Nagios, lots of network management for nothing

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed WhatsUp Gold and liked what I found. Of course the topic of network management tools is one that is close to the heart of every network manager so a flurry of letters followed.

Reader Craig Kramer wrote that he just had the job of selecting a network management package and he looked at WUG along with Solarwind ipMonitor and Adrem NetCrunch. Craig concluded “My favorite was ipMonitor, with Netcrunch running a close second. WhatsUp Gold was far and away in third place.”

Reader Lance Rea wrote to tell me that his organization had been using WhatsUp Gold Version 8 but they tried out Nagios and apparently were completely sold. Lance added “The [GroundWork] group even has a prebuilt VM - you can have it up and running in 30 minutes. . . . It is a great ‘first Linux project’ for an IT department.”

I’d been wanting to take a look at Nagios, but I hadn’t been aware that there was a virtual appliance that implemented it. As I am a huge van of virtualization no more encouragement was needed for me to take a look.

Let’s start by outlining Nagios. Like WUG, ipMonitor and NetCrunch, Nagios is a status monitoring and alerting system, but it is also free, open source software (FOSS), and it provides a wider range of built-in monitoring services than the majority of commercial products (Nagios supports SMTP, POP3, HTTP, NNTP, ICMP, SNMP, FTP and SSH).

In common with most really good FOSS products Nagios has become the center of a large universe of supporting software and services that fill in Nagios’ holes and extend its capabilities. Add to that a virtual appliance implementation that combines Nagios and many of these add-ons and enhancements in a ready-to-run package, and you have a really compelling product. In fact, according to the Wikipedia article comparing "popular" network monitoring systems, Nagios is one of the most fully featured offerings available.

I must digress for a moment to complain that the Wikipedia article, in common with the majority of Web content, doesn’t cite version numbers for products discussed and isn’t dated. People, people, people – data has a short shelf life and information an even shorter one! If you want to be taken seriously you must provide the details that position your content in time, otherwise your credibility and long-term value is minimal.

Anyway, originally written by Ethan Galstad, Nagios was originally named Saint, and then re-renamed Netsaint before being hit with the geek stick and becoming an acronym (according to Wikipedia) Nagios stands for “Nagios Ain’t Gonna Insist On Sainthood.” As if that weren’t geeky enough Wikipedia also explains that “Nagios is a portmanteau of two words, network and hagios (also spelled agios, which means saint in ancient and modern Greek).” Now you know.

So, the Groundwork’s take on Nagios: Called Groundwork Monitor, the system comes in three versions: The free Community Edition; the Professional version at $16,000 per year for one management server; and the Enterprise version, which starts at $25,000 per year and includes one management server, one test-and-development server and two GroundWork University training seats.

All versions support an unlimited number of devices and provide basic auto discovery and configuration and agent-based or agent-less availability and performance monitoring of servers, devices and applications.

The Professional version is the Community Edition with enhanced application and device discovery and configuration, best practice monitoring profiles, support for multiple data sources (such as traps, logs and WMI), reporting and exception analysis, an event monitoring console, role-based dashboards and builder, and SLA reporting along with support and training.

The Enterprise version includes topology discovery, protocol analysis, traffic graphing, standby server support and distributed monitoring services.

Groundwork Monitor Community Edition 5.0 was reviewed in a Network World comparative test just over a year ago, and while the reviewer didn’t dislike the product he assessed it as “an entry-level monitoring and management tool,” awarding third place out of the three products tested.

The latest version of Groundwork Monitor, Version 5.2, also used in the virtual appliance, is much improved. as we’ll see next week.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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