Infrastructure and Network Monitoring

At 3am in the morning my first reaction to text messages, emails and phone calls about problems with client servers or networking issues is rarely one of appreciation. But that changes when the ability to react to minor concerns early, prevents embarrassing and major compensation repercussions later. I cannot imagine my world without monitoring.

My first crush was with Nagios Core. (See the feature banner at the top of this post – a screenshot from Nagios back in 2009). Thank you good ol’ Wikipedia for succinctly putting it:

Nagios /ˈnɑːɡiːoʊs/ is an open source computer system monitoring, network monitoring and infrastructure monitoring software application. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagios

The key selling factors for me was that it was open source, incredibly well documented, boasted more plugins than I could count, it was easy to write my own plugins in whatever language I preferred, and there were fantastic addons such as NRPE, NSClient++, pnp4nagios and CoffeeSaint to name a few of my favourites.

My faith in Nagios Core was unwavering, but I became frustrated in some of the limitations it came with. Simple improvements like bulk actions, API and extensions to the configuration files – but nothing changed. Infact, efforts seem to be directed into their paid enterprise options whereas I was only interested in open source.

Icinga's web interface makes bulk options painless.

Icinga’s web interface makes bulk options painless.

But then something happened that changed everything for me in the scheme of monitoring. An ex-colleague and friend, suggested I take a look at “Icinga”.

Icinga is a fork of Nagios and is backward compatible. So, Nagios configurations, plugins and addons can all be used with Icinga. Though Icinga retains all the existing features of its predecessor, it builds on them to add many long awaited patches and features requested by the user community. – https://www.icinga.org/

The above paragraph from the front page of the Icinga website is when I started plans to install and evaluate. The usability experience is superior, native IPv6 support, IP-less host support, extended configuration options, fully documented API and most importantly a roadmap for future development!

Icinga Status Overview

The powerful and dynamic, open source infrastructure monitoring system I fell so in love with has been rejuvenated, boasts new features and plans on only getting better. If I’m asked what I use to monitor my servers – I now proudly tell people Icinga.

Icinga Network Monitoring ebook

New Icinga Network Monitoring e-book

Monitoring with Nagios and Icinga is something I have been intending to write about since 2009 but I’ve never been sure where to start. Which is why I was both delighted and honored to be asked by Packt Publishing to review a new book titled Icinga Network Monitoring. The book cover page has that stereotypical “Packt” type photograph and layout – completely unrelated to the book topic – but instantly recognisable as fantastic educational resources you see sitting around an office like mine. (I’ll ask them about the photographs and let you know.)

I’ve not read any books by the author Viranch Mehta before, but I can see his background in Linux, system administration and open source projects make him a notable authority on the topic of monitoring using Icinga.

I’ll be reviewing the Icinga Network Monitoring book this month and plan to release a review next month. If you can’t wait until then – you can download a free chapter (see “Sample Chapter”) and let me know your thoughts.

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4 Responses to Infrastructure and Network Monitoring

  1. boris b says:

    Well, we use zabbix for quite some time now. Mor then 5 years, actually!
    I have exellent expireince with it. It is free, simple to use, fast…
    I case you never tried it, give it a try.

    I never used Nagious,sorry!

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  2. mloshka says:

    Thanks for the reply! I will have a look!

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  3. Brendan says:

    Hi mloshka. Thanks for your comment.

    To be honest with you, no I haven’t considered in detail the use of a paid service such as Anturis or other software until now. Let me elaborate on some of my thoughts. :/

    I do not fear or have a distrust for open source software, I embrace it. Open source is shared knowledge, hard lessons and hours of hard work where the only motive is contributing to a greater good. It has been the place of many companies over the years (Red Hat to name one) which have released software freely but offer paid services to corporate clients in need of enterprise features – which is similar to what Nagios Enterprises have done. What I specifically disliked is that the code commits to the open source Nagios Core project slowed for a while. ** Disclaimer: I’ve not yet seen the new Nagios Core 4.0 . TODO. 😀

    My next thought is the advantages of a paid solution for an experienced systems administrator such as myself, are yet to present themselves. In some cases where I have experimented, I’ve found the solutions prohibitive technology wise or features are locked up with price tags. Nagios Core provides most of the monitoring functionality I need minis a few things such as a simple user experience and some extensions to the configuration. Icinga as it stands fulfills all my needs. 🙂

    From a financial feasibility point of view, I cannot make a recommendation that a company move to a paid solution when the current free solution offers what I need and then some. However, your question was have ‘I’ considered – I cannot speak on behalf of everyone else. In many cases I’m sure the business requirements align with the feature set of paid solutions. 🙁

    Just looking now, my own monitoring services monitor a total of 85 hosts and 1,685 services. In the world of infrastructure big fish this number is small. There isn’t a plan that would cater for me on the Anturis website and if there were it would not be cost effective. (However I will say the free plan is a great starting point for small business.)

    Nagios and Icinga are routinely referred to as the industry standard for network and infrastructure monitoring. I can’t see this changing soon. Call me biased though, it’s quite alright, I admit it. 🙂

    Take a look at the free chapter of the Icinga Network Monitoring book and let me know your own thoughts on the book. 🙂

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  4. mloshka says:

    If you are not in love with Nagios any more have you considered any other tools for network and infrastructure? I am in doubts about Nagios as it is open-source and refered to paid tools e.g. Anturis that has an excellent tech support ever.

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What are your thoughts?