Zenoss: Open source manager conquers native Windows monitoring
Zenoss Core 2.1 impresses with strong device discovery, relationship tracking, open source extensibility, and a functional WMI implementationFollow @infoworld
Since the dawn of the business network, there has been a need to ensure that the network services provided to the enterprise are alive and responsive. Traditionally, in midsized businesses, this role has been filled by complex, closed source, and fantastically expensive solutions from manufacturers such as BMC, CA, HP, and IBM. And while these extravagant expenses make no customer happy, many users of these packages also complain of their complexity. Enough administrators have spent enough time wrangling with their monitoring systems to make a lot of smart people imagine that there must be a better way.
[ Sidebar: GroundWork: Something old, something new ]
Enter the latest salvo in this war: Zenoss Core 2, an enterprise-class open source monitoring package that has been built from the ground up to replace complex, closed source monitoring solutions. It certainly won't take the place of every function of these high-end solutions, but for the vast majority of IT shops, Zenoss Core will be deployed faster, be managed by fewer people, and cost a fraction as much as its closed source rivals.
Zenoss' key strength is a unified design that collects many types of information from numerous sources and displays them in an intelligent way. While many monitoring products feel like an amalgamation of several different pieces of software that have been stapled together, Zenoss stands apart with a unified, object-based repository and a tightly integrated set of tools and reports, yet doesn't draw itself into a corner as far as extensibility and future growth are concerned.
The latest Zenoss Core releases, Versions 2.0 and 2.1, sport several new features as well as a raft of bug fixes. New features include integration with Google Maps, providing interactive network topology views, plus network status visualizations and a drag-and-drop dashboard that allows users to assemble the dashboard components that they use most often. Although these features may seem somewhat superfluous, they are actually some of the most sought-after features in a management system. In a real-world scenario, it is sometimes far more helpful to have a large diagram with one system or site lit up in red than it is to receive an e-mail or SMS with error code in it.
Inside Zenoss Core
Zenoss is built on the open source Zope application server and the Python programming language, which provide a solid, standards-based development platform that is largely responsible for Zenoss' meteoric growth. The class-based relationships between monitored devices, performance data, event logs, and all of their associated organizational containers are well thought out and easy to navigate. The underlying data structures are equally straightforward, making the software easy for developers to extend and grow. These factors fuel a dynamic open source project that is one of the most active on SourceForge.
Zenoss is distributed either in the form of Linux RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) packages or as a prebuilt VMware appliance. It is readily compatible with a wide range of popular Linux distributions as well as Apple's OS X. Distribution in the form of a VMware appliance makes Zenoss easy to evaluate and helps pave the way for shops with no Linux expertise or available dedicated hardware to implement it. The RPM installation is nicely scripted and works well enough such that an admin with very limited Linux experience will find it relatively painless to get up and running. Upgrades are also relatively easy to accomplish – usually only requiring the application of a new RPM and the execution of a data migration script.