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Modern open source systems management


Discover open source IT systems management tools

Source:  TechTarget
Designer: Christopher Seero/TechTarget

Open source IT systems management is undergoing a renaissance. Adopters include global, household-name enterprises, as well as a groundswell of IT operations teams that are borrowing flexible, collaborative practices from the Agile software development movement.

Some open source IT systems management tools are familiar to most admins, with broad adoption -- think Nagios or the Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana stack. Others -- Docker is a prime example -- burst onto the scene recently and are shaking up IT deployments.

The reason to adopt open source systems management, rather than a proprietary tool set, has changed, according to Stephen Elliot, a vice president at research firm IDC. Five to 10 years ago, he said, enterprises chose open source because it was cheaper. "Now, [the open source tool] might be cheaper, but more importantly, [it] seems a little better in certain cases," he said. Open source tools can drive automation and new operating models better than proprietary tools can, potentially yielding a competitive advantage to the user.

Whether an IT shop chooses community software or proprietary offerings built on open source code, they benefit from integration capabilities and componentization, said Jay Lyman, research manager for cloud management and containers at 451 Research.

Arguably, there's more to gain with open source software where you can contribute to the product's roadmap, Lyman added.

Open source IT systems management mitigates vendor lock-in, but not every enterprise shop wants that.

"People like to use paid versions [of software tools] in enterprises because they have someone to go to if something goes wrong," said Dave Farley, independent consultant and co-author of the book Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test and Deployment Automation. This doesn't mean the commercial product is better, Farley said, but the perception is it's worth more because you spent money on it.

Many of the tools described in this slideshow are about changing how IT operates. "The old way isn't good enough anymore," Elliot said. These system management tools bring in software-defined infrastructure, changes to quality or speed of IT.

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How do open source IT systems management tools differ from commercial offerings?
Just some thoughts on the frequently “hidden” costs and risks inherent to the use, installation and administration of open source tools :

  • Administrative effort required to keep such tools up-to-date and operational
  • Time spent fixing issues due to limited support
  • Less resources to support real business activities due to the demands of these tools
  • Additional development effort to include required features lacking in the tools
  • In-house support can be compromised by staff churn; where critical expert knowledge rests in the hands of a few key personnel
  • Increased resources to deal with migration and patching to ensure continuity of service
  • Longevity of open source applications; their existence and development is dependent upon a community who have no contractual obligation to their end-users.
I can't necessarily agree that open source systems management tools are the better option . . . for any shop.  Despite "vendor-lock in", when push comes to shove, you need experts that know their tools and when it catastrophically breaks; your maintenance contract will allow you to "walk the continents" until resolution is achieved.

Open source, while cheaper, most often is not.  Sure, the code platform is free or substantially cheaper.  But the costs also should consider man-hours, time to implement, time to "jury-rig", tested development of new code, etc.