Keeping up with your network requires consistent care and feeding

As your infrastructure evolves, so should your network and system monitoring. Open source Observium provides a fine example

Few items in IT are more critical and less appreciated than network and system monitoring frameworks. These (almost) set-and-forget systems deliver tremendous value to any organization; they're critical to a healthy, stable infrastructure. Yet troubleshooting them may require that you navigate a tangle of legacy configurations and one-off modifications -- a crufty endeavor nobody really wants to endure.

That's why it's a good idea to overhaul your monitoring and trending systems every few years. It'll give you a great opportunity to see what's new. Sure, there's always the tried-and-true Nagios and Cacti method, but many other players may fit your infrastructure better.

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For example, I recently decided to give Observium a try. Observium is an open source project aiming to make network and server monitoring and graphing dead easy. The upshot: Once you have an Observium installation running, simply point it at an SNMP-enabled device. It will properly determine what the device is, what data points can be collected and graphed, and what category to place the device.

For instance, pointing it at a Cisco 6509 chassis resulted in bandwidth graphs for every switchport on the device, which you might expect, but it added CPU and RAM utilization graphs for every relevant switching module, all the temperature and power data, and more. Pointing it at a Linux server brought all the expected information down, essentially instantly. There's no need for manual configurations for supported devices and hosts.

This differs from Cacti and Nagios in a significant way: There are almost no command-line or configuration file modifications required to set up new hosts and monitored devices, nor are there many knobs to turn and buttons to push to customize the hosts. Whereas Cacti provides an extremely thorough and complex method for device addition and data maintenance, Observium shares very little -- you tack on a supported host and voila, Observium starts collecting all the information you could ever want on that device.

You can configure just about everything through the Web UI, and it's designed to be extremely simple. For those who've waded through the seas of Nagios configuration file includes, this might be considered a significant advancement.

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