Open source network management comparison: Introduction

One side effect of the increased competition in open source network management is that it is becoming increasingly hard to choose which tool is right for you.

With that in mind I intend to create a comparison featuring the best known open source tools to make the process of choosing the right tool a little bit easier.

I’ll publish the comparison in tranches so that, by the end of it, a comprehensive comparison is available. The first tranches will present more general information. As the series progresses more detailed information will be presented.

The projects being compared are, in no particular order: OpenNMS, Nagios, Zenoss, Hyperic and Zabbix. These projects have been chosen because they represent the best of the “pure” open source plays and the emerging “commercial” open source companies.

Both Zenoss & Hyperic have closed source offerings. As this is an open source comparison, I will only compare the respective open source offerings.

The comparison tables include notes denoted by numbers in superscript. The tables don’t include sufficient space to include much text so any further expanatory text has been placed at the bottom of the comparison table.

Open source network management comparison: Platform

Attribute / Project OpenNMS Nagios Zenoss [1] Hyperic [2] Zabbix
Linux X X X X X
Windows X X
Solaris X X X X X
Hardware Appliance X X X
Virtual Appliance X [3] X [4]

[1] Zenoss Core is used for the purpose of this comparison.

[2] Hyperic HQ is used for the purpose of this comparison.

[3] Nagios doesn’t offer a virtual appliance though a number are available through the community.

[4] Zabbix doesn’t offer a virtual appliance though a number are available through the community.

RE: Why Only Two?

John Willis over at IT Management and Cloud Blog posted an interesting post I’d like to reply to.

The key question is will “Enterprise” customers make an investment in companies like OpenNMS and Nagios with out the warm and fuzzy that “Software Companies” provide.

That’s certainly an interesting perspective John…

It isn’t that Nagios/OpenNMS aren’t hitting enterprise customers. It is the nature of the sale that is different.

Nagios/OpenNMS is more of a bottom up kinda sell. Network technicians use the projects without telling the higher ups and hopefully they can spring for consultancy and training later on after they’ve derived value from it.

The “mighty two” (Zenoss/Hyperic) sell in a more traditional “enterprise” way by going through the CIO and getting a “Big 4 lite” sale.

As impressive as OpenNMS, and Nagios have been bootstrapping themselves it is extremely difficult for them to compete at the enterprise level without the same kind of funding that Hyperic and Zenoss have.

Ultimately, If you are right, then the “mighty two” products should be substantially better, more feature rich than Nagios/OpenNMS.

What features in the “mighty two” aren’t available in Nagios/OpenNMS?

OpenNMS training in Europe

Are you wanting to get into OpenNMS but are struggling to get started? OpenNMS are running a series of training courses in Europe during May.

The introductory course titled “OpenNMS – A Day in the Life” will serve as an introduction to get you started with OpenNMS.

At the end of the day, you should have a firm grasp on how to get OpenNMS installed, how to discover the network, basic and some advanced OpenNMS configuration options, as well as troubleshooting skills.

The courses are being presented by the head honchos of the OpenNMS universe, so you can be assured that the course will be content packed and authoritative.

More details are available here.

Tweets as open source network management metric

The folks over at TweetVOLUME have produced a tool for counting the mentions of words or phrases on the Twitter micro-blogging platform.

I thought that it would be an interesting, though not especially significant, metric for comparing open source projects.


The graph above shows the number of twits in which Zenoss, Nagios, Hyperic, OpenNMS or MRTG were mentioned according to the TweetVolume algorithm.

The graph once again shows that Nagios is ahead of everybody. The rest are too close to draw any meaningful conclusions.

You can experiment yourself. Enjoy!

Re: Show Me Da Money (a Cautionary Tale)

A piggy bank stuffed with moneyThis is a reply to Tarus Balog’s Show Me Da Money (a Cautionary Tale) post.

Tarus has labelled the business model of giving away an open source core but selling proprietary extensions as shareware open source.

It’s a great term, but I don’t think it’s wholly appropriate.

If the Hyperic & Zenoss communities have a problem with the licensing terms of the commercial extensions then they are in a great position to circumvent it.

The community can re-group and build their own fully open source extensions.

If a proprietary software company provides tools under terms not acceptable to you then you either don’t use the software or you have to put up with the terms. Put up or shut up.

Both Zenoss and Hyperic have opened up their core platform. Their users have a choice. If they wish they can circumvent any commercial offerings.

I’m not saying that, to use Tarus’s phrase, shareware open source is the same as a completely open source product. I am saying that both Hyperic & Zenoss have opened up as much as they can, and that by doing so, they have sown the seeds that will prevent them from straying too far from the best interests of their respective communities.

So, Zenoss & Hyperic: don’t upset your respective communities or you may find they go off and create a new community without you. That’s just not possible with a completely proprietary product.

Open source network management comparison 2007

Mark Hinkle from Zenoss sent me a link to an interesting document he prepared yesterday.

Open source network management download comparison 2007

I think Mark may be over egging Zenoss “clear market leadership” but without any doubt their growth over the last year has been impressive.

Perhaps the most impressive thing to take away is that all of the projects featured have grown over the last year.

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. 🙂

OpenNMS coming soon to Windows

OpenNMS is one of the original enterprise grade open source network management tools. For the Windows based admin, it has had one huge problem: it only runs on Unix based systems.

Not any more!

After a week of prototyping, the development team now has a prototype running on Windows. Expect to see a full release on Windows in the near future.

Just goes to show, if you choose your development tools carefully you get a whole load of stuff (nearly) for free. IF the 250,000 lines of Java code had been in any other language I think it would have taken a lot longer than a week. 😉

Expect to see the Windows port released in the 1.3.8 release.