What are its limitations? Nagios is a powerful monitoring tool, but to use the software you have to write a script that taps into the endpoint you want to monitor -- or find one that is already available. While you can pay for the extra support and maintenance, there is no commercial backing from a company like HP or Microsoft to make sure the tool is working optimally in your environment.
What do customers say? "Nagios is an enterprise-class monitoring system that we have used to not only monitor our data network, but our network of computer room air-conditioning, UPSs, generators and environment sensors to guarantee data center reliability," says Core NAP's Bieser.
3. Veeam Backup and Replication v5
What is it? Veeam serves a much-needed function. The software works within the VMware virtualized environment to make quick backups and provides a way to streamline user-requested restores. You can restore one virtual machine or an individual object.
Who needs it? In a data center that relies on virtual machines, Veeam is used for making backups and has the distinct advantage of making archives in a few hours. Currently, Veeam works only with VMware, but it will be expanded to support Microsoft Hyper-V in the near future, according to a company spokesman who would not specify a time frame.
How much does it cost? Veeam costs about $600 per socket for the basic backup and replication software, which includes one year of support and maintenance.
Why is it better than the competition? A key feature has to do with verification. As part of the backup process, Veeam loads the VM from a recently created backup, adds it to the ESX server and tests the VM to make sure the backup actually worked.
What are its limitations? Larry Walker, vice president of IT at Chelsea Groton Bank in Groton, Conn., uses Veeam in his data center. He says he has not found a local expert to help troubleshoot problems, and there is no local training on how to use the software. This has not been a major issue but has delayed some initial restores because his staff had to learn the ropes on their own. He also says there is no way to move the VM backups to a tape storage system. Veeam works only with virtual machines and does not work directly with physical servers.
What do customers say? "With Veeam, I remotely replicate and/or remotely back up all my VMs every night to our DR site," Walker explains. Within 30 minutes, his Active Directory servers, SQL servers and six Level 1 file servers are archived and their data is available to users.
What is it? Another oft-recommended data center tool, Cfengine is used for configuration management: A database holds user and server settings, including passwords and directory permissions.
Who needs it? Cfengine is specifically geared for data center system administrators who are looking for more consistency in configuration management. The tool is used to check software installations to make sure they are consistent within the data center and the company. It's also used by security analysts to look for security holes that result from an inconsistent software patch process.