Startup launches network management software

Startup Zenoss Tuesday made available an updated version of its free open source network and systems monitoring software that the company says now includes enterprise-ready features and support packages.

Zenoss Core 1.0, downloaded some 50,000 times in the past 120 days, is software available under the Mozilla public license that monitors network devices, operating systems, applications, servers , environment and power supplies for health and availability. The software, an agent-less system that is available as a single download, is now backed with support offerings from Zenoss, which range from typical tech support to dedicated customer support personnel. Zenoss, founded in August 2005, emerged as IT managers began to embrace open source, but needed more than a point product for enterprise management, says company co-founder and CEO Bill Karpovich.

"In many cases, open source products are slimmed down versions of commercial software. Our product started as open source and we made it capable of managing the entire IT stack," Karpovich says. "We made sure there is a complete product that can be downloaded for free."

The software, first launched in February as a beta offering, can also provide Layer 3 topology maps that reveal the relationships among managed elements. Once downloaded to a Microsoft Windows (using the company's VMware appliance) or Red Hat Linux server, Core 1.0 uses industry standard protocols such as SNMP and syslog to collect management data from devices. It also uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to gather data from Windows systems.

This release includes a few key modules that collect inventory and configuration data, monitor for availability and performance, manage events and alert network managers. One feature, the event management capability, Karpovich has dubbed the "open source Netcool" because it is able to correlate events, filter those that are non-issues and reduce the overall noise for IT managers. Core 1.0 also includes remote management features that enable IT managers to tap remote servers through the use of Zen Plug-ins. The various capabilities come with the download, but he explains customers can choose to use them all or just one, depending on their needs.

"People can start with a specific module and ease into using the entire product, but it has a complete set of features," he says.

For Jim Stalder, CIO at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Zenoss came onto the scene at just the right time. The US$40 million organization has some 800 devices to monitor and had outgrown its WhatsUp Gold implementation, but without a development staff, Stalder says he wasn't sure open source without support was right for Mercy.

"The company's model for support was one reason we felt comfortable going with open source," he says. "We were jumping off into an area that was largely unknown and we didn't have the expertise in-house to help us. But with this, even though it's open source, we weren't ever left hanging in the wind."

He says his organization, which started using the software earlier this year, is in the process of upgrading to Core 1.0 and plans to continue on with the software. With the fast pace at which Mercy rolls out new clinical applications, he says Zenoss' approach to enterprise management is a good fit for his organization.

"We didn't have to make a big upfront investment and we work weekly sometimes daily with Zenoss on how we need the software to work for us," Stalder says.

Mercy also fits the mid-market sweet spot Zenoss is targeting with the Core 1.0 release. "We see an opportunity in companies with between 50 and 2,000 devices," Karpovich says.

Zenoss would compete with Ipswitch, Solarwinds, Hyperic and GroundWork Open Source, but Karpovich says because it is one of the founding members of the Open Management Consortium, it strives to provide software that can work with existing products.

"Open source is getting to the point of maturity that people are realizing there are professional open source products with real management teams behind them and they need to integrate with them," he says.

Open source Zenoss Core 1.0 has a user community, currently supported via the company's corporate site. A dedicated community site is currently under development and will soon be announced. The company offers two flavors of support, which start at US$75 per year per device.

Zenoss Core 1.0 is available for download.

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