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Network health is one way to gauge infrastructure operations, and something that requires constant monitoring to provide insights into data center and device health. You and your managers have different requirements for monitoring tools, the biggest of which can be cost.
Fortunately, there are enterprise-grade infrastructure monitoring software products available for free that are just as capable as their paid-for counterparts. With the right tools, you can monitor every aspect of your technology infrastructure, get alerts to any issues that arise and forecast future trends.
There are open source network monitoring software tools that can benefit your tech portfolio. But there are two considerations you should look at before you incorporate open source software into your toolbox: support availability and deployed features.
The upsides of open source monitoring tools
Price -- or lack thereof -- is usually the main reason businesses switch to an open source tool. There's simply no beating them on cost-effectiveness; especially compared to free or freemium options.
Another driving factor for open source monitoring tool selection is that they're product-agnostic. These tools typically integrate with any technology or system available, and may use more than one type of code, which makes them easier to deploy into production. They're more flexible and adaptable to your team than proprietary tools.
Open source software applications also tend to have large user and developer communities, leading to better support and feature enhancement. Likewise, they tend to have public feature roadmaps, which anyone in the community can develop and release. You'll have faster access to newer features than with a traditional monitoring tool, and you can even drive feature development with your requests or development work.
Using an open source network monitoring tool gives decision-makers a chance to shift budgets around to other tools or projects that require funding. IT leaders will enjoy lower overall budgets, while still delivering the same level of service and support to the busines.
Be sure to investigate available support before selecting tools. Even with open source communities that make support easier, and communities can help you troubleshoot problems, you may require more support or use a third-party to bring an open source tool into an enterprise production workflow.
Open source network monitoring options
Whatever factors are driving your software selection -- capabilities, support or cost -- there's a variety of open source network monitoring tools that you and your team can evaluate before pitching them to IT management.
Cacti uses network polling and data collection functionality to gather device information on networks of any size using RRDTool's data logging and graphing system. It displays network health and performance in easy-to-understand visualizations that can be customized for your specific network(s).
Icinga's network monitoring tools measure availability and performance, which you can observe through a web interface. It's natively scalable and is configurable with any network device. With Icinga modules, you can integrate and monitor additional types of devices, such VMware's vSphere cloud and device or application certificates or access business process modeling tools.
LibreNMS uses multiple network protocols to monitor devices on networks of any size. Its built-in API retrieves, manages and graphs collected data to provide visualizations and insights about your network. The tool includes flexible alerting options that integrate with both email and SMS alerting systems, as well as iOS and Android apps admins can use to remotely monitor the network.
Pandora FMS features full network monitoring capabilities. It can track system health and performance for any IT device, including physical and virtual servers. The software also provides agent-based monitoring for network latency time, system temperature and service availability. It integrates with most third-party open source applications, as well as devices from major infrastructure manufacturers.
Prometheus is one offering that's focused on data collection and analysis. It uses simple network management protocol pings to collect information from devices and examine network performance. The internal PromQL system then analyzes the data and provides you with a variety of insights and delivers customized alerting.
An open source tool that debuted in 1998, Wireshark is one of the oldest and more developed open source monitoring tools out there. It runs on multiple OSes, including Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD and NetBSD. The tool also offers live capture and offline analysis, and decryption support for the top encryption protocols, which is ideal for security needs.
The Zabbix monitoring suite includes network monitoring functionality and can track and report on any network's health and performance. It detects network node and connection health problems, performs health metric analysis, including bandwidth usage, packet loss, and CPU/memory usage, and provides predictive trend reporting.