I have to admit that Zabbix was a new one to me, and like several other open source monitoring setups require quite a bit of Linux know how to get up and running correctly, but thankfully there is a readily available virtual machine (VMWare format) you can download to try it out, or even run it full time from should you choose to (see bottom of article for download link), so, given the time I had to look over the system this was the option I chose.
Zabbix has been around for almost 6 years now and follows the pattern of most *nix based network monitoring solutions in that it is run via a web GUI. It supports detection and monitoring via SNMP, TCP (ping) and ICMP. The VM was very easy to setup and configure and once up and running you are faced with a rather industrial interface, which, it must be said it rather non-intuitive, and it’s default dashboard page in the fresh install shows only the stats from the local Zabbix installation itself. Clicking on the ‘discovery’ tab underneath the ‘Monitoring’ link revealed nothing at first, and so a quick trip to ‘Configuration’ was in order I thought. Within here was a tab marked ‘Hosts’ and I thought this would probably be the best place for me to start. This is where the little niggly problems with Zabbix started to come to light. I was presented with a page listing no hosts and it took me a while to find the ‘Add host’ button. It was hidden under the status updates that appear on the right hand side of the screen.
Once found I was on my way. Now, you can have Zabbix auto-discover clients on your network (although I never once got this feature to work) or you can create them manually, as I was pushed for time and wanted the configuration done correctly I chose the manual option. Creating a host is quite simple. Give it a name, add it to a group if you wish (I chose ‘Discovered hosts’ by default), DNS name, IP address and then you can link it to a template. This is where the bells and whistles are added. Temples are preconfigured monitoring rules and save a lot of time and effort as they will automatically configure your client within Zabbix. For example, if I were to create a Windows host I would then add the Template_Windows template as part of the setup and then Zabbix would know exactly what to scan the host for as part of its jobs. You can also fill out a profile for the machine containing its MAC address, serial number and other details. Using this method it didn’t take me long to list the meagre resources of the Edugeek office LAN with Zabbix. You can also install a Zabbix client to Windows and Linux/Unix clients by creating a configuration file and installing it as a service via command line, however as I was just getting an overview of the system and it utilises SNMP this was all the information I was currently requiring.
The Edugeek office devices being monitored by Zabbix.
It was after I had completed all of these steps and saw information coming into Zabbix that I began to lose patience with it. It wasn’t just that it could ‘see’ my clients, but not show them on the network map until I found that I had to manually add each client to a map and configure it (a very time consuming process), or that trying to create custom screens/graphs and reports sometimes leads you to dead ends, or that it was at one point reporting an error that too many users were connected to the Zabbix server (myself and 9 client devices!?) it is simply let down by a lack of usability and ease of workflow.
Applying a template to a host (monitored device).
Yes, you can sit down and read through the readily available documentation, but for many of the tasks you want to do you shouldn’t have to, but it is quite apparent that Zabbix, due to its scale needs quite a bit of configuring by the end user to get working correctly, and given that many newer network monitoring packages out there do not I found myself wanting to shy away from it. By all means do not discount it as a choice as it does work, and very well once configured, but given the size of networks we manage there are better choices given the amount of time you would have to spend getting Zabbix up and running.
Creating a network map in Zabbix.
- Lots of configuration options
- Not as fiddly as some Linux based monitoring systems to setup
- Takes a lot of work setting up devices to be monitored
- Clients required for more in depth monitoring of servers/computers
Download from: www.zabbix.com
Download VM from: www.zabbix.com/download.php