Management vendors debut open source wares

AlterPoint, DeviceAuthority and ZipTie release open source software to ease network administration

The selection of open source software available to network managers just got a little bigger, as three companies separately unveiled tools geared for change and configuration management, systems monitoring and server management.

AlterPoint last week launched ZipTie, a free open source project that provides access to the source code for the vendor's DeviceAuthority Suite under the Mozilla Public License.

DeviceAuthority automates a discovery process, which reports back hardware and software configuration data from every device to be managed. Network administrators can then set policies and rules that the software can enforce.

ZipTie, a name loosely based on network managers' desire to tie together many components in their environments, is a client-side application that can be downloaded to a Windows or Linux machine. It features device discovery and backup, configuration comparison, change detection, and a set of tools for performing administrative functions on network devices such as routers, switches and firewalls.

AlterPoint plans in the first quarter of next year to offer a support package with its ZipTie application. The vendor also has launched an open source community to get IT managers working together on the challenges of heterogeneous network change and configuration management.

Industry watchers say AlterPoint is primarily trying to bring in customers through an open source door, but the proven technology could benefit IT managers with limited budgets.

"It is worth a look, certainly for comparison's sake," says Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst with IDC. "It really depends on the level of functionality and the level of support. Both have to be communicated clearly for customers to take it seriously."

Meanwhile start-up Zenoss last week made available an updated version of its free open source network and systems monitoring software. Zenoss Core 1.0 is now backed with support offerings from Zenoss, which start at US$75 per year, per device, and range from typical tech support to dedicated customer support personnel.

The software, first launched in February as a beta offering, monitors network devices, operating systems, applications, servers, environment and power supplies for health and availability. New to the Version 1.0 are modules that collect inventory and configuration data, monitor for availability and performance and tackle event management capability. Core 1.0 includes remote management features.

For Jim Stalder, CIO at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Zenoss came appeared just the right time. The US$40 million organization has some 800 devices to monitor and had outgrown its WhatsUp Gold implementation, but without a development staff, Stalder says he wasn't sure open source without support was right for Mercy.

"The company's model for support was one reason we felt comfortable going with open source," he says. "We were jumping off into an area that was largely unknown, and we didn't have the expertise in-house to help us. But with this, even though it's open source, we weren't ever left hanging in the wind."

He says his organization, which started using the software earlier this year, is in the process of upgrading to Core 1.0 and plans to continue on with the software. With the fast pace at which Mercy rolls out new clinical applications, he says Zenoss' approach to enterprise management is a good fit for his organization.

"We didn't have to make a big upfront investment, and we work weekly sometimes daily with Zenoss on how we need the software to work for us," Stalder says.

Following on the heels of AlterPoint and Zenoss, Qlusters, an open source server-management vendor, is slated this week to make available two plug-ins to its openQRM resource management software.

The plug-ins for Dell Remote Assistant Card and HP Integrated Lights Out enable openQRM users to perform out-of-band management functions on Dell and HP servers, says Will Hurley, CTO of Qlusters. The company plans to add similar plug-ins for products from out-of-band management vendors such as Avocent.

"DRAC and iLO are built into the servers and enable systems administrators to reboot servers with a hard freeze, or repower them remotely," Hurley explains. "With these plug-ins, they can tap into DRAC and iLO on those servers from the OpenQRM platform."

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