Furthermore, it has been discussed if parts of the existing
> implementation may be replaced with other proven open source software,
> e.g. the correlation engine or the web frontend. The other way  
> round, it
> has been discussed that the filter creation engine would make a good
> tool for any kind of structured data, and thus could be separated from
> ALOIS and standardized as a stand-alone tool.
> = Background =
> It's not simple to know what happens in a bigger network. There's a
> multitude of applications, services and appliances working together.
> Many of them provide some kind of events or state information. The
> network administrator needs to get hands on all of them. But they come
> in many different flavors and multiple canals. Therefore, it's hard to
> get the big picture. Furthermore, we have learned that it's impossible
> to protect a system against all malicious attacks and to keep all the
> possible faulty handling away. A monitoring of the systems to  
> guarantee
> a pro-active handling is therefore needed..
> Therefore, more and more organizations collect and analyze all  
> logfiles
> in a centralized system, called a SIEM (security information and event
> management). The technology provides two major functions for security
> events from networks, systems and applications: log management and
> compliance reporting (SIM – security information management) and
> real-time monitoring and incident management (SEM – security event
> management).
> = Rationale =
> Why another security information and event management system? It's  
> true,
> there's already plenty of them. While the proprietary software is way
> too expensive for smaller to mid-sized companies, we find that the  
> open
> source solutions are either too simple or not completely open. For
> example, behind each of the well known systems “OSSIM” and “Prelude”,
> there is a company that either closes central functionality for its  
> own
> business or has dual licensing and therefore asks the full copyright  
> for
> all contributed code.
> ALOIS is aimed to be totally free and open for all contributions. The
> openness provided for other programming languages is certainly proof  
> of
> this. The plug-ability - yet to be further developed - is meant to
> guarantee that individual needs can be realized without stressing the
> whole system too much. In our opinion, the Linux kernel is a good
> example that this can work very well.
> Since we are in accordance with „the Apache way“, we would be very
> pleased if ALOIS could become part of the Apache community. In  
> Addition,
> the Apache Logging Services would be a perfect home for the software.
> Furthermore, it's not the intention to compete with the already  
> existing
> log viewer and analyzing tool „Chainsaw“. Since Chainsaw is a  
> relatively
> easy tool, it meets a rather different need. Nevertheless, if the two
> projects use synergies, both can profit.
> = Initial Goals =
> When this project started ins 2005, there was no proven SIEM open  
> source
> software and the commercial tools were way too expensive for the  
> needed
> environment. Therefore, we decided together with a customer of ours to
> implement an open source SIEM tool from scratch. Now the software has
> run in a production environment for several years and has proven its
> functionality and reliabilty.
> = Current Status =
> == Meritocracy ==
> As already mentioned, ALOIS is already in production use in two
> organizations. All the code has been written by two persons of the  
> same
> company in a paid employment relationship. It is obvious that this is
> way different from the open source approach within Apache. But
> nevertheless, the two developers have always worked as a team and the
> decisions were made in consensus whenever possible. But it is no  
> secret,
> that these developers have to learn to behave in an open community.
> Understanding this potential problem, they already got support by a
> freelance consulter, who has the corresponding experience and  
> knowledge.
> == Community ==
> Until today there is no real community, because the project hasn't  
> been
> published officially, although it had been completely published on the
> web site for a couple of months (until a server relaunch). Convinced  
> by
> the concept and design of the software, we are open and hope to reach
> many contributors and users. We think that it is realistic, because  
> the
> SIEM issue has yet not been resolved in the OSS space.
> == Core Developers ==
> ALOIS was developed by Simon Hürliman and Flavio Pellanda, both  
> employed
> by the company IMSEC. Concerning Design and Architecture, Marcus
> Holthaus, owner of IMSEC, gave his input as security specialist. Since
> the beginning of this year, Urs Lerch, a doctorate on the subject of
> commercial open source software development, supports the team with  
> his
> knowledge. Simon Hürlimann has left the company three years ago, but  
> is
> still active in the OSS environment (although not for ALOIS). Current
> employee Daniel Lutz (a Debian Developer) has also contributed to the
> project.
> == Alignment ==
> Besides that we strongly believe in the „Apache way“, we think that
> although that Apache hosts the Logging Services and different security
> projects, there is a gap when it comes to a superordinate security  
> view.
> We therefore think it a good idea to add our SIEM project to the  
> Apache
> repository. On the other side, Apache would become an even more  
> complete
> software repository.
> = Known Risks =
> == Orphaned products ==
> Since the software is only maintained by employers of one company,  
> there
> is a severe risk of being orphaned. But, on the one hand, the company
> has a sustained interest in keeping the project alive, because there  
> are
> plans to offer services on top of ALOIS, and IMSEC uses the software  
> for
> SIEM on their own systems. For this reason there exists a budget for  
> the
> development and support of ALOIS. On the other hand, we believe that
> ALOIS is of great interest for other people and companies tied to IT
> security. Therefore, our step to the Apache incubator is also a step  
> to
> a bigger community.
> == Inexperience with Open Source ==
> While ALOIS has always been licenced under the GPL, access to the  
> source
> code, bug tracker and version control system has been restricted to
> internal users for most of the time. But the company has a strong
> believe in the open source movement and therefore engages its  
> employees
> to take part in the community. Furthermore, it is also a strategic
> decision to build services on top of linux.
> We understand that the Apache Incubator is a great opportunity for  
> us to
> get assistance, when it comes to specific questions on the open source
> development. Even more, the company has created a part time position  
> for
> the open source community work.
> == Homogenous Developers ==
> Although ALOIS has been developed by employees of only one company,
> there is a thorough openness. The company is designed to stay small  
> and
> therefore works with several independent partners. Furthermore, its
> employees work in geographically different parts of the country.
> Therefore, it is no new experience for the developers to work in a
> distributed environment and argue rather than to command. Already  
> today
> the employees are enforced to document all face-to-face  
> communication in
> the internal wiki. Sketches are photographed and stored in the  
> project's
> digital folder.
> == Reliance on Salaried Developers ==
> Until today all the development of ALOIS has been made in a paid
> emplyoment. Therefore we know that this brings a significant danger.
> Since it is our stated aim to encourage participation and recruit
> commiters, we hope to eliminate this risk as soon as possible.
> Furthermore, the employees of IMSEC are all open source enthusiasts  
> and
> are in one way or another active in the community. Although we have no
> certainty, there is good indication that the current commiters would
> continue their work on ALOIS, even if they wouldn't be paid for it.
> == Relationships with Other Apache Products ==
> The Apache Logging Service would be a perfect home for ALOIS as a
> centralized logging collection and analyzing tool. Furthermore, we  
> think
> that we could share part of the code with the Chainsaw subproject,  
> since
> both need similar functionality in the web frontend. Since it is our
> statet aim to replace our own code with proofen open source libraries,
> we are open for any collaboration with other projects. For example,  
> the
> replacement of the MySQL with a NoSQL database might be useful for
> performance reasons; therefore HBase is a good candidate.
> == An Excessive Fascination with the Apache Brand ==
> The Apache brand is in fact for its own a very good reason to join the
> Incubator. But much more our desire to become part of the Apache
> Incubator is our strong believe in open source software in general and
> in the „Apache way“ in particular. We would love to learn from the
> experience and knowledge of the foundation's members and participants,
> which is an important part of the brand as well. The foundation has
> shown many times, that it has the processes and people to succeed in
> launching a project. We would be very proud to be part of this success
> story.
> = Documentation =
> The documentation is rather weak and scattered. It has mainly been
> maintained on a wiki and is open to improvement. Since we are totally
> aware that this is a killer for a successfull open source project, we
> have already started an internal project with its own budget to  
> improve
> this shortcomming. Once the project has been launched, writing a  
> blog or
> open a forum are other possibilities we already thought of.
> Furthermore, as the employees are used to work in a geographycally
> distributed environment, a lot of the internal communication happens  
> in
> a chat. Thus, opening a new chat channel for the community is  
> scheduled.
> (To document the discussions for all those who were off-line, we would
> send the logs daily to the mailing list.)
> = Initial Source =
> Although the initial source comes from a project for a customer. it  
> has
> an open source licence since the beginning. Therefore it doesn't have
> any propriatary code in it. A thorough revision before releasing it  
> to a
> public repository is recommend and is also in planning.
> The initial source will be a snapshot of the version control system,
> accompanied by a related debian package.
> = Source and Intellectual Property Submission Plan =
> ALOIS is currently under a GPL licence. Since there are only two
> contributors so far, both from the same company, there is no problem  
> to
> re-licence the code and contribute it to Apache. The commitment of the
> company's owner has been granted.
> = External Dependencies =
> So far, no external dependencies are known. As mentioned before, a
> thorough revision of the codebase is in planning. There it can be
> controlled, that no other licence is affected by the code.
> = Cryptography =
> ALOIS does not involve cryptographic code.
> = Required Resources =
> == Mailing lists ==
> The following mailing lists will be required:
>  * alois-private
>  * alois-dev
>  * alois-commits
>  * alois-users
> == Subversion Directory ==
> == Issue Tracking ==
> == Other Resources ==
> We would like to open a chat channel. If this isn't possible within  
> the
> infrastructure of Apache, we would love to do this in our own already
> existing infrastructure.
> = Initial Commiters =
>  * NAME             EMAIL                              AFFILIATION   
>  * Flavio Pellanda  flavio.pellanda at logintas dot ch IMSEC        no
>  * Urs Lerch        mail at ulerch dot net             IMSEC        no
>  * Daniel Lutz      daniel.lutz at logintas dot ch     IMSEC        no
>  * Marcus Holthaus  marcus.holthaus at imsec dot ch    IMSEC        no
> = Sponsors =
> == Champion ==
>  * Scott Deboy <sdeboy at apache dot org>
> == Nominated Mentors ==
>  * Scott Deboy <sdeboy at apache dot org>
> == Sponsoring Entity ==
> The Incubator PMC (requested) b

Craig L Russell
Architect, Oracle
408 276-5638
P.S. A good JDO? O, Gasp!

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