As I did last year, I’ve compared the number of searches for the project name using Google Trends. As always, this post is not intended to be indicative of the usefulness of a particular tool to your requirements.
Open Source Network Management System Trends
Firstly a comparison of the major players in open source network management: Zenoss, Hyperic, Nagios, MRTG and OpenNMS. The most striking thing about the graph to me is the decline in searches for Nagios. From the middle of 2009 things have been declining quite steeply. MRTG has been declining though it just looks like a continuation of the decline evident for the last few years.
A Comparison of the Nagios Ecosystem
Whilst the above graph showed a reduction in the relative number of searches for Nagios, perhaps the Nagios ecosystem graph can explain it. Icinga, a Nagios fork, was created during 2009 and may be responsible for at least some of the decline. Icinga appears on the graph during late April and has a steady presence throughout the rest of 2009 save for a small period during the Christmas break.
Open vs Closed Network Management Systems
Given that 2009 was a year of recession in many countries, perhaps it won’t surprise too many to see so many of both the commercial open source and proprietary tools trending downwards. I suspect that 2009 was a tough year for winkling money out of IT budgets.
All in all an interesting year. Apart from the Icinga/Nagios episode it seems odd that none of the tools has made significant progress during 2009. If open source tools were to make a move against their proprietary cousins you would assume it would be 2009 given the economic background. Budgets have been tight, so why haven’t open source tools made progress in these recessionary times?
One of the main complaints aimed at Nagios was the slow speed of development. The following graphs, taken from the open source directory ohloh, show the number of commiters and the number of commits over the last three years for Nagios, OpenNMS and Wireshark. I can’t vouch for how accurate the stats are but I think they do provide some insight into the development processes of the respective projects.
I’ve used OpenNMS, Wireshark and Nagios as the basis for the comparison because all three are mature, successful open source network management projects of similar age. Wireshark and OpenNMS dwarf Nagios both in the number of contributors and the number of commits. Commits themselves can be misleading, a commit into the source repository doesn’t indicate what the commit contained, whether it was a simple bug fix to a single file or a very large new feature requiring hundreds of changes. There is no reason to think that Nagios commits are inherently larger than Wireshark or OpenNMS commits.
Looking at the graphs, perhaps there was a problem with the structure of the Nagios project.
As Andreas Ericsson says in his post The future of Nagios, recent events have demonstrated weaknesses in the structure of the Nagios project, specifically that Ethan Galstad is the only commiter of fixes and enhancements to Nagios. A single commiter is fine until the commiter doesn’t have sufficient time to work on the project as might be required to keep up with community submitted fixes and enhancements. Understandably, individual contributors are going to get frustrated that their patches and enhancements are not being incorporated into the project.
If nothing more comes of the ICINGA fork than a review of the Nagios structure, then the fork will have been worthwhile.
One option is to use Centreon, a (relatively) new front end for Nagios with a more accessible web front end for configuration. Centreon is fully open source and is supported by Merethis, a French company, who also sponsor development of the project.
“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.