In pictures: 26 helpful open source network management tools

Here are 26 network management tools based on open source and available at little or no cost

  • Over the last decade or so, open source development has skyrocketed, and network management software has ridden that wave. Many frustrated IT administrators have turned to free tools to monitor, configure and map their networked devices. Here are 26 examples of open source network management software tools to help you do your job.

  • Big Brother BTF: Big Brother was created in the mid-1990s to monitor networked systems. Since its introduction, its author made a commercial version, now called Big Brother Professional Edition and acquired by Quest Software in 2001. The open source version is still available for students and non-commercial users.

  • Big Sister: The author of Big Sister says he was impressed by Big Brother but wanted to change it in a number of ways. In his Readme file, he says he wanted to improve the performance, reduce the number of alarms when something goes down, and make other enhancements.

  • Cacti: Cacti is a graphing tool that can be used to show network data over time, such as CPU load or bandwidth utilization. It is a front end to RRDtool, an open source database tool for storing data that changes over time.

  • GroundWork Monitor: GroundWork is a platform for monitoring networks, applications and clouds. The software is available as an open-source Community Edition, but the company pushes its Flex version with a per-device, per-year charge – or even its Quickstart version, which has more limited support but only costs $US49 per year for 50 devices.

  • Hyperic HQ: Hyperic HQ is intended for monitoring custom web applications and monitoring their performance across physical, virtual and cloud environments. There is a paid Enterprise version that improves on the alerting function and is better able to create baselines.

  • JFFNMS: The Just For Fun Network Management System isn't really. From the description: "Despite the name, the program is a serious NMS that can help you look after your routers, switches, servers and other network equipment." It is written in PHP and monitors via SNMP.

  • MRTG: The Multi Router Traffic Grapher is a well-known, simple tool for monitoring traffic moving through SNMP-enabled network devices and, well, graphing it.

  • Munin: The site for Munin tells us that Munin was a raven in Norse mythology who would fly around and tell the god Odin what was going on. In a network management context, the site says Munin monitors networked resources, answering questions like, "What just happened to kill our performance?"

  • Nagios Core: Nagios Core is software for monitoring IT infrastructure and viewing current status, historical logs, and basic reports. Nagios and other companies have built commercial capabilities onto the open source core.

  • NetDisco: NetDisco autodiscovers networked devices via NSMP and creates pictures of your network. The site says it would most often be used to locate devices, create an inventory and report on IP address and switch port usage.

  • Net-SNMP: Net-SNMP is a suite of applications that uses SNMP versions 1 through 3, over both IPv4 and IPv6. It can get information from SNMP-enabled devices, receive SNMP notifications, and other functions.

  • Network Authority Inventory: Starting out as open source project ZipTie five years ago, NetworkAuthority Inventory continuously discovers and tracks networked devices. It can back up and restore device configurations, and compare configurations between devices. It is free for internal business purposes.

  • Ntop: Ntop shows the top consumers of a network's resources, sorting by protocol or other criteria. It works with NetFlow and sFlow.

  • Observium: Observium is an autodiscovering network monitoring tool. According to the site, "Its design goals include collecting as much historical data about devices as possible, being completely autodiscovered with little or no manual intervention, and having a very intuitive interface."

  • OneOrZero AIMS: OneOrZero AIMS is a management tool that includes a help desk, knowledge base, time manager and reporting system.

  • OpenNMS: Started in 1999, OpenNMS provides event management, service monitoring and performance measurement. The software has no licensing cost; you pay for consulting, training and support.

  • OpenQRM: OpenQRM is management software geared toward data centers with lots of virtual machines. It supports several virtualization technologies, from KVM to VMware to Xen. It even configures Nagios with its information.

  • Opsi: Opsi (Open PC Server Integration) is a client management system for Windows clients. The system itself runs on Linux servers. It will install operating systems, applications and patches. It can keep hardware and software inventories and manage licenses.

  • OTRS: QTRS (Open Technology Real Services) provides help desk and IT service management. OTRS Group offers consulting, support, customization and hosting services. An OnDemand version delivers the help desk function as software-as-a-service.

  • Pandora FMS: Pandora FMS monitors systems and applications, detecting problems like memory leaks, website defacements or network interface failures.

  • RANCID: RANCID sounds like a negative name, until you learn that it stands for Really Awesome New Cisco config Differ. What that means is it monitors a router's or other device's configuration and maintains a history of any changes. And also, despite the name, RANCID supports many vendors' devices, including Juniper routers, HP switches, Redback NASs, and many others.

  • TclMon: TclMon is network monitoring software written in platform-independent Tcl. A server gathers information from network devices, and a client provides the data visualization. It automatically maintains a list of hardware and software configurations and maintains the network topology.

  • Wireshark: Originally called Ethereal, Wireshark is billed as "the world's foremost network protocol analyzer" and a lot of IT folks agree. It captures network traffic, performs deep packet inspection on it, and allows full analysis offline.

  • Xymon: Formerly called Hobbit, Xymon monitors servers, applications and networks, offering information about the health of all of those networked components via web pages. Its site says it was inspired by Big Brother, and like Big Sister, it attempts to address perceived shortcomings of Big Brother BTF, such as performance. Xymon is also intended to be easier to deploy and is free.

  • Zabbix: Zabbix is intended as an enterprise-class distributed monitoring system. Features include real-time monitoring, autodiscovery and mapping, and scalability.

  • Zenoss Core: Zenoss Core does availability monitoring, performance monitoring and event management. A commercial version is also available from Zenoss Inc.

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