Open Source Systems Management Works with i5/OS
Corrected: March 25, 2008
by Alex Woodie
System i shops looking for an open source alternative to the Big Four systems management software providers--BMC, CA, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM--may want to check out GroundWork Open Source, an upstart developer of open source software that already has several System i customers. Today, the company launched a new release of its eponymous GroundWork line, which adds more scalability, capacity, and an easier installation than previous releases.
San Francisco-based GroundWork was founded four years ago to serve the growing market for commercial open source software. Like other commercial open source software developers, GroundWork relies on a community of experts and enthusiasts to create plug-ins and test new releases, which reduces costs, while the company itself develops core functionality and provides the professional technical support that businesses demand. Using this formula, the company hopes to do for the systems management space what Linux, MySQL, and JBoss have done for their IT respective disciplines.
GroundWork's open source systems management product allows users to keep a close watch on their servers and applications, and to receive alerts when something is going wrong. The software collects log data from servers and network devices, and performs event correlation and analysis to determine what is going on. Systems administrators view the situation via slick Web-based event monitoring consoles, status viewers, and reporting dashboards.
"At the lowest level people are using us to maintain uptime and availability," says David Dennis, senior director of product marketing for GroundWork. "When they get over that hurdle and they don't have stuff exploding anymore, they're doing things regarding SLAs [service level agreements] to make sure they hit the performance levels they want to. They will also use us for various performance measures, capacity planning, and sizing measures."
Dennis says GroundWork duplicates a "big chunk" of the Big Four's systems management stacks, and can offer it at about 20 percent of the cost of the Big Four's offerings. About the only thing GroundWork doesn't offer that you'll find in the Big Four's offerings are help desk and asset tracking offerings, he says.
The company is able to undercut its high profile competition because it relies on the open source community to write data collectors, or plug-ins, that work with all the various servers, operating systems, databases, Web application servers, and network devices that you'll commonly find in mid size companies' data centers.
Specifically, GroundWork uses plug-ins from the Ganglia and Nagios open source projects to fill-out its product line. It's a reciprocal relationship, Dennis says, because Nagios and Ganglia lack sophisticated interfaces and management frameworks, which GroundWork provides. Users will find "several scores" of low-level log monitoring plug-ins for OS/400 and AIX at the Nagios Web site, he says.
While customers may have balked a year and a half ago at using open source software to monitor their mission critical applications, that's really not an issue anymore, Dennis says. "The general acceptance of open source in the enterprise has gone up a lot, where people are comfortable with the fact that they can get comparable quality with a lot of open source options," he says.
Today, the company made two announcements, including the launch of GroundWork version 5.2, and the introduction of an enterprise version to go along with the existing free open source version of GroundWork and a professional edition.
Version 5.2 brings more than 50 enhancements, including more automated installation and auto-discovery features. Extensibility and scalability have also been improved with this release. GroundWork also introduced a new event console for monitoring network operations center (NOC) environments.
The new enterprise edition boosts the coverage and scalability of the professional version, which costs $16,000 per year and is limited to running on one Linux server and monitoring up to 1,200 servers or devices. The enterprise edition, which costs $25,000 per year, can be deployed in a distributed model involving numerous Linux servers, and scales up to monitor 10,000 devices, the company says.
GroundWork Professional version 5.2 is available now. For more information, visit www.groundworkopensource.com.
This article has been corrected. GroundWork Enterprise supports up to 10,000 devices, not 100,000. IT Jungle regrets the error.
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