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How to properly leverage open source server monitoring (Nagios)

By Jonah Kowall | October 04, 2013 | 60 Comments

MonitoringIT Operations

Due to the popularity of the Nagios threads I wanted to write a bit about how to use Nagios effectively. This equates to how one can best leverage custom scripts (checks) and also the large number of checks developed by the community to effectively monitor infrastructure and application instances (please don’t confuse this with APM). There are several approaches out there ranging from free to inexpensive. The first and most easy transition would be to leverage some of the low cost tools developed on top of the Nagios core, this includes companies who do even more core development than Nagios (which is a company).

Here are some of the more common Nagios based packages:

  1. Nagios XI – Created by the founders of Nagios, the solution still lags behind others in terms of capabilities, but the name often sends people their direction.
  2. OP5 – Highly scalable solution with increased functionality including the incorporation of open source baselining technologies, they have committed more core Nagios code in the redesign than any other company. If you believe in open source and community you must have a look.
  3. Centerity – They have expended Nagios with better dashboarding and network monitoring that is more capable.
  4. Groundwork – The solution has significantly increased dash boarding and restful APIs allowing programmability and a high degree of scalability.
  5. OpsView – Much more user friendly than the open source tools, but still Nagios under the hood.

Then there are tools which leverage existing checks from nagios, but get rid of a lot of baggage that comes with using Nagios Core:

  1. AppFirst – SaaS only, includes a unique collection technology for granularity, full support of statsd, and of course Nagios plugins.
  2. Server Density – Lightweight and inexpensive SaaS solution with good visualization and plug-in support, including Nagios plugins.
  3. DataDog – Great place to aggregate multiple technologies including Nagios. The solution offers monitoring delivered via SaaS as well

If the goal is learning “how do I do this better than Nagios, and I want to customize it” investigate the use of some of the tools above, in addition to having a look at Circonus, Librato, Graphite, Statsd.

If the goal is to free up time to do something more useful, look at agentless technologies. The sacrifices will be granularity and customizability, but management is much easier. Products as simple and inexpensive or free as Solarwinds (ipmonitor, orion), Ipswitch WUG, ManageEngine products, as well as free products like Spiceworks often do just enough to free up time and money to spend on high value tools. These may include more mature offerings in the APM space, which focus on transactional context and real user experience metrics.

Leave a Comment

60 Comments

  • Veler says:

    Why should I leverage anything if there are now cheap tools which are ready to work for you immediately For sure, Nagios is free, but it will take lots of precious time to start working and adapting it for me. I prefer the tools which can really save my time. For example, the software Anturis to monitor servers. I don’t think that the price is high, but you save your time for something else.

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