Nagios XI Review

Nagios for IT Infrastructure Monitoring


I managed a web design and hosting company several years ago. When we began to experience the first of many growth spurts, we were adding servers to our infrastructure at a rate of one to three servers per quarter. Knowing the details about what was happening on all of those servers, as well as the applications and infrastructure in general, quickly became my primary concern and responsibility.

I consulted with the Datacenter staff and other hosting professionals regarding server monitoring, and the application most recommended was Nagios. But along with the recommendation, came the warnings that Nagios might be a pain in the ass to setup and maintain. Back then, when Nagios was in its infancy, the warnings were quite appropriate! But the flexibility that it offered and the intelligence that it returned made editing the countless configuration files well worth it! Today there are many books and videos that explain Nagios' installation and configuration in detail, and self-paced training is available by subscription for only $200 per year.

Nagios streamlines the overall monitoring of Ping, Power and Pipe, while paying specific attention to areas like: CPU, Memory, Disks, SNMP Service, Network Switches, Routers, Firewalls, Services, DNS, DHCP, Active Directory, Exchange Services, HTTP Status, FTP Status, OpenManage Status, Total Running Processes, Programs running on servers and other host resources and application states.

The system can be extended with customized host and service checks. It includes e-mail, pager, and other notification features, and a web interface streamlines access to network status, problem history, and log information.

Nagios is a Linux platform product. Nagios Enterprise also provides clients with open source Nagios development, customization, integration, and optimization services. Originally created under the name NetSaint, the Nagios application was written and is currently maintained by Ethan Galstad, along with a group of developers actively maintaining both official and unofficial plugins.

Nagios Key Strengths

  • Nagios is a popular open source network monitoring software application. It watches hosts and services, alerting users when things go wrong and again when they get better.
  • Nagios is the industry standard in enterprise-class monitoring for good reason. It allows you to gain insight into your network and infrastructure and fix problems before customers know they even exist. It’s stable, scalable, supported, and extensible.
  • In many data center environments, Nagios has become the de facto standard for companies in need of an open source, fault-tolerant solution to monitor single points of failure, service-level agreement (SLA) shortcomings, servers, redundant communication connections or environmental factors.
  • Nagios has been downloaded more than 660,000 times since 2001. More than any other application, the Nagios open source components are in use by more than 50 open source customers—and the number is rapidly growing. A powerful and flexible monitoring tool, Nagios has nearly limitless configuration options, making installation and configuration a dynamic, robust proposition for systems administrators.
  • Nagios Enterprise offers professional support services for Nagios. Working in combination with its partners, Nagios can provide you and your organization with access to a variety of support options for Nagios, including Installation support, Incident-based support, 24×7 support contracts, and Customized support plans.

Software Highlights

  • Supports Comprehensive Network Monitoring for Windows, Linux/Unix, routers, switches, firewalls, printers, services, and applications.
  • Gives you Immediate awareness and insight, letting you receive immediate notifications of problems via email, pager and cell phone.
  • Provides problem remediation that lets you acknowledge problems through web interface and automatically restart failed applications.
  • Supports proactive planning, letting you schedule downtime for anticipated host, service, and network upgrades.
  • Offers robust reporting options, including SLA availability reports, alert and notification history reports, and trending analysis.
  • Offers multi-tenant/multi-user capabilities, multiple users can access the web interface.
  • Provides smooth, easy integration with your existing applications.
  • Delivers a stable, reliable, and respected platform.

We live in a “plug & play” world where people expect instant results. Nagios is not a “plug & play” application. Every Data Center is different. We have volumes of “Best Practices” to guide us in the design and management of our facilities. The shear diversity of devices and applications that make up our ever changing Infrastructure requires an application with a great deal of flexibility if it is to succeed at monitoring and reporting on the status of everything in our environments.

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” Nagios is not difficult to install. It is not difficult to configure. It is not difficult to maintain. The key to deploying a successful Nagios installation is planning. Deploying Nagios is not a one person task, but a project requiring the involvement of one or more departments within your organization.

You need to have a thorough understanding of your Infrastructure:

  • What hardware do you need to monitor?
  • Can the hardware be classified into specific groups?
  • Can the services being provided by the hardware be classified into specific groups?
  • How many locations do you need to monitor? Nagios can be configured to provide distributed monitoring.
  • Which people are to be assigned the responsibility of addressing issues belonging to each specific hardware group?
  • Which people are to be assigned the responsibility of addressing issues belonging to each specific service group?
  • Do you have up-to-date contact information, including e-mail, mobile phone and home phone numbers?
  • What will be the notification hierarchy? Who will get notified first, who will get notified next?
  • Will you need to integrate with your trouble ticket and request handling system? Nagios integrates well with OTRS, RT, OSTicket, iTop, Service-Now.com and Atlassian JIRA.
  • Are you considering using SNMP to query the status of your devices? If so, you need to investigate which MIBs will be required for each piece of hardware, and whether or not they will return the information that you are seeking.

Deploying an Enterprise Monitoring System is a complex project. Your choice to use Nagios, or Nagios-based applications, versus applications like Zenoss, Zabbix, OpenNMS, Cacti, Ganglia or Munin should be based on how well each is able to meet all of your requirements, rather than how easy it is to deploy.

Other considerations should be:

  • How easy is it to get support?
  • How active and up-to-date are the on-line communities?
  • How much information and training resources are available?
  • How easy is it to move from the Open Source to the Commercial version?
  • Will it deliver the data in all of the forms and formats that are required?
  • Will it integrate with your existing applications like Splunk, Jira, OTRS, Puppet, OpsGenie or Active Directory?
  • How extensible is the application? How easily does it adapt to change?

Clearly, there is a lot of consideration and planning involved before reaching a decision regarding your best choice for Enterprise Monitoring. Choosing such a critical component for your Infrastructure shouldn't be easy, like Senate confirmation hearings shouldn't be easy. We all want the right man for the job, and we'll ask thousands of questions and leave no stone unturned in our investigations. Nagios is not easy. In most cases however, it is the best tool-set for the job.

Nagios is a great application as it stands for Enterprise Monitoring, and there are several companies that have built their own applications using Nagios at the core. Their products add to an already extensive feature set, while maintaining compatibility with existing Nagios plug-ins. One such company is Opsview. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, with offices in the USA and India, their flagship product smooths out the complexities of deploying Nagios. Opsview is used globally by many enterprise customers including blue chip organizations such as Comcast, BT Plusnet, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Siemens, Allianz, US Army, Irish Revenue and Yale University to name just a few.

All things considered. You should give Nagios and Opsview your full attention. Other companies are, and perhaps one or more of them are amongst your competition, and they couldn't possibly be any smarter than you. Could they?

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
1 Comment
Henry HuangReal UserTOP 20

I spend about 3 weeks vetting through 20+ open source monitoring solutions and at the end of the process, the choices had boiled down to few major ones - OMD (best combination of open source plug-ins put together for Nagios), Zabbix, and Zenoss.

I wrote a blog post describing the experience in more details. I am adding more visual stuff to the post but 80% of the content is there.

http://blog.unicsolution.com/2013/11/best-monitoring-solution-omd-nagios.html

21 December 13
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