Open source network management buzz comparison 2008

As it’s the start of a new year I thought it would be an ideal time to look back over the year just gone. I have used Google Trends to compare the number of searches during 2008 of various open source and proprietary network management tools.

Whilst search volume is an interesting metric for network management tools, it is not intended to be in any way indicative of the usefulness of a particular tool. If you want to choose a tool, start from your own requirements first and select a tool from that.

Open Source Network Management System Trends

First up is a comparison of the major open source network management systems. Nagios, as one of the oldest open source projects in network management,  still has a huge community of users and, in spite of a number of very good competitors, appears to be holding its own.

MRTG during 2008 does show signs of continued decline. Hardly surprising given that a number of very capable competitors exist that are much easier to install and configure.

Zenoss, Hyperic and OpenNMS are all doing well, retaining substantial levels of searches with Zenoss retaining its early lead.

Open Source Network Management System Trend 2008
Open Source Network Management System Trend 2008

A Comparison of the Nagios Ecosystem

Nagios is a significant open source project in and of itself. In addition, it also has an ecosystem of tools built on top of it as well. There are three main nagios core tools: GroundWork Open Source, Centreon and OpsView.

I haven’t been able to use Groundwork Open Source because a comparison wouldn’t be valid given how many words it is made up of. Many people may well type in Groundwork instead of Groundwork Open Source even though you will get a lot of civil engineering related results.

Configuration is one area Nagios is not very user friendly to new users, relying upon editing configuration files for changes. Both Centreon and OpsView provide an improved configuration experience, reducing or completely removing the need to directly edit configuration files. Surprisingly both Centreon and OpsView receive substantially fewer searches than Nagios.

A Comparison of the Nagios Ecosystem 2008
A Comparison of the Nagios Ecosystem 2008

Open vs Closed Network Management Systems

A comparison between a representative sample of both open source and proprietary tools shows an interesting trend.

Both NetIQ and OpenView are losing searches whilst the open tools are holding up well. Perhaps, money was tighter in 2008 due to the economic woes befalling many economies. OpenView has been particularly badly hit, being well down over the year as a whole.

Open vs Closed Network Management Systems 2008
Open vs Closed Network Management Systems 2008


The open source network management tools search volume has held up very well throughout 2008. The same cannot be said for either proprietary tools, OpenView and NetIQ. Both of the proprietary tools have seen their search volume fall. A recession started during 2008 in many countries worldwide. So, that people are searching less for expensive software tools, maybe isn’t that surprising. I doubt the Google Trends data could evidence a shift from proprietary to open source tools though, given the absence of an upshift in searches for open source tools.

A perspective on open source network monitoring tools…

…by Grig Gheorghiu over on the Agile Testing blog: The sad state of open source monitoring tools.

“I wish there was a standard nomenclature for this stuff, as well as a standard way for these tools to inter-operate. As it is, you have to learn each tool and train your brain to ignore all the weirdness that it encounters.”

One of the problems with I.T. is the absence of a standard terminology. It would make things a lot easier if everybody used a standard set of terminology. Kinda hard to see how this can be imposed though. I guess over time a standard terminology will just evolve after the industry has matured a little more.

Open source network management download comparison

One of the great things about sourceforge, apart from the cool services they provide free to open source projects, is that they provide statistics about the projects they host.

One of the stats that sourceforge provides is a history of project downloads. You can’t compare the stats though. So I thought it would be interesting to compare the downloads for the major open source network management projects.

The volume of downloads is indicative, like search trends, of the relative mind share for each project. Download volume isn’t a perfect measure, but it is one of the best available. I doubt even the projects themselves have an absolutely accurate idea of how many installations they have.

I entered the download data from sourceforge for the last year into a Google Spreadsheet. I then graphed the data. See the graphs below. The data covers the previous year, from November 2006 through to October 2007.

Figure 1: Open Source Network Management Projects by Monthly Downloads

Figure 2: Open Source Network Management Projects Total Downloads

I’ve compared five projects: Nagios, OpenNMS, Zenoss, Hyperic & Groundwork Open Source all of whom host their downloads at sourceforge.

I doubt the graph will surprise too many people. The graph is similar to the Google Trends data. Both Nagios and Zenoss are vying for the top position. What has surprised me over the last year has been the stability of the number of Nagios downloads.

If the growth of the “new wave” is coming from other open source projects, it isn’t coming from either Nagios or OpenNMS, the most mature “old skool” open source network management projects.

I don’t think there is much doubt that both Zenoss & Hyperic have brought commercial levels of setup and configuration to the open source network management market. And yet, Nagios a tool that relies on manual configuration, is still gaining traction.

Once you have a loyal community, by delivering and supporting successive releases over an extended time, users are loath to move to another project.

Perhaps perversely, the harder a tool is to learn, the more reluctant users are to migrate to another tool. A kind of open source Stockholm syndrome.

I’m sure that all of the new wave players understand the value of community…that’s why they are going hell for leather building them. 🙂