The trouble with network monitoring is that the more you know, the more you find you need to do. Some shops will make like an ostrich and do the bare minimum so that they can plead ignorance, while other shops use only what the vendor tells them they need to use. I wanted a solution that neither tied me to a single manufacturer nor hid its head in the sand. At the same time, I demanded a tool that wouldn't blithely send alert blasts I then had to sort through, but would put those alerts into context.
It turns out the solution I was looking for is ScienceLogic's EM7. It's a carrier-class monitoring system capable of scaling to truly staggering proportions, but still appropriate (and affordable enough) for my smaller network at the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology's (SOEST) Research Computing Facility.
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Although it has taken a while for me and the IT support group to get comfortable with the ScienceLogic EM7 system, its ability to create a multitenant environment will soon allow us to hand off monitoring duties to the individual labs that run the HPC clusters instead of forcing us to add more personnel. Plus, EM7 lets us easily build monitoring support for equipment that lacks MIBs (management information bases). And like many distributed organizations, we preferred to avoid purchasing a complete setup for every location, yet still wanted the ability to monitor remote sites through firewalls and over WAN links. To this end we placed the EM7 collectors into key locations using either physical appliances or virtual machines. The collected data is forwarded to the main database en mass instead of clogging up our WAN pipes with constant SNMP traffic.