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Rollout: Zenoss Core

The Upshot

The open-source Zenoss Core aims to be a complete systems-management tool for small and midsize enterprises. Its interface is well-thought-out, and though the standard version gets you only so much--basic SNMP, WMI, XML-RPC and NRPE (Nagios Remote Plug-In Executor) monitoring--you can add modules to expand capabilities. Zenoss also offers support and scalable appliance versions of the product.
Zenoss Core will provide far more integrated management versus implementing separate open-source software packages. We found it easier to use than Nagios, and its interface is a step above those in GroundWork Monitor Professional or Hyperic HQ. Even with support and hardware costs, Zenoss boasts a competitive price point. As a bonus, there's an active community built around Zenoss' Core software.
Zenoss Core 2.0 delivers on monitoring, and we were pleased with the Web 2.0 interface and that appliance versions and native WMI integration are available. Still, Core is open source and took some getting used to. Linux expertise, while not a requirement, will make your life easier. Zenoss Core lacks context-sensitive help, and some users will end up reading lots of FAQs or posting queries to the community.

Zenoss Core

Finally, enlightenment. In 2007, the percentage of IT organizations that consider open-source management and monitoring tools viable for enterprise use broke the 50-percent mark, according to a Gartner report. This awakening is attributable to vendors that are packaging open-source software monitoring tools with solid technical support to supplement active developer communities. Zenoss' Linux-based Core 2.0 is indicative of this trend. Through "ZenPacks," it offers integration with conventional enterprise systems, including Microsoft Exchange, and a spiffy new Ajax interface that places a multitude of configuration options at IT's fingertips.

Zenoss is putting space between itself and rivals selling enterprise-level support for OSS management products, such as the Java-based Hyperic HQ and open-source tool integrator GroundWork Monitor. The biggest differentiator: Zenoss' approach to organizing the vast amount of information needed to properly monitor a network.

Zenoss Core is freely available as a straight software download to install on your own Linux box or VMware image. The company also offers the product on two appliances; the $3,995 version handles as many as 250 nodes, while the $7,995 device manages 1,000. Support contracts start at $4,200 annually for 50 devices and go up from there. With a support contract come enterprise software ZenPacks to monitor Microsoft Exchange and SQL, as well as the ZenWeb ZenPack, for Web site testing. Even with only one Zenoss server we discovered, modeled and tracked hundreds of devices at our University of Wisconsin Real-World Labs® without any difficulty.

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