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Top open source network management tools

Zenoss Core edges Nagios Core, NetXMS and OpenNMS in four-product roundup

By Susan Perschke, Network World
July 08, 2013 06:08 AM ET

Network World - As networking continues to expand and diversify, encompassing a growing number of wired and wireless devices, the demand for network monitoring tools remains high. While feature-packed commercial products abound, the growing market for monitoring tools has also fueled robust offerings from the open source community.

We reviewed four popular open source products - Nagios Core 3.5, NetXMS 1.2.7, OpenNMS 1.10.9 and Zenoss Core 4.2. All four products are mature, have extensive monitoring capabilities similar to their enterprise-grade counterparts, and are currently updated with good community support.

The products offer event management, performance monitoring, alerting and reporting on network devices such as servers, routers, switches, printers, UPSs, websites, business applications and mobile devices. Monitoring can be as simple as a PING request to a single device to full-fledged management using SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) or a native agent.

Most of the products we tested support SNMP as well other common protocols such as WMI, HTTP, SMTP, SSH and XML. Although two of the products are OS-specific, all are capable of monitoring IT infrastructure across a variety of platforms (essentially anything with an IP address). Supported features include auto-discovery, SNMP, ability to read syslogs, ability to set triggers/alerts, Web applications, distributed monitoring (load balancing), maps, IPv6 (except NetXMS), and inventory tracking.

(Enterprise network management shootout)

All four products provide both basic and comprehensive infrastructure monitoring at little or no cost other than the hardware, memory and storage needed to support the monitoring environment. Evaluation criteria included ease of installation and configuration, admin capability, support for multiple platforms, reporting and overall usability.

Zenoss is our top pick due primarily to its intuitive and professional-grade admin interface. Also we were able to configure our environment and run reports easily, and when help was needed, we found the user guide to be an excellent resource, a rare find in the open source world. Our main issue with Zenoss is that it requires a lot of resources, both hardware and memory, to get started, even if you are only managing a few devices.

Nagios is a good choice if a smaller footprint is desired and the infrastructure is limited in number of devices, as having to provision nodes from the command line gets to be time consuming for larger enterprises.

Although NetXMS has a somewhat cluttered user interface, it boasts a rich toolset that provides a lot of granularity for infrastructure management and gets a plus for attention to mobile.

OpenNMS is another powerful net management tool capable on running on most platforms and with the ability to manage a lot of data. We especially liked the custom dashboard feature and since it has a large installed base, there are more than 15, 000 plugins available.

NetXMS and OpenNMS are cross-platform capable, while Zenoss and Nagios are Linux-based. To balance out the test environment evenly between Linux and Windows we installed NetXMS and OpenNMS on Windows servers.

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