OpenNMS: the open source enterprise monitoring solution you've never heard of.


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Begun in 1999, OpenNMS an enterprise scale monitoring solution written in Java, with a Postgresql database and configured with XML files. --- Because it uses SNMP OpenNMS can monitor most servers, network gear, and other appliances without needing a custom agent. Its feature list is impressive.

When monitoring, less is more.

I've seen a lot of monitoring products in production over the years, both proprietary and open source. Most suffer from information overload because folks set out trying to monitoring everything. They believe they can catch all problems early, but this never works. Staff are inundated with so many alerts, most of them false, that searching for legitimate ones becomes a full time job, or worse, alerts are intentionally ignored. If you are monitoring or plan to start, start small, very small, and grow slowly.

What I like about OpenNMS

  • No message storms. OpenNMS has message correlation, multiple messages meaning the same thing result in only one alert. A feature called critical path ensures that multiple and different messages result in only one alert. For example, if a router is identified as a critical path, OpenNMS will not generate a storm of alerts for all hosts behind the router if it goes down.

  • Commercial support. OpenNMS creators offer paid support and consulting services. For do-it-yourselfers, there is a mailing lists, a wiki, and the #opennms IRC channel at Freenode.

  • Scale and stability. OpenNMS was designed from day one to scale to thousands of nodes at low cost.

  • Simple to install. I was able to install and run OpenNMS on a small virtual host without difficulty.

  • SNMP. OpenNMS is not limited to servers supported by a custom agent. By using SNMP, OpenNMS can support servers, network gear, storage gear, UPS gear, and so much more. For those of you who think that SNMP is long in the tooth, look at SNMP version 3, with more functionality and full encryption.

What I don't like about OpenNMS

  • I'm not a fan Java. I've been disappointed by many Java applications over the years, but I had no such disappointment with OpenNMS. The installation process is easy. One problem I did encounter, with no solution yet, is that OpenNMS does not start at boot, no matter what I tried. I resorted to having CFEngine promise to keep it running.

  • Editing XML files sucks. XML was not made for people to read continuously.

  • Merging XML files for upgrades sucks more. When I upgraded OpenNMS I was faced with the frustrating exercise of merging the upgrades with my preexisting changes.

  • Confusing documentation. The wiki is often outdated or incomplete. There is a book, but it was not easy to find.

Every monitoring product I've worked with has things I don't like, so don't think I'm singling OpenNMS out. We are now using OpenNMS to monitor our gear at Evolve and OpenNMS is at the top of my list for any future monitoring projects.

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