Windows Networking: Three Top NMS Picks
Three affordable network management packages, two of them open source, provide powerful tools for Windows networkers.
As we covered in our overview of SNMP and Windows, SNMP is used to monitor the availability of network devices ranging from routers to switches to servers or client devices. Ideally, it is better to identify a network failure yourself before your boss comes knocking to your door. Along with a number of other methods, SNMP is implemented by network management software to check the status of network devices.
High-end network management software like HP’s OpenView, or IBM’s Tivoli NetView is better suited to be deployed in a large enterprise space, but here we’ll introduce some other open source and commercial network management providers which work better (in terms of pricing) for small to mid-size businesses. The software we’ll discuss supports easy installation on a Windows-based machine, so Nagios, Zenoss and Zabbix are off the list.
We should also address a common misconception among people who maintain “if it’s open source, it’s not scalable and it is not enterprise-class software.” This is not true. OpenNMS and Hyperic, two of the three we’re covering, are deployed in large enterprises.
Let’s start with the open source alternative. OpenNMS’ developers claim it’s the world’s first enterprise-grade network management platform developed under the open source model. OpenNMS was first released in 2000, and its goal is “to be […] fully distributed, scalable for all aspects of the FCAPS network management model.”
OpenNMS focuses on 3 different areas:
- Service Polling: Determines whether the service is alive or dead.
- Data Collection: Collect, store and report on network information.
- Event and Notification Management: Collect or trap events to feed a robust notification system.
OpenNMS supports all versions of SNMP, inclusive of SNMPv3 which supports authentication. OpenNMS, just like any other standard network management software, supports the discovery or monitoring of common services like DHCP, DNS, HTTP, POP3, Oracle, and even competing products like Hyperic Agent and Hyperic HQ (such a gentleman). OpenNMS can generate network maps viewable with Adobe SVG viewer.
OpenNMS is built using Java, thus it can be installed on any machine running Java 1.4. OpenNMS is developed under the open source model, and is free for commercial use. Paid commercial support or professional services are available for enterprises that rely on OpenNMS.
Open source Hyperic is freely downloadable without any licensing costs. Hyperic was founded in 2004, and is now widely used by big corporate outfits like CNET Networks, hi5 Networks, Ask.com, Contegix, Rackspace’s Mosso and more.
Unlike OpenNMS, Hyperic has 2 versions available — Hyperic HQ, which is the open source version; or Hyperic HQ Enterprise, which is subscription-based and provides additional enterprise level features along with expert support.
Hyperic extends monitoring to include software and hardware asset inventory. It also allows monitoring of multiple layers of the infrastructure from hardware to network and application layers. The unique feature which differentiates Hyperic is the ability to customize the view of Hyperic to best manage the customer’s environment, allowing administrators to zero in on aspects of the infrastructure that they want to monitor.
Hyperic HQ Server runs on Windows XP or Server 2003, Linux, Solaris 8 or higher and HP-UX. Hyperic HQ Agent runs on Mac OS X, AIX, FreeBSD and all the supported platforms of Hyperic HQ Server.
Hyperic HQ is free. Depending on the customer’s environment, Hyperic’s sales team will quote you a price for Hyperic HQ Enterprise version.
Intermapper by Dartware
Intermapper is just another network management package, but instead of using a Web-based console Intermapper needs to be installed on a supported operating system. Because it does not rely on providing information through the Web browser, Intermapper’s network maps provide at-a-glance visibility of device status and real-time traffic network flow. Icons are color-coded to show which network devices are overloaded, or having troubles. In addition, animated traffic “ants” make heavy network traffic flow patterns obvious.
By using a software-based implementation of network management software, it allows cool graphical output of the status of the entire network. This allows for live network maps. It’s easier to catch network issues by just looking at the pretty maps, and identifying the problem can be done by interacting with the maps. Surprisingly, IPv6 is also supported. However I find that it’s not as flexible and robust as OpenNMS and Hyperic HQ. Tracking performance is not as easy to configure, either.
Intermapper has been tested to run on Windows 2000 and above, which includes Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003. Mac OS X 10.4, Solaris SPARC, Linux and FreeBSD are also supported.
Intermapper is quite affordable. Monitoring up to 25 devices will only set you back $495. For every additional of 20 devices, it will cost $325. The license comes with a one-year maintenance contract, which includes support.
There are a lot of other network management tools out there, and here we’re only listing three that are better suited for small- to mid-size businesses. See the sidebar “NMS Alternatives” for past Enterprise Networking Planet coverage of other network management tools.