Speaking to our clients, and other people at conferences and industry events I attend, Nagios is always top of mind. This is a battle covered many times, many people want to use or reduce the usage of Nagios. The question always comes up, what else is good for free? The answer to this question depends on how much expertise you have in managing infrastructure, and what level of monitoring you’d like to do. Open source monitoring requires the use of configuration management tools (chef, puppet, salt) to scale and control the consistency. This requires some level of expertise.
Most users of Nagios use it for basic health monitoring of servers and applications, and I’ve spoken about other low cost tools which build on the open nature of Nagios and leverage the massive and vibrant community. There are plenty of great open source alternatives out there which work, here are a few options:
Quick and easy:
- PandoraFMS – This project out of Spain is growing in popularity amongst Gartner clients with an easy to implement and configure product. The solution is open source and free, but also has commercial support options if desired. The UI is modern and fresh along with agents or agentless monitoring capabilities.
- Icinga – Most often compared with Nagios the product shares many open source components, but also includes a more advanced web interface, search capabilities, and better enterprise integration for permissioning and authentication. It’s a bit more complex in terms of getting reporting and other capabilities, but this is free software, work is required. The product is shipped as software or via virtual appliance, it’s worth checking out.
- Spiceworks – Windows only product, but this freeware provides good basic functionality in the monitoring space, which should serve the needs of many in monitoring of servers, network devices, and other components. The product can’t scale very high, but for SMBs this is a good option.
- Zabbix – This popular server monitoring product is also free, with commercial support options. The product has more legacy components due to it’s age, but is under active development. This is an improvement over Nagios, but there are better options available.
Needs more time in the oven:
- Naemon – If you like the Nagios model and configuration (I have no idea why people like it…) then Naemon is the next generation, it’s a new project with time before its mature enough. The offering will include an enhanced GUI (Thruk), removal of legacy components, and a highly scalable engine for the future. OP5 is behind this project, (a Swedish company with a greatly enhanced commercial version based on Nagios) and is funding much of the development. UPDATE: OP5 lets employees work on many open source projects on company time, so the sponsorship is not as direct as it may sound. The most important contributor will be Andreas Ericsson the talent who wrote over 69% of Nagios code in the last 12 months, and works for OP5. This project is one to watch!
- Munin – This open source product has promise, but needs a bit more development effort to catch up with those above. The advantages of the product are a fully functional and easy agentless implementation.
If you are operating a web-scale infrastructure and dealing with monitoring of large numbers of devices, and wish to have a fully extensible monitoring system to collect not only system metrics, but also custom application metrics I would suggest the following technologies:
- StatsD – Generic metric collector (can easily collect application metrics or even real user monitoring metrics directly)
- Collectd – System metric collector
- Graphite – Backend for metric storage
Some of my favorite visualizers for this data:
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