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6/20/2005
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Open-Source Management Tool Gets Graphic

GroundWork looks to make its systems-management tool easier to use and more competitive with big-ticket commercial IT-monitoring software.

In a move to make its open-source IT-management software more accessible to a greater number of users, GroundWork Open Source Solutions Inc. on Monday revealed its GroundWork Monitor Architect, or Monarch. The new Web-based tool introduces a graphical interface for systems administrators to use when configuring the company's GroundWork Monitor application to manage applications, databases, servers, and networks.

GroundWork Monitor is a combination of open-source technologies. At its core is the Nagios open-source host, service, and network-monitoring application. On top of Nagios, GroundWork has included PerfParse to facilitate the storage and analysis of binary performance data produced by Nagios. Now Monarch eliminates the need for system administrators to configure their management software using a command line. "You have to be fairly technical to be able to do that," says Will Winkelstein, GroundWork's marketing VP. "We're hoping this will widen the number of users of Nagios and of GroundWork Monitor."

For years, companies have been looking for alternatives to large, expensive IT-monitoring software bundles such as BMC Patrol, Computer Associates Unicenter, Hewlett-Packard OpenView, and IBM Tivoli. Some thought they found this years ago with the emergence of management service providers that took on the responsibility of network and systems monitoring for a monthly or annual fee. Many of these startup MSPs foundered when their own startup customers went out of business during the tech bust.

Open-source projects, including Nagios, OpenNMS, and Big Sister, have since emerged to provide more accessible alternatives in the management-software market.

Nagios in particular has emerged as a leading open-source IT-management application, designed to inform IT managers of network problems using a monitoring daemon that runs intermittent checks on the hosts and services that systems administrators specify. GroundWork has built its business around making Nagios easier to use and better suited to bigger business environments. The company offers plug-in applications that return status information to Nagios and send notifications out to administrative contacts via E-mail or instant message. Nagios, which is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2, provides current status information, historical logs, and reports that can all be accessed via a Web browser.

New open-source alternatives to packaged software emerge every day. By embracing the open-source model, GroundWork and other open-source software providers are able to outsource part of the product management. "What does a good product manager do? He goes out and talks to customers to find out what they want," Winkelstein says. "Open source is like this live lab where users send you these ideas every day."

The bulk of GroundWork's client base, 52 organizations that include the Florida Department of State, Macromedia, and construction-services firm Rudolph and Sletten, are midsize entities growing to the point where they want to centralize their monitoring without having to write their own scripts, Winkelstein says. GroundWork's strategy has paid off thus far. The company has raised a total of $11.5 million in venture-capital funding to expand its product and services offerings, as well as build out its marketing and sales programs.

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