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Open source makes a name for itself in systems management

It's probably not surprising that open source systems management software would sprout around Linux and Apache servers, giving it a shot at managing infrastructure for big companies. But it's surprising how quickly the software has expanded beyond managing those widely used open source tools. The big four systems management vendors--IBM Tivoli, Hewlett-Packard OpenView, CA Unicenter, and BMC Patrol--face a new round of competition from what 451 Group analyst Raven Zachary calls "the little four": GroundWork, Hyperic, Qlusters, and Zenoss, all open source suppliers of systems and network management software. Hyperic, for example, has started partnering with Red Hat so that Hyperic developers can work with those from Red Hat's JBoss to develop a common JBoss management platform. JBoss uses Hyperic HQ as the management platform for JBoss Operations Network, a management console Red Hat sells as an add-on service for JBoss application server and middleware. Now, instead of Hyperic developing HQ on its own and Red Hat adapting it for JBoss Operations Network, the two will work together on the JBoss management system and contribute the results to Hyperic as open source code. "We'll create a combined core, a more generic infrastructure with both monitoring and provisioning," says CEO Javier Soltero. The JBoss management console shows how open source code can discover a mix of software assets in an infrastructure, catalog them, and monitor them. The software can find servers running AIX, Linux, HP-UX, Solaris, and Windows, and discover the Apache Web Server, Apache Tomcat, and JBoss applications that run on them. HQ Enterprise has been downloaded nearly 125,000 times from SourceForge since it became available as open source code in July last year. When it comes to downloads, however, it's hard to beat Zenoss open source management software, now in its 2.1 release. With its Core community edition downloaded almost 450,000 times in 20 months, it's the sixth most frequently downloaded program on SourceForge. MANAGEMENT PLUS MAPS Zenoss Core is the basis for Zenoss Enterprise, which monitors both servers and the applications and network devices on which they depend. At $50,000 per year for systems managing more than 50 devices, it's popular with midsize businesses that don't want to spring for systems management from the big four. It includes auto-discovery of IT assets and the ability to monitor across Windows, Linux, and Unix, as well as JBoss, Tomcat, BEA WebLogic, and IBM's WebSphere application servers. In the latest version, Zenoss added mashups with Google Maps to provide a visual of IT operations across multiple data centers and the network connecting them. The map feature lets Zenoss Core display a network topology map with key devices identified on it. And the map can show the health of each data center operation through green, yellow, and red color coding. Individual aspects of operations can be represented using new graphing and dashboard capabilities. Another supplier, GroundWork Open Source, recently formed a partnership with Nagios Enterprises, the commercial company behind the open source monitoring system Nagios, which has been downloaded 1.4 million times since 2001. GroundWork is built on top of Nagios, and the two plan to collaborate more closely under the new pact. Finally, there's Qlusters, founded in 2001, which produces OpenQRM for provisioning and managing data center servers. It added virtual server management to its capabilities in the latest release. Time to toss out your Tivoli? Probably not--no one's all that eager to rip out big commercial systems, and the open source management systems often work alongside existing commercial systems. Look instead for the open source systems to keep nibbling away, starting in places where open source code is implemented.

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