Open Source Systems Management Ramps Up

The open source systems and network management space is heating up with new releases coming soon from vendors Groundwork, Hyperic and Zenoss. Among the new features that will appear in the respective vendors new releases are improved cloud features, virtualization, network management and improved Java app server features.

Each of the open source vendors is aiming to grow their market share in an economy that is shrinking. The open source vendors compete against each other but the bigger prize is competing against the proprietary vendors like HP, IBM, CA and BMC.

“When times are good, people aren’t as critical of their applications and they tend to overpay,” Mark Hinkle, vice president of community at Zenoss argued. “The economic slowdown has helped to illustrate the value of open source. When times are tough, you start re- evaluating how you do business.”

For Zenoss, part of that re-evaluation will come from their upcoming product release.
Hinkle told that Zenoss Core and Zenoss Enterprise version 2.3 will be released next week. The key theme of the Zenoss 2.3 release according to Hinkle is deeper virtualization monitoring, such that the system can detect VMotion events in real time. VMotion is a VMware technology for moving live virtual machine instances across physical machines.

Hinkle noted that Zenoss has also improved Java EE application monitoring with JMX (Java Management Extensions) support.

Microsoft Windows Server management also gets a boost from Zenoss. Hinkle explained that Zenoss has adapted Samba to query the Windows Management Interface (WMI) in order to monitor Windows systems. Samba is typically used a file sharing mechanism between Windows and Linux servers.

Open source monitoring vendor GroundWork is also gearing up for a new release of its GroundWork Monitor product. In advance of the Monitor release, GroundWork last week issued an update to its NMS 2.1 (Network Management Suite) with improved integration of a number of key open source projects, including Network Weathermap (network utilization), Cacti traffic graphing, protocol analysis with ntop and network discovery with NeDi.

Then there is Hyperic, an open source systems management vendor that lately has had a particular focus on the cloud. Hyperic HQ version 4.0 is set for release this month and is already in a public beta.

“Bottom line is this release is meant to close the gap between managing resources in the datacenter, in virtualized servers or on the cloud,” Stacey Schneider, senior director of marketing for Hyperic stated to

Schneider noted that the Hyperic HQ 4.0 release is aimed at improving the administrator to server ratio so that more servers can be managed with the same amount of people. While cloud computing is a focus for Hyperic, it’s not its only focus. Schneider argued that Hyperic is focused on scalable Web application performance management overall. The need for scalability is being driven by the overall macroeconomic climate, where higher service levels are required at greater efficiencies than ever before.

In terms of competition, Schneider argued that she doesn’t necessarily see either Groundwork or Zenoss as the main issue.

“The real competition is breaking the Web operators mindset that they are doing something so new, at such scale, and so unique to them that a tool can’t work for them… they always think they need to build it themselves,” Schneider said. “I think some people just read ‘open source and maybe since we’re all in Sourceforge, get confused – but for what they are really looking for – we’re really not in the same league.”

Zenoss’s Hinkle also wasn’t keen on targeting other open source vendors as competitors. Hinkle noted that there is a propensity for open source advocates to look at everybody in open source in one basket. At the high end of the market, Hinkle claimed the he was amazed at how people will look at Zenoss in comparison to proprietary solutions from HP (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM), CA (NYSE: CA) and BMC (NYSE: BMC).

David Dennis, senior director of product marketing at Groundwork, told that in his view, Hyperic is not targeting the same area as Groundwork is. When it comes to Zenoss however, Dennis noted that he considers the two solutions to be well matched from a competitive standpoint.

Growth for GroundWork is coming from open source users, though Dennis noted that it’s often coming from users of individual open source monitoring point products. Groundwork integrates a number of different open source point products in its Monitor solution. Dennis argued that as users needs expand they move to GroundWork Monitor for an integrated solution and for support.

“We’ll also continue to see people that are using the big four monitoring products (IBM, HP, CA, BMC) realize and they could have savings by moving to an open source alternative,” Davis claimed.

When it comes to potential barriers to adoption for the open source monitoring vendors, none of them currently see open source itself as an impediment for a buying decision. That said, Groundwork’s Davis noted that in his view there are some holes in open source when it comes to the overall data center management solution space.

“In terms of provisioning, there really isn’t an open source tool that is a multi-OS change configuration, provision management tool that is on par with what Opsware or Altiris do,” Davis claimed.

Within the core network monitoring space, Davis does not see much resistance to open source solution at this point.

“They may not like something about your product but that could happen if you’re open source or not,” Davis said.

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