Best of open source software awards: Networking

Bossie winners for IP telephony, log file analysis, Wi-Fi scanning, wireless networking, router, and server, network, and VoIP monitoring

The InfoWorld Bossies are chosen annually by Test Center editors, analysts, and reviewers. The winners represent the best free and open source software we've used. Our choices in networking software were led by contributing editor Victor R. Garza, with help from contributing editors Rick Grehan, Matt Prigge, and Paul Venezia.

Got an open source favorite we missed? Please send us a note.

IP Telephony


More and more companies count on Asterisk to provide their most mission-critical application – dial tone. Asterisk has what you'd expect from an enterprise-worthy VoIP system, and integrates with other tools to allow for clustering, failover, IPv6 support, and a range of other functions. Asterisk operates as a back to back user agent, managing all aspects of a VoIP call, where some of its contenders deal only with VoIP signaling.

Asterisk is not without rivals – notably OpenSER (recently renamed Kamailio), FreeSWITCH, and CallWeaver – but it’s still our champ.

Log File Analyzer


The list of capabilities in AWStats is what you'd expect from a mature log analysis tool. It reads the logs of Apache, IIS, and other Web servers, not to mention streaming, mail, and FTP servers. For Web logs, the GUI presents statistics for visit duration, domains, and countries of visitors, most viewed, entry and exit pages, OS and browser enumeration, popular search engines used, and the ever present errors. No matter what kind of log you’re looking at, understanding what's going on at a glance is important and AWStats delivers. Wi-Fi Network Scanner


The only way to secure a wireless network connection is to create a VPN tunnel or use some of the more advanced Wi-Fi encryption methods, staying away from the hole-ridden WEP and using WPA2. NetStumbler used to be our tool of choice for profiling a wireless network, but NetStumbler has stumbled. Today we favor inSSIDer. Although it does require Vista or Windows XP SP2 to run, inSSIDer provides signal strength information and the ability to group wireless devices by SSID, channel, RSSI, and MAC address, using most any wireless network card. Server Monitoring


There’s no shortage of open source server monitoring products out there, but we like Nagios for getting the job done. Nagios can easily be set to monitor server system logs, state of the processor, disk usage, and the like. Nagios monitors protocols such as SMTP, POP3, HTTP, ICMP, SNMP, and FTP, and can handle remote monitoring via SSH or SSL. It even supports external environmental probes. Something you want to monitor that isn't supported? A plug-in can be easily written using common scripting or programming languages. Wireless Network Interface


Suppose you've purchased a wireless network card (PCMCIA or USB) for your laptop, and you decide to make the switch from Windows to Linux. Of course you want to use your wireless card, but you're not sure you can locate a Linux driver for it. What do you do? The open source Linux driver NDISwrapper tricks a wireless card into thinking it’s running on Windows, so you can run the card's Windows drivers on Linux. Many Linux distributions include NDISwrapper as a standard component, so check you distribution before going to the NDISwrapper download site. Router, Firewall, & VPN


Linux has had fast, kernel-level packet forwarding, routing, firewalling, and NAT capabilities for a long time. But these are controlled through different user-space applications, such as iptables, resulting in far-flung configuration files and complex syntax – a far cry from Cisco’s single-file configuration and relative ease of configuration. Vyatta ties it all together behind a custom shell that essentially puts an "IOS" into Linux. Logging in to a Vyatta router can closely resemble the console of a Cisco or Juniper router, with basic commands such as "show ip route" performing exactly the function you would expect. VoIP Monitoring


Old favorite Wireshark has grown far past its simplistic roots, expanding its analysis capabilities into areas that cause network admins the most pain these days, including VoIP and wireless troubleshooting. No protocol analyzer comes close to the flexibility, extensibility, and user base that supports this stellar project. Wireshark’s visual display of low level communications is a must for finding and eliminating problems that are annoying, troubling, and specific to VoIP. Once VoIP traffic is filtered for analysis, monitoring SIP conversations is a piece of cake. This tool is one that should always be with you. Network Monitoring

Zenoss Core

Zenoss Core provides a cheap yet scalable and easy-to-use replacement for legacy management architecture. Its 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.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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