Why is Icinga called Icinga?

by | Mar 1, 2023

It’s the year 2009, a nice weekend in late spring and a small group of monitoring enthusiasts comes together to discuss how to move forward with the idea of forking Nagios.

The Icinga team in 2009, just to set the mood.

The Icinga team in 2009, just to set the mood.

Plans were made to make it faster, easier, more scalable, and simply better.

Of course, such a project has a lot of hurdles to take – the most important one was of course: the name.

So the founders of the Icinga project, Julian, Caro and Bernd from NETWAYS, as well as members of the Nagios Community Advisory board, and a small group of nagios power users came together at the NETWAYS offices to discuss this very tricky question.

The first prototype names suggested were the most typical names for an open source monitoring tool one could think of.
The original suggestions were lost in time and the foggy memory of the founders, who I managed to amush with my little interview – but think of ideas like “Open Mon”, “Moni-Tea”, or “Monitorios”.
None of them really had the spark they were looking for.

There is also some debate who exactly came up with the idea of looking to Ubuntu for inspiration, but the idea stuck.

The story of Ubuntu
ubuntu |oǒ’boǒntoō|

Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It is often described as reminding us that ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.

– from ubuntu.com/about

Everyone grabbed a dictionary and started looking – and this is how the name Icinga came to be: It’s a Zulu word meaning “to search”, “to look”, or “to observe”.
Ever since I learned about its meaning I picture a leopard in a tree, monitoring a herd of antilopes for possible prey.
It fit all of the criteria too:

  •  A meaning connected to monitoring
  •  Short and relatively easy to remember
  •  Availability of domains and social media handles

Sure, it wasn’t going to be so easy to understand what Icinga does, just by name.
In the short term, we would have a lot of explaining to do. Long term on the other hand we could (and would) be able to freely build a product and branding off of it.

The issues that did come with a Zulu name were, for one the pronounciation. If you want to learn more about that, I can offer you this audio file and refer you to this blogpost with an explanation how to pronounce it the original way!
Secondly, I now have to sift through a bunch of Tweets written in a language I do not understand when doing social media work for Icinga 😉

All in all, I am very happy with the name and and being able to tell you this little story of how it came to be!

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