Open Source Monitoring: Groundwork 5.2 released, an interview with David Dennis

Groundwork, the provider of the open source based IT management and network monitoring solution, announced at OSBC the availability of GroundWork 5.2, a more scalable and extensible version of the product.

Within the system and network monitoring market the Big 4 (BMC, CA, HP ed IBM) are starting to loose their comparative advantage relative to open source solutions like Groundwork, since open source solutions can provide comparable scalability and distributed deployment options at a smaller cost. On the other hand they are probably retaining a comparative advantage in areas such as multi-OS software deployment systems, asset tracking, demand management, etc.

Considering that IT environments within large organizations run a mix of proprietary and open source software on a variety of platforms, also open source management solutions need to coexist with to support customers’ needs. I asked David Dennis, senior director of product marketing at Groundwork, some more questions about Groundwork’s hybridization strategy and open source projects participation.

How an open source challenger like GroundWork could create a system-wide positive disruption in combination with the entrenched Big 4 players?

GroundWork is able to integrate very well into existing enterprise Big 4 deployments. Customers of GroundWork operate using both GroundWork and closed source applications, allowing operators to continue using processes they are used to, while replacing the costs of licensed agents. When there is little functional difference between open and closed source options, integration frees financial resources to be used on additional initiatives.

The ramifications of this are clear: to gain the greatest benefit from open source disruptive challenges to the Big 4 status quo, savvy IT departments will look for solutions that play nicely with the proprietary systems (that are likely to remain entrenched in the near future), thus creating a positive disruptive benefit to the datacenter as a whole.

Groundwork put together at work many open source projects (among others Ganglia, Nagios, Cacti, NeDi, php-Weathermap, Sendpage, RRDtool Nmap and many more). How are you perceived by those communities and at which extent do you participate to those projects?

Here are examples of components we’ve contributed back to the community:

Nagios scalability improvements that dramatically increase Nagios capacity.

NSCAfe Forwarding Engine: an improvement on (Nagios) NSCA engine to support large installations.

HP OpenView Feeder: Displays output from GroundWork Monitor in OV.

WMI Plug-ins: Enables monitoring of Windows devices and services.

Ganglia plug-in module: alllows Ganglia data to be fed into Nagios for alerting.

We support the communities of the individual projects that GroundWork Monitor is composed of. We have sponsored and host the project team meetings (“Project in Residence” events): we’ve done this for Cacti
and Ganglia.

We convene a Project Lead Council where the Project Leads get to meet and share ideas. Out of these meetings, we’ve had these successes that benefit the broader community of open source IT monitoring users.

Sometimes we act as a ‘broker’ between projects. For example,Matt Massie of Ganglia talked to Tobi Oetiker of RRDtool about making changes to RRDtool that made Ganglia more efficient. Also, Remo Rickli of NeDi added
php-Weathermap integration, developed by Howard Jones. Kees Cook added SMS messaging capability to SendPage as a result of one our Council meetings.

Groundwork _Enterprise_ is a proprietary software solution based on many open source projects, and while is not leading any of them it is engaged in the coordination of some inter-projects collaborations, an interesting form of lucrative coopetition.

Still an open source firm, in my opinion, an interesting one.

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