Thursday, August 30, 2007

Open Source Downsides

Open source is awesome, weather you need a swiss army knife, or some glue between two solutions that don't quite mesh the way you need them. It's also great for analysis and basic tasks that you need at your fingertips. Its versatile and deep in functionality. The best part, is the cost (aside from the legal ramifications of using it commercially). The downside is that working in a large complex environment where I have responsibility across so much diversity and complexity is that many of my needs are not fulfilled to warrant a platform selection:

  1. Manageability
    1. Policy
    2. Templates
    3. Audits
    4. Grouping
  2. Deployment
    1. Ssh
    2. telnet
    3. wmi
    4. remote command
  3. Scale
    1. Distributed systems globally
    2. Failover
  4. Reporting
    1. Complex reporting needs
    2. Logging sophistication

Most of these issues are completely missed in most open source tools, as it turns a swiss army knife into a nuclear weapon. There is nothing wrong with it, but either companies need to understand and implement these around open source tools (like groundworks is attempting to do slowly) or we need to stop using open source management and monitoring tools in large scale environments.

I really hope that these companies take a stand and do this, as it will help reduce cost, increase choice, and make a better more maintainable system for me to manage and implement. The flexibility is key, and open source is the king of flexibility.


Frank Gerbowski said...

Hi there:

I enjoy your blog very much. I am in a similar position at a tech company out west and we looked at some open source monitoring tools OpenSMART--which is made here locally at Stanford. It was good for small silos but really got bogged down when we tried to scale them out. We ended up going with a vendors package when senior management starting screaming about the lack of reports and scalability concerns with the open source tools. What are your thoughts on that?

jkowall said...

Scalability is a major concern, but tools like Nagios, Zenoss, and some of the other tools have proven scalability beyond 20,000 nodes.

Reporting is also a concern, but can be augmented with many of the commerical reporting or BI tools on the market. As for the data coming off agents, its most often consumed by other tools.

Which vendor product did you end up going with over OpenSMART?

Frank Gerbowski said...

We actually went with Openview. I was a little hesitant at first, but we had a history with them--we like the local team, and senior management had a positive view of the solution.

At the end of the day, the consensus for our team was to use a opensource tools for small pockets of non-critical systems because they are so cheap, and then write a contract with the business to have them fund the OV agents for their critical apps. They needed to put in 500k+ for this...but got it done. Keep up the great work.