Network and IT management platforms
The network is the central nervous system of the modern enterprise -- complex and indispensable. Keeping tabs on how that enterprise is functioning requires a sophisticated "big picture" management system that can successfully integrate with other network and IT products. Unfortunately, many products in this category are just too expensive for any but the largest companies (with the most generous IT budgets) to afford.
Enter OpenNMS, the gold medal winner in our network and IT management platforms category. The open source enterprise-grade network management system was designed as a replacement for more expensive commercial products such as IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView. It periodically checks that services are available, isolates problems, collects performance information, and helps resolve outages. And it's free.
In our Product Leadership survey, readers praised OpenNMS for being easy to customize, easy to integrate and -- of course -- free. These attributes are all characteristic of any open source product. Because of its open source nature, OpenNMS has a community of developers contributing to its code. The code is open for anyone to view or adapt to suit individual needs.
Consequently, users can customize OpenNMS in ways that are limited only by their abilities and imagination -- not by licensing restraints. One reader said, "It is an open source product, so we can customize it easily." With traditional proprietary products, it may be difficult to find one piece of software that can manage the network effectively for every enterprise, but OpenNMS was designed to allow users to add management features over time. Its intentional compatibility with other open source (and proprietary) products provides seamless integration, requiring less piecemeal coding to fit things together.
Users of OpenNMS can also take advantage of the user community accessible through the OpenNMS Web site for answers to questions and help in troubleshooting problems. While one survey respondent remarked that "open source is advancing slowly to address some of the manageability issues," members of the OpenNMS mailing list are quick to answer any request with a friendly, knowledgeable response. For companies whose IT personnel are not afraid of an unconventional approach, the open source community provides support that is just as reliable as that of a commercial vendor -- and in many cases, more helpful.
But OpenNMS is not a "you get what you pay for" product, either. Readers said it "works great" and "significantly helped our network's bandwidth and packet management and controlled 'rogue' clients." Others found that it "works fine for a small business network" and is an "outstanding option." Even those whose experience was less positive found that any challenges were surmountable, such as the reader who said, "Since it's free, it was worth the effort."