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Zenoss adds VMware monitoring to systems management suite

Zenoss Inc. has added VMware monitoring to its systems management suite, conslidating data on virtual and physical systems in a single console.

Zenoss Inc., the Annapolis, Md.-based open source IT systems management company, has released a new version of its enterprise application that integrates monitoring of physical machines and VMware virtual machines (VMs) in the same console. Building on its initial limited foray last year into virtualization monitoring of VMware and Xen-based machines, Zenoss 2.3 taps native VMware application program interfaces (APIs) and its own data modeling tools to pinpoint the location, configuration and state of VMs and track how they change in real time, according to CEO and co-founder Bill Karpovich.

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"With virtualization, there are different relationships and things to be tracked: hosts, guests, metrics and storage," Karpovich said. "Through native VMware APIs [and Zenoss' data modeling], you can get a real-time view of the virtual environment and figure out if something moves."

Zenoss' agentless monitors track physical and virtual resource consumption, performance, availability and real-time migration (i.e., VMware's VMotion). Running natively on Linux, the software collects information from physical servers and network devices through different pipelines and then combines all the data --virtual and physical -- in a single console, Karpovich said.

In addition to expansion of its VMware reporting, Zenoss 2.3 also improves agentless monitoring of Windows servers and desktops and Java applications from its previous enterprise version.

Empowering users in the monitoring process 
Since January 2008, Orlando, Fla.-based Coleman Technologies Inc. has used Zenoss to monitor complex network-based unified communication systems that it builds, installs and manages for about 40 customers of various sizes. David Winter, Coleman's manager of managed services, said that for a year, he used Dell's SilverBack monitoring for a year but switched to Zenoss and has gotten much better results.

Unlike Dell's standard, off-the-shelf monitor, Zenoss provides a framework for the network engineering firm to input its technical expertise and set the metrics and thresholds for bandwidth throughput, CPU utilization or disk utilization itself, in turn creating a customized discovery process for each client's installation, Winter said. Zenoss' distributed model also enabled Coleman Technologies to integrate its monitoring tool into customers' networks without being intrusive or disrupting their security, he added.

Recently, Coleman Technologies became a Zenoss 2.3 beta customer to pilot the new VMware monitoring capabilities on its own network and successfully simulated and resolved problems, Winter said. When guests in high-end ESX clusters continue to switch machines via VMotion's Distributed Resource Scheduler, it indicates an unhealthy environment that needs remedy before the problems reach a boiling point, he said. With Zenoss, Coleman has a tool to offer VMware monitoring to its customers and the data to make ongoing recommendations, he said.

In Zenoss 2.3, the Windows monitoring and management interfaces also are substantially improved, Winter added.

Taking on the big four
Jay Lyman, an open source analyst at New York City-based 451 Group, said that monitoring tools from open source systems management companies such as Zenoss and San Francisco-based GroundWork Open Source Inc. have addressed genuine pain points but face competition from free open source tools and inexpensive Software as a Service offerings. As a result, these companies will likely encounter an uphill battle in converting free community users to paying enterprise customers.

Still, with this new enterprise version, Zenoss "has picked a good place to start" with VMware monitoring, Lyman said. Boosting scalability of the Windows version will strengthen Zenoss' appeal in mixed environments. And improving the Java tool is also significant, he said.

"This [new version] allows them to have a story in virtualization," and VMware makes sense because it's the leader, Lyman said. But Zenoss faces competition from Hyperic Inc., whose cloud monitoring is more advanced, and GroundWork, with its strong application and device monitoring offerings, he said. Other open source tools in the mix are Nagios, SolarWinds, SpiceWorks and Ipswitch WhatsUpGold, he said.

Nevertheless, Zenoss and its open source competitors focus on the big four: Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Tivoli, BMC Software and CA Unicenter rather than one another, he said.

The bottom line: Zenoss and its open source competitors have responded to data centers' need to monitor virtual machines just as well as physical ones, Lyman said. Zenoss' focus on virtualization and beefing up mixed environments may improve their opportunity, he said.

Karpovich declined to say whether the venture-backed company is profitable, but he said that Zenoss is well funded and has a growing customer base, including cloud hosting providers, the U.S. military, schools and many Fortune 500 companies, he said.

The Zenoss Core community product is free but the Pro edition for medium-sized companies and the enterprise edition for large firms are licensed for an annual fee averaging $150 per year for each "managed resource," i.e. any physical or virtual machine with an IP address. Typical costs are about $10,000 a year for Pro service and $100,000 annually for an enterprise service, which approximates the annual maintenance for one of the major proprietary vendors, but avoids the steep upfront proprietary acquisition tab (usually equal to four years of maintenance.)

Zenoss has won converts from users of free, low-end point products that don't scale and have limited functionality as well as from users of high-end products, where Zenoss' value proposition "is really obvious," Karpovich said.

"We focus on where the users are most unhappy," Karpovich said. "They want something more affordable and more flexible with more functionality. And we're giving them what they want."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer . And check out Enterprise Linux Log.

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