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Open source network monitoring reaches for the enterprise

Shamus McGillicuddy
Large companies are increasingly looking to open source tools to help them manage and monitor their networks.

GroundWork Open Source responded to that trend this week by announcing a new enterprise-class version of its product, GroundWork Monitor.

GroundWork's senior director of product marketing, David Dennis, said his company saw an upsurge in enterprise-class

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subscriptions to its technology in 2007. Last year, 30% of the company's installed base upgraded their subscriptions to enterprise-class. And 58% of subscription revenue came from enterprise-class deployments.

"Last year, we had started selling modular add-ons to GroundWork Monitor Professional that were really designed for people who were in distributed, enterprise-class environments," Dennis said. "Those add-ons were things like child servers that you could use in distributed environments."

With enterprise subscriptions growing so rapidly, GroundWork decided that selling these advanced features a la carte was no longer feasible. So the company announced the release of GroundWork Monitor Enterprise.

"We were getting pull from the enterprise to make official what we had been doing in a piecemeal fashion throughout 2007," Dennis said.

GroundWork says its customer base now includes multi-billion-dollar firms such as Siemens, Boeing, AOL, Hitachi and Williams Sonoma, along with some large government organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security and the state of Oregon.

For more on open source networking tools
GroundWork Open Source introduces enterprise systems management tools

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Learning Guide: Open source network tools

GroundWork Monitor Enterprise now includes support for monitoring thousands of devices in a distributed environment. It has a modular design and distributed configuration support. It has several capacity and network management options, such as advanced network discovery, traffic graphing, protocol analysis, networking mapping, child servers, distributed monitoring agents and standby server.

GroundWork has also announced version 5.2 of its overall GroundWork Monitor family of products, which includes the new enterprise version and the long-standing GroundWork Professional edition. This new version includes an enhanced network operations center (NOC) console designed to handle large message volumes, find critical information quickly via filters, and search capabilities and respond to events directly from the console.

Enterprises are looking for low-cost capabilities whenever they have system management holes, according to Stephen Elliot, research manager for enterprise systems management software at IDC.

"It's a growing area of opportunity, especially for firms that have staff expertise with open source," Elliot said. "It's more of a slow wave that's building in terms of the opportunity and the growth."

Elliot said there are pockets of interest from the enterprise market in open source tools like GroundWork to supplement existing commercial tools that are not fully utilized.

"Certainly where companies have a good amount of staff resources in open source and are comfortable with that, those folks are starting to mine out and consider where are areas they can save money by utilizing open source more effectively," Elliot said. "That's certainly growing, and the economic situation in America is certainly putting more pressure on that. The demand is growing, but it's still small in comparison to the broader market."

Dennis said GroundWork isn't trying to compete directly against the "Big Four" of system and network management vendors: HP OpenView, IBM Tivoli, BMC Patrol and CA Unicenter.

"We're actually competing specifically against subsets of their portfolios, against things like OpenView Operations, the monitoring and event management pieces. We're not competing against the help desk or the CMDBs," Dennis said. "People are looking specifically at the monitoring and system event management piece and realizing that there are viable open source alternatives."

Sam Lamonica, CIO of engineering and general contracting firm Rudolph and Sletten, has been a GroundWork customer for years. When he joined his firm five years ago, his first order of business was to roll out GroundWork.

"One of the first things I like to do when I come to a new opportunity is to stabilize the infrastructure so that it quiets down all the wire noise about systems failing," he said. "I needed a systems monitoring tool so I could get to root causes and stabilize infrastructure."

Lamonica needed something to assess the company's troubled network that could be brought into production quickly and affordably. He said he was able to implement GroundWork at his company within three months at 25% of the cost of mainstream commercial tools. And he said keeping GroundWork up and running requires only 25% of the staff required by mainstream tools.

Lamonica estimates that his company's system was operating at between 68% and 70% availability when he first took over. That's his best guess, since his firm had little in the way of networking monitoring technology. Once he installed GroundWork, he was able to evaluate his infrastructure.

"The entire infrastructure was kind of a hodgepodge of systems that had been fit together by the last guy and none of them integrated with any of the others," he said. "So the network was the biggest point of failure."

With GroundWork, he was able to evaluate his network. Ultimately, he upgraded the entire network. He's now running at 99.9% availability.


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