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  1. Hardware
September 16, 2015

An essential guide to using Open Source monitoring tools

Simon Mitchell, CEO at LinuxIT, explains how to get the most out of your Open Source monitoring tools.

By Vinod

Open Source monitoring tools offer powerful alternatives to big name brands, helping you to manage your infrastructure and highlight any potential problems – but only if they are specified and used correctly.

Monitoring your IT infrastructure is vital to:
? Identifying potential problems in advance
? Creating a baseline for performance analysis and troubleshooting
? Defining procedures for support and administration.

There are hundreds of tools available for monitoring your Linux, or mixed environment, with a choice between proprietary and Open Source Software (OSS).

Open Source tools offer significant advantages which include:
? Freeing your business from vendor lock-in
? Offering a modular approach that allows you to use a single tool to manage your entire Linux infrastructure
? Access to source code in the event you need to build customisations/extensions
? Enterprise-grade scalability often at a fraction of the cost of proprietary alternatives.

Some organisations still see OSS as a risk – so how do you overcome these concerns and guarantee a successful monitoring tool deployment?

Tip 1 – Obtain proof of concept first
Open Source monitoring tools may be cheaper to acquire and deploy than commercial alternatives, but not all will achieve the same ROI.

Before choosing and implementing a tool, try carrying out some small-scale trials to identify:

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? How each tool delivers in your environment
? Whether the tool delivers on its promise to manage Linux, Unix and Windows servers
? The scalability and cost-effectiveness of the tool
? The ease of deployment compared to the benefits provided.

Taking the time to perform detailed tests early on will save time and money in the long run.

Tip 2 – Choose Open Source monitoring tools that suit your environment
Your IT team has established ways of working, particularly when using frameworks like ITIL and DevOps methodologies.

Any monitoring tool needs to:

? Slot straight into the IT workflow
? Allow customisation to match IT operations processes
? Provide significant benefits over existing tools
? Be acceptable to the IT team
? Increase operational efficiency and boost productivity within your team.

The IT team need to have confidence in the Open Source monitoring tools you implement, so make sure you have their buy-in before committing.

Tip 3 – Train, train train
Adopting new Linux systems and Open Source tools always entails a learning curve.

Training employees to use the new system is crucial and this must be done:

? Before deployment so they can hit the ground running at go-live
? During deployment, allowing them to test functions and features on the live network
? After deployment on a regular basis so that administrators learn about new features as they become available.

Ongoing training provides continuous benefits by helping staff become more efficient in their use of Open Source tools.

Tip 4 – Tune tools to your Linux environment
As well as matching your IT services framework, the monitoring tools must also fit into your business’ environment.

As part of the tool deployment, make sure that:

? Agents and tools are installed correctly at all endpoints for complete monitoring coverage
? Configuration is adjusted according to your environmental factors
? All the data you need is being collected and recorded for analysis
? You quickly establish a baseline which can be used for accurate comparisons with collected monitoring data.

Tip 5 – Be careful with customisations
Open Source monitoring software and the Linux operating system can be customised or extended in any way you choose. However, doing so poses relatively large risks and should be avoided:

? Future upgrades will undo or break your customisations harming productivity and requiring more costly development to re-apply the changes.
? Third party support providers are reluctant to assist with anything beyond the core code base.
? Troubleshooting issues with customised tools is more complex and takes longer, increasing the total cost of ownership.

Wherever possible, choose Open Source tools that provide the required functionality natively. If customisation is necessary, choose a third party who can:

? Perform the development
? Provide ongoing assistance and support for both the customisation and the rest of the Linux environment.
? Offer advice on carrying out upgrades and extensions that do not affect the new customisations.

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