How much does it cost? Cfengine is available as a free open-source tool or as a commercial product that includes support and maintenance. In the latter case, pricing varies according to company size and how the product will be used.
Why is it better than the competition? Frank Breedijk, a security engineer at Schuberg Philis, an IT outsourcing company, uses Cfengine for configuration management. He says that one of the main differentiators is that the tool works autonomously; it can find and correct system errors in his data center without human intervention.
What are its limitations? Breedijk says Cfengine works best in a Unix environment. Although it will work in data centers powered by Windows servers, the results are unpredictable.
What do customers say? "With Cfengine, you create a self-healing system which becomes resistant to configuration changes by the user," Breedijk says. Also, if IT staffers make all configuration changes via Cfengine, "rolling out a new system becomes a lot easier, because all you need to do is roll out a base installation and a Cfengine client, and all the other changes get applied automatically," says Breedijk.
5. Vitamin D Video
What is it? It's an offbeat physical-security system for the data center. Vitamin D Video is an open-source webcam that can be used to monitor a data center. It includes a motion detector and can send the IT staff a text message or email if the system detects movement near a rack or at the entrance to the data center.
Who needs it? For those in a multisite environment, or anyone who needs to perform remote monitoring, Vitamin D Video is a helpful security and monitoring tool. It can be used for anything from checking to see if a cabinet door was left open in a data center to checking for intruders or keeping track of third-party contractors to see whether they are performing the work as specified.
How much does it cost? The Pro edition costs $199 and supports unlimited cameras. There's also a free Starter edition (one camera), and a Basic edition (two cameras) that costs $49.
Why is it better than the competition? Ketan Patel, president of Fairmount Global Telecommunications, uses Vitamin D Video in his data center as a monitoring tool because of the software's automated alert system. With some security cameras, you need to watch hours of recorded video to catch any security problems. With Vitamin D, the software can send a photo via email when the camera detects motion. Once alerted, you can then watch a portion of the video that was recorded before and after the alert. You can also send video clips to an FTP site.
What are its limitations? Patel says the software will sometimes send false alerts, especially if you do any monitoring outside of the data center. To use Vitamin D Video, you also need to install and configure third-party webcams, although he says the software works with many makes and models.
What do customers say? "Vitamin D is a free software utility that lets you turn a cheap $100 webcam into a video monitoring and alert system for your server racks," says Patal.
What is it? This open-source networking management tool scans networks to discover new network services, provision the services, monitor changes, and investigate anomalies and events such as an SNMP trap, which is a way of notifying the network about changes without needing to send a request first. OpenNMS also tests network performance.