The Next Wave for Open Source: IT Management
The $7 billion worldwide market for IT management software is on the cusp of a dramatic change, and once again open-source solutions are driving the transformation. Much like Apache during its initial rise to prominence in Web servers, open-source IT management products, such as Nagios, have matured rapidly and now offer competitive functionality and greater flexibility over proprietary platforms at a fraction of the cost.
It's no secret that proprietary IT management platforms are criticized for being monolithic, inflexible, difficult to use and expensive to manage. But until recently, CIOs looking for a simple yet robust IT management solution at a better price had few alternatives. In 2005, however, the dynamics of this market are shifting. With companies such as AOL, Cingular, Siemens, TicketMaster and TimeWarner Cable already embracing and relying on open-source IT management products, the category of open-source IT management solutions is poised for mainstream adoption.
One of the core challenges and criticisms associated with proprietary IT management platforms is functionality overkill. The four platforms that now dominate the market--from BMC, Computer Associates, HP and IBM--all were designed for the upper echelon of the Fortune 100. The result is an overload of capabilities and features that the majority of companies don't want or need. Many Global 2000 firms now pay license costs for IT management software that reach seven figures. Deployment and system administration of these proprietary systems are even more expensive tasks, typically costing five to eight times the initial software-licensing fee.
One of the central complaints of IT teams using commercial IT management frameworks is the inherent difficulty in customizing and configuring these proprietary systems. Getting a product such as HP OpenView or IBM Tivoli configured and deployed often takes months, even years in many cases. Once the system is installed, users face rigid vendor lock-in scenarios.
The issue, as every IT veteran knows, is configuring and deploying an IT management system is never a one-time effort. Corporate networks are changing constantly, which forces IT teams to reconfigure continually proprietary frameworks that were not designed for easy customization or rapid deployment.
In the open-source world, the network-upgrade scenario plays out differently from what happens with proprietary products. Mainly, there's a high probability that the add-on functionality you need is available for free for download, thanks to the Open Source community.
Of course, there are no guarantees that the functionality you need is written and available from the Open Source community. But even in situations where you are the first company to develop open-source code to address a specific need or problem, you still maintain the distinct advantage of utilizing an open, standard protocol instead of a proprietary API. For IT managers, this makes good business sense for two reasons. First, it enables you to tap into the pool of talented open-source developers rather than relying on specialists who work with a closed API. Second, it ensures a solid return on investment from every dollar spent training your IT team, because those skills will be valuable and applicable over the long term.
Open-source IT management solutions have three core characteristics that make them well-suited to the task of monitoring and managing heterogeneous IT environments: they provide open interfaces; they are built on component architectures that are highly configurable; and the open-source code is transparent and designed to be modifiable.
This combination makes an open-source IT management solution an ideal "manager of managers." The reality is that most companies have several different IT management systems in place already, each monitoring different aspects of the network at any given moment. One system monitors application performance, for example, while another focuses on databases and still another manages routers and other network devices. Numerous companies have decided to deploy an open-source solution as their master IT management system, capable of tying disparate monitoring and performance management systems into a single, cohesive whole. By providing a consolidated view across the entire IT infrastructure, this manager of managers approach enables better IT performance and more timely IT decision-making.
At the same time, an open-source solution also can be integrated easily into the network as a peer to an incumbent IT management system. Because they are compatible with existing enterprise technologies, open-source solutions mesh tightly with legacy solutions without requiring major infrastructure modifications. That means companies are able to embrace open source incrementally without making any significant and costly changes to their environments. Once installed, open-source IT management solutions prove to be stable and reliable, in large part because they've been tested and peer-reviewed on a global scale.
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