OpenNMS in Network World Roundup

Susan Perschke has written up a fairly long review of four open source management tools, including OpenNMS. I thought it was pretty thorough for a Network World article, especially since they tend to follow the industry in general and not network management in particular. She reviewed OpenNMS as well as Zenoss Core, NetXMS and Nagios Core.

Note: You have to “register” to see the whole article, but all that seems necessary is to input an e-mail address. There is no confirmation e-mail, as far as I can tell, so you could enter in anything that looks like an e-mail address and access it.

I was a little nervous when I read that they tested OpenNMS on Windows. To be perfectly honest, our Windows implementation was done in part to settle a bet (Java should be write once, run anywhere, right?). It *does* work and work fine, but it is much harder to install and manage on the Windows platform, something that we are working to correct. So Susan gets some props for managing to get it running and not complaining at all about the install process on Windows. That fact alone made me look at her article more seriously.

Everyone is interested in the “winner” and the tagline of the article is “Zenoss Core edges Nagios Core, NetXMS and OpenNMS in four-product roundup”. She writes:

Zenoss is our top pick due primarily to its intuitive and professional-grade admin interface.

I really can’t fault that. GUIs are important, which is why we are working with the Vaadin team on our next generation user interface. But the underlying engine is important as well, since it is easier to add a pretty interface than it is to architect your application for performance. Apparently Zenoss is a resource hog:

We found out the hard way that Zenoss is not designed for lightweight infrastructure – in fact we were not able to get a clean-running machine going until we threw 6GB of memory at it.

My main complaint about the article is that she didn’t stress enough that Zenoss and Nagios both follow the fauxpen source model: the “Core” products are free but the whole is not. If you want certain features, be prepared to get out your checkbook and give up your open source freedoms. She does mention that with respect to Nagios:

You would need to purchase the ‘Professional’ or ‘Business’ version if you want to use features such as SNMP traps or the mobile application, plus the backend database option is only available in the ‘Business’ version.

Why is this distinction important? Well, as Brian Prentice at Gartner explains, when considering a solution like this with an commercial enterprise component, you have to treat the whole purchase decision in the same way you would any commercial software acquisition. You lose the open source value.

And we be all about adding value. In fact, we are actively targeting the features that people like the most about products like Zenoss and Solarwinds, first and foremost the GUI. Next, we’ll go after the second most popular feature. Little by little we hope to erode people’s dependency on commercial software by offering a truly amazing, totally free alternative.

I didn’t talk to much about NetXMS because, quite frankly, I had never heard of it. It seems like they have been around for awhile and it also seems like they are truly open source. I found it amusing that the two FOSS options in the article were both tested on Windows.

Anyway, the article is worth checking out if you are in to that sort of thing. I’ll be interested to see how OpenNMS ranks in a year when the GUI is finished.