Opmantek NMIS Review

Flexible device polling times and extensible modules are key features for me

What is our primary use case?

We use it as a network monitoring tool, essentially; getting the stats that we need on different interfaces, health reports that we need, depending on the device that we have. That's the main use, generating the SLA at the end of the month.

How has it helped my organization?

The big thing is the event management engine, which is really, really nice to use, and it comes at a reasonable price, unlike some of the competitors like Netcool from IBM. Those kinds of tools are hugely expensive and they come as resource-heavy types of solutions. This obviously doesn't require as much hardware, but it does offer similar benefits where you can manage all the events.

It's quite efficient in terms of polling, so you can actually load the pollers quite a bit, compared to some of the other solutions. It doesn't do bug polling every five minutes, or every minute, or whatever it is that you set the polling for. So that's important. It will do a bug poll once a day - whenever the chron job is set to do the work.

In my case, I prefer to only poll interfaces that have descriptions, and the ones that don't have descriptions, I don't really want to know about them. It does allow for all these bits and pieces and adjustments, and fine tuning to get it to a point where it works for my needs.

What is most valuable?

There are lots of reasons why I'm using it.

The installer itself is basically something that can be used as a no-questions-asked type of installer. I can use it with automation tools like Chef and Puppet. I don't have to answer some random questions. I can worry about all that stuff later on in the configuration.

It allows for variable polling times of devices on the network. Because it's all in text, in general, that obviously makes it easier from the automation perspective as well, to modify configuration on the fly, using Puppet and those kind of tools.

It does have different modules, so you can extend the solution as you need it, or get as little as you need in the beginning, so you don't have to buy a full set of modules. You just buy what you need and expand later on. 

What needs improvement?

These kinds of solutions are more node- or device-based solutions. It would be nice in the future if they could be more data-oriented, so it would be easier for me to pull different stats based on ad-hoc requirements; but in a big, centralized database where I can pull specific things, and mix and match the way I want to.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

For me, it's been rock solid. The only issue that I've had was with my own hardware. I haven't had any problems with instability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I haven't had any scalability problems which, is a big thing. Some of these other solutions, I also find that these are not really scalable.

What makes it easy is the fact that I can run the installer by itself through Puppet. It made it easy for me to spin up another server and add it. It's takes me about an hour to add an additional poller to the network, fully configured with everything that it needs to be doing. Whereas, for example, I've used CA, and it was quite painful. I gave that a good go for three years before I threw it out.

How are customer service and technical support?

I've used technical support for all these different solutions. In my mind, when I log a problem with technical support, I need to get a clear set of steps of what I need to do to resolve the problem. By that point, it's very late in time for me to be messing with things, and I just need a solution. I don't need guidance, necessarily, from tech support.

From Opmantek I get responses pretty fast, depending on the different time zones, because some of it is US, some of it is Australia, some of it is in the UK. Depending on the time zone, it covers, for the most part, 24 hours. I get pretty decent response times.

But, for example, a few years ago, when I was using CA, I had logged multiples of tickets, and they just would hang there with the vendor for like two weeks at a time, or three weeks at a time, before they would get to it. I'd get a response from a person, but I wouldn't get an answer, so it just kind of hung, and I wouldn't get a resolution. 

For me, when I do have a problem, and if I'm being pushed by a client to resolve a problem, I need to know how to fix something within the next eight to ten hours. I can not afford to wait for a week or two for support to come back to me.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I've used Solar Winds. I've used CA. I've used WhatsUp Gold. I've used probably just about anything you want. None of them is perfect.

In terms of selecting a vendor or solution, to be honest, I prefer things that are an open-source solution. But a lot of the companies are a little bit scared of what kind of support you would get from an open-source solution. The next best thing would be something that's in between, which is where Opmantek gives you an MIS, which is an open-source part. It does all the polling and also allows you to adjust  all the things that you might want to fiddle with. But then you also get paid use of the software, which obviously they have more control over, you are paying a license for it. 

The other thing is, obviously, the technical ability of the software to provide the data that I need. Also in terms of resources, what does it take to run a piece of software. Because, for example, on CA, you're probably looking at - just to start up - something like fourteen different servers, which is quite a lot. 

The other stuff is all based on the business requirements and the process.

How was the initial setup?

It's straightforward in the sense that the installer is easy to run and all of that, but it's not straightforward because you need to have your own spec, and what is it you want to achieve. Once you actually start setting it up, and you have a plan, then it's all straightforward essentially, pretty easy to use.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I looked at a few of the open-source options like Nagios. I also looked at Zenoss and a couple of others. And then I also looked at Opmantek as an option where you get a full company sitting behind it, with tech support and all that. You still get the piece of it which is open-source that I can fiddle with and make my own changes, depending on what I need.

What other advice do I have?

I think it compares very well to all the solutions in what it offers. And also I think compared to some of them, it's much more reliable. On the other hand, there are some things that I do need and I am looking to develop, or get these new features, as I said in the "improvements" section above.

When you look at the monitoring, I think the aspects of polling should be controlled by the person that pays for it, for software that has that ability. If I buy something, I need to be able to control some of it by myself without always having to involve someone. If I know what I am doing, I am fine. If I don't, I am happy to get support from them.

With big vendors, you don't really get a lot of leverage in terms of new features. So chances are, once you buy something, you kind of get stuck with it. And the new features are probably a year away at least.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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