Laying the Groundwork for OS Systems Management

The systems management space has been dominated by proprietary vendors like IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView for years, though in recent years open source upstarts are trying to make a dent. Among those upstarts are GroundWork and Hyperic, both of whom are out this week with new product releases.

For GroundWork, the new release is GroundWork Monitor 5.2 as well as a new Enterprise Edition that can scale to up to 10,000 servers. The Enterprise Edition complements GroundWork’s existing Professional and Community Editions.

GroundWork Monitor first took the stage nearly two years ago as an integrated suite of open source systems management tools, including the popular Nagios network monitoring tool.

With the 5.2 release, GroundWork is adding new auto configuration and discovery functionality as well as improved reporting features.

According to David Dennis, senior director of product marketing at GroundWork the key competitor is HP’s OpenView. Dennis noted that they rarely run into other vendors in competitive situations except for IBM Tivoli. “The lion’s share of market is HP OpenView and that is where we feel we offer the biggest benefit for the customer,” Dennis said.

On the other end of the spectrum is open source systems management vendor Hyperic who is also out with a new release this week. Hyperic HQ 3.2 includes a new plug-in architecture which is intended to make the entire platform more extensible.

“Largely this is a wrapper or extension of our APIs that is more accessible/friendly to our users,” Paul Melmon, senior vice president of engineering at Hyperic told “However, due to its modular design and ease of use, it has changed our engineering development patterns. We can develop faster, and provide additional components of functionality independent of the core HQ management platform.”

For Melmon, the principal competition isn’t necessarily HP OpenView or IBM Tivoli. Rather, it’s the build-versus-buy issue. Melmon argued that most of Hyperic’s users have built their own Web-based applications using a broad array of components, open source or otherwise. The mentality is since it’s so custom, it needs a custom management approach as well.

“So, they turn to their own scripts or a hybrid of other open source basics like Nagios,” Melmon said. “As they scale and change becomes more frequent, these homegrown tools become brittle and require a lot of maintenance. This is when they find Hyperic and realize that we can help them lower their cost of service by providing a tailored, flexible and scalable monitoring and management solution.”

That’s not say that Hyperic is being in some way being hurt by the efforts of GroundWork and other in the open source space and that they don’t all compete in some way. Melmon commented that GroundWork is hitting the streets talking about doing the same things traditional monitoring frameworks do, but at some fraction of the cost.

“They are appealing to a mid-market group of folks that are looking for cheap alternatives, and that has its place,” Melmon said.

Melmon added that the other open source efforts including GroundWork and Zenoss are typically not directed toward the same users that are attracted to Hyperic and that’s why they generally don’t see other open source systems management vendors in deals.

“However, the collective momentum in Open Source is all good for helping IT folks gain confidence that there is real momentum and real alternatives to find in open source,” Melmon said. “Call it positive karma of being in a broader group of open source systems management vendors that have good options for each of their target demographics.”

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