Kings of open source monitoring

Built on open source, OpenNMS and Zenoss Enterprise take different paths to rich, scalable, and extensible network and systems monitoring

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IT shops might want to keep track of software programs installed on each machine to ensure licensing compliance and to watch for employees installing undesirable programs on company workstations. Zenoss Enterprise can maintain a list of installed software packages on each server or workstation that it monitors. This is not exactly a "network monitoring" feature, but IT departments will appreciate this capability.

Distributed collectors for Zenoss are extremely easy to set up. Once a base OS installation has been completed on the remote collector machine, you can give the primary Zenoss Web console the root log-in information and it will install and configure the Zenoss software on the remote collector for you. These distributed collectors can be used to lighten the load on the primary Zenoss server or to get data from behind a NAT router if a VPN tunnel is not a feasible option for you.

Zenoss is currently working on improved features for its distributed data collection system, including simplified installation on highly secured servers and having remote collectors queue up data for later transmission when a network outage prevents them from immediately sending the data back to the central Zenoss server. A new, streamlined event console is also in the works, as is an encrypted data repository, allowing Zenoss users to protect any sensitive information being collected by the system.

Cadillac or Chevy
Zenoss Enterprise and OpenNMS are both very capable and flexible network monitoring systems, and they present great values when compared with big applications from the likes of IBM, CA, and HP. These two network monitoring systems have a long list of features, and IT staff looking for a monitoring system should carefully consider their needs, then research both OpenNMS and Zenoss to determine which is a better fit for their organization.

Zenoss Enterprise clearly has a more developed feature set, including ACLs, VMware vSphere 4 support, automatic root-cause analysis, distributed collectors, collapsible network diagrams, and software inventories. However, those features come with a significant price as compared to OpenNMS, which is free, open source (GPL) software. Further, OpenNMS provides support at a flat rate; the cost is not tied to the number of network devices your company will monitor. Because Zenoss Enterprise is sold as a subscription rather than an outright purchase, companies will have to commit to budgeting the cost of Zenoss each year. And the cost of your subscription will increase if you add more network devices to be monitored.

If you need the extra features of Zenoss Enterprise and can allocate the annual budget for it, then Zenoss will be a terrific purchase for your company. You will have no trouble selling the idea of using Zenoss to the company higher-ups when you stack it up against HP, IBM, or CA. If you have a limited budget or do not need the extra features of Zenoss Enterprise, then OpenNMS is a real winner, and support is easy on the bottom line.

Furthermore, if you are not in hurry to deploy a new network monitoring system right now, then it would be prudent to wait a month or two to see how the version 1.8 release from OpenNMS turns out. If OpenNMS delivers on the planned features, then a number of the software's shortcomings (including VMware vSphere 4 support) will be addressed and OpenNMS will become a more suitable fit for some companies.

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