For the last 10 years, enterprise network and systems management has been the domain of proprietary systems. GroundWork Monitor Professional is making inroads, though, with its attractive price; broadening support for systems, applications and infrastructure devices; and clever expansion of the open-source Nagios network monitoring tool.
Released in March by GroundWork Open Source Solutions, GroundWork Monitor Professional 4.5 costs a startling (for a product of its type) $16,000 for an annual subscription. GroupWork Open Source Solutions also offers a scaled-down version of the platform, called GroundWork Open Source.
GroundWork Monitor Professional competes in the same space as the “Big Four” network and systems management platforms that have traditionally been used by midsize and large enterprises: BMC Softwares Patrol, CAs Unicenter, Hewlett-Packards OpenView and IBM Tivolis Tivoli.
GroundWork Monitor Professional holds its own with these platforms in terms of capability, but the Big Four cant hold a candle to it when it comes to price: Implementation costs alone for the BMC, CA, HP and IBM Tivoli solutions are hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you include professional services and additional training—and you must, as these systems require extensive post-installation configuration—project costs can climb into the high six figures and above.
This isnt to say that GroundWork Monitor Professional does not require training and professional services: Our experience with the product showed that any organization that buys GroundWork will incur significant training costs. For example, in addition to a three-day training class for new administrators, managers of large networks must factor in the cost of becoming familiar with either Red Hats RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) or Novells SUSE Linux—the two platforms on which GroundWork Monitor Professional runs.
In addition, any network and systems management tool—including the GroundWork solution—requires tinkering, and lots of it. In part, this is because networks and systems are connected in complex and geographically dispersed ways. Our tests showed that a knowledgeable and delicate hand is needed to stitch GroundWork Monitor Professional into a network.
We started our tests of the product by installing RHEL 4 Workstation on one of our lab systems.
As with any database- and transaction-intensive application, the more RAM, processors and disk space an IT manager can devote to the management host, the better. The recommended configuration for GroundWork Monitor Professional (for managing more than 500 hosts) is two Intel Pentium 4 CPUs (3.2GHz or higher), 4GB of RAM and 80GB of hard disk space.
GroundWork provides a straightforward formula for sizing machines to run the system, and IT managers would be well-advised to follow the guidelines to ensure the smooth function of GroundWork Monitor Professional. At the very least, the application should be run on a dedicated system.
GroundWork Monitor Professional requires MySQLs MySQL 5.0 Pro Certified Server and Sun Microsystems Java Version 1.5-—both of which are available for download for registered users at GroundWorks support site. After installing and configuring the prerequisites, we installed GroundWork Monitor Professional in less than an hour with the help of GroundWork support staff.
Within a couple of hours of installing the product—and lots of tweaking—we were able to monitor our Cisco Systems network gear, including switches and routers, via SNMP. We also were able to monitor several of our server systems, including a Microsoft Exchange 2003 server.
The Nagios network monitoring tool is a major component of GroundWork Monitor Professional. GroundWork adds a more functional user interface and access to professional support for assistance in correctly configuring plug-ins. Plug-ins—which, under various names, are also common in proprietary systems—enable GroundWork Monitor Professional to monitor a wide variety of devices, applications and services. Access to professional help in tuning these plug-ins is one of the main reasons an organization would want to go with GroundWork Professional Monitor over Nagios.
IT managers who are already familiar with Nagios (formerly NetSaint) will have little trouble getting around in GroundWork Monitor Professional. Those new to the platform will need to spend at least several days working through the product documentation to become familiar with its terms and concepts. (For a case study of a company using Nagios, go to “Currency Firm Trades on Open Source.”)
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proprietary systems and network management frameworks: BMCs Patrol (www.bmc.com, CAs Unicenter (www.ca.com), HPs OpenView (www.hp.com) and IBM Tivolis (www.ibm.com) provide a variety of mature monitors for mainframes, servers, applications and network infrastructure; these solutions are relatively expensive compared with the GroundWork platform.
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