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
After Zenoss is installed and running, the Web management GUI becomes available and you can start adding devices. Depending on the type of device being added, generally all that's needed for full discovery is a hostname and a read-only SNMP community string. The included device modeling software is intelligent enough to figure out whether it is parsing a switch, a server, a UPS, or a number of other basic types of devices, and determine which operating system is running. The vast majority of properly configured SNMP-capable devices will be automatically detected without very much direct intervention. If a modeler has been written to recognize the device (in the case of Dell or HP servers, for instance), a great deal of extra hardware-specific information can also be gleaned from the manufacturer's management agents.
As with any auto-discovery process, there are always devices that won't be detected correctly, but these will generally be the exception rather than the rule – even in fairly diverse environments. Moreover, it's fairly easy to suggest to Zenoss what types of devices they are and how they should be treated if the device modeler doesn't quite get it to begin with. Only the more unusual devices such as a network-attached Fibre Channel switch or tape backup unit will be entirely unrecognized. Even in these cases, some statistics can still be recorded about the Ethernet interfaces and basic SNMP information about the device so long as it implements a standard SNMP MIB (Message Information Block).
Device support is always a challenge for monitoring packages, and this is one area in which commercial software solutions are generally more capable; after all, they typically have had more capital to invest in developing monitoring plug-ins. However, this increased capability is usually at the expense of user and community extensibility – not a trade-off Zenoss has made, and thankfully so. Zenoss is betting that a combination of internal commercial development and a great deal of community development will bridge this gap and make Zenoss' built-in device support comparable with that of much larger competitors. Although this is admittedly not the case today, Zenoss Core did correctly recognize and model more than 80 percent of a rather complex corporate network that I used for testing.
Once you have a number of devices in the system, the simple ingenuity of the unified object database becomes clearer. Each device Zenoss monitors becomes linked to many other objects within the database – most without any user intervention. For example, an HP ProLiant server running Windows Server 2003 with the HP Insight Manager agents installed will be related to automatically created objects that represent every piece of hardware and software within the box, all the way down to individual Microsoft hotfixes that are installed and RAID cards being used. Selecting any of these objects from within the device view will switch your perspective to the new object. You can then see what other devices share the same object. For example, if HP sends you an advisory that dictates a critical firmware upgrade for a specific type of RAID controller, it is very easy to identify all the monitored devices using that card. As such, Zenoss becomes more than just a monitoring framework – it can just as easily perform a broad set of inventory management tasks just by virtue of the fact that it tracks the relationships among all the devices it has collected.