• An EduGeek Roundup of Free Network Monitoring Tools

    ZenOSS Core
    Zenoss Core is the open source version of the commercial Zenoss product and for the purpose of this review I’m running it from a preconfigured CentOS virtual machine I had downloaded from them to run on my Windows desktop. The main system however is only available to Linux and Mac users if you wish to create a ‘real’ instance of the software.


    The ZenOSS login screen.

    Setting up and logging onto the web based GUI for the first time was a doddle with a step-by-step wizard to hold your hand in creating a user account and telling ZenOSS to automatically discover any network devices it can find. Once completed you are then taken you to the main dashboard screen. This screen is configurable and once you get rid of the annoying Google Maps ‘portal’ with Its message telling you that you need a Google Maps API key to use it (and let’s face it, if you have a single site LAN to manage then the last thing you will require is a map of the entire planet) you can place other portals within it giving you the information you actually require. Unfortunately it didn’t quite give me the kind of information I would have wanted in many of these.


    Monitoring a port on the office switch.

    Once the automatic device discovery was complete, I once more had to manually add a few devices and was more than a bit dismayed to find that Netgear had no pre-defined entry as other hardware/software manufacturers had and so had to create one myself.
    I also noted that the local network ‘map’ was not very configurable and it laid out all of the devices in a circle around a central network cloud which then would not allow me to lay them out in any kind of logical order. There is also an extensive library of ‘zenpacks’, plugins to cater for specific hardware, applications and operating systems, to expand the functionality of the system.


    The ZenOSS network maps are quite basic.

    All in all, ZenOSS Core contained all of the features I would expect to see in a well-developed network monitoring package, although it just didn’t have the kind of user friendly ‘flow’ and intuitiveness I would have liked to have seen in such a higher end open-source project and playing ‘hunt the feature’ every few minutes leads me to think it needs a tad more work to get the layout and work-flow right. It’s a good, fully featured and well written piece of software; just don’t expect to be able to use it without referring to the user guide or the ‘How-to’ videos which can be found on their homepage on a regular basis.

    Pros

    • Powerful
    • Lots of configuration options
    • Instructional videos on their web site


    Cons

    • Takes some learning and you still have to deal with Linux via a shell at times
    • Lots of configuration to do
    • Not all devices supported in default/initial configuration.


    Operating systems: Linux, Mac
    Download from: www.zenoss.org
    Download VM: www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/155743

    Comments 17 Comments
    1. pete's Avatar
      pete -
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out OSSIM: (Snort, Ntop, OpenVAS, P0f, Pads, Arpwatch, OSSEC, Osiris, Nagios and OCS rolled into one).

      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM
      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM

      Which, if you're thinking of an all-in-one setup, is pretty handy because it handles intrusion detection and auditing too.
    1. mattx's Avatar
      mattx -
      Spooky........ I was just re-configuring The Dude on an old laptop.....
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out OSSIM: (Snort, Ntop, OpenVAS, P0f, Pads, Arpwatch, OSSEC, Osiris, Nagios and OCS rolled into one).

      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM
      OSSIM, the Open Source SIEM

      Which, if you're thinking of an all-in-one setup, is pretty handy because it handles intrusion detection and auditing too.
      I'm sure you will be the first of many to suggest tools I have missed out, but OSSIM is promoted primarily as a security tool rather than a monitoring tool. I shall keep it in mind though as a network security tools article could be interesting.
    1. glennda's Avatar
      glennda -
      For Free tools Zabbix is brilliant. For paid software's I have used GFI Max and more recently N-Able's NCentral but this is more geared towards MSP's market.
    1. pete's Avatar
      pete -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
      I'm sure you will be the first of many to suggest tools I have missed out, but OSSIM is promoted primarily as a security tool rather than a monitoring tool. I shall keep it in mind though as a network security tools article could be interesting.
      If you want a review of Ossec, we've been using it for a few years now.
    1. DMcCoy's Avatar
      DMcCoy -
      Bonus points for any that can report status back to a server via http proxy....
    1. glennda's Avatar
      glennda -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMcCoy View Post
      Bonus points for any that can report status back to a server via http proxy....
      N-central can I presume Zabbix can as I believe it uses the linux system proxy but don't use it anymore.

      EDIT: N-Central isnt free
    1. Jamo's Avatar
      Jamo -
      For completeness have you had a look at cacti?

      For long term network monitoring and base-lining I don't think it can be beat! Its also much kinder on resources than the larger solutions like spiceworks which really hammer the server its running on!
    1. matt40k's Avatar
      matt40k -
      Do not run the monitor solution on your virtual platform. How will it be able to alert you to a problem with the virtual infrastructure if it's running on it!
    1. localzuk's Avatar
      localzuk -
      One thing I'd say - if you want to use Nagios, take a look at NConf. Web based setup for it, makes life very easy!
    1. browolf's Avatar
      browolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
      ....at the risk of the comments thread turning into a "Oi, what about......?"

      You missed out
      I also vote
      Cacti - Cacti® - The Complete RRDTool-based Graphing Solution
      kind of like nagios but a 1000 times easier.
    1. soapyfish's Avatar
      soapyfish -
      I am torn between MRTG and Cacti for monitoring network traffic per port on my switches. I prefer to use Nagios3 for everything else, when combined with NRPE. so I can monitor internal systems processes on windows servers as well as external services. I get alerts when things are down and warnings in advance of failure for most things. I am also able to monitor printers and get advance warnings of low toner and drum problems so I can ensure that I have parts in stock. Nagios is abit tricky to configure but its easily worth it. I have used the historical record it provides to illustrate to SLT that there is a need to replace hardware. There is also alot of free plugins for nagios. I especially like the "Check_Procurve_loop" plugin so that I can quickly and easily locate network loops when the students decide to swap network cables around... The other bit of software not mentioned so far is "Smokeping" which gives really nice latency graphs between the server and any other device. I use this to monitor the quality of the schools internet connection as well as the performance of the internal LAN.
    1. oalcock's Avatar
      oalcock -
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
    1. oalcock's Avatar
      oalcock -
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
      This was very thick of me, just read the title of this feed again and realised this isn't anything specific, I can see download links in other fellow edugeeker's comments.
    1. Steve21's Avatar
      Steve21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by oalcock View Post
      I apologise in advance if this is very thick of me, but I am struggling to find the download link??? Can anybody assist? Thanks.
      For which one?

      Steve
    1. Fazza's Avatar
      Fazza -
      I just installed The Dude the other day on what is now our System Monitoring PC and within a few minutes I was monitoring our 50+ servers! Very quick and easy to install and setup with no messing about.
    1. junaid's Avatar
      junaid -
      Unauthorised advertising.
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