First Read

A first take on enterprise IT technology news and events.

Open Source and IT Management

Bill Karpovich knows the score. He knows that when you talk about IT monitoring and management software, the discussion starts and ends with the "Big Four": Hewlett-Packard with its OpenView suite, IBM's Tivoli, CA and its Unicenter software, and BMC's Control offering.

But Karpovich, the co-founder and CEO of Zenoss, also knows his IT history, and knows that what open-source technology did in the operating system space and other sectors it can do in IT management. And, he says, it will happen, sooner than later. Zenoss is one of several up-and-coming software companies -- with others such as Hyperic and GroundWork Open Source -- that are looking to get traction in the space that's currently dominated by well-established giants.

Open source "certainly is not a fringe philosophy," Karpovich said in a recent interview, pointing out that 20 percent of the OS market is Linux and that old-school technology companies such as Sun Microsystems are now investing in open-source technology by buying such businesses as MySQL. Why couldn't the same thing happen in IT management?

"The goal of the products is to make it easier for IT people," he said about traditional management software. "What the products do is make it harder."

By comparison, being open source enables Zenoss and others to offer products that provide the same functionality as their proprietary brethren, but at a lower cost. And being open source means that the company can innovate and upgrade its products much more quickly than HP, IBM and the others.

"We're better, faster, cheaper than the old way of doing it," Karpovich said.

Zenoss most recently released Version 2.2 of its Zenoss Enterprise offering, open-source software that enables IT administrators to manage everything from virtual machines from VMware and Citrix Systems' XenSource environments to physical machines running Windows, Linux and Unix to Web services and applications. Aimed at enterprises and midsize companies, Zenoss Enterprise 2.2, launched June 18, offers new GUI capabilities through its Distributed Configuration Manager, high-availability and real-time failover capabilities, and improved Windows monitoring.

Karpovich said it is just such capabilities that are persuading businesses -- Zenoss now boasts more than 20 customers that have gone public with their use of the software, including Disney and Tyco -- to try out the product and will help the company gain traction in the IT monitoring space.

Maybe, but the company has its work cut out for it. HP, IBM, CA and BMC have been battling it out in this sector for years and have honed their products. Open-source technology has shown it can play with the big boys, but it will take time for it to break into a clique of such major players.

Karpovich is confident, though, pointing back to history several times during the interview and starting off more than one sentence with "Just like Red Hat Linux did ..."