Zenoss boards the programmable data-center bus

The open-source Zenoss network management software also now monitors Windows networks

Responding to the trend of streamlining data-center management, Zenoss has added to its network monitoring software support for a popular open-source messaging bus.

"This is one of the most significant launches in our history," said Zenoss technical evangelist Floyd Strimling of the release of Zenoss Core 4, the open-source core version of the company's namesake product. "We worked to revamp many of the architectural components."

Zenoss monitors network services such as Web servers and mail services as well as the health and utilization of network devices, such as routers. The company claims that the software can process up to 100 million events per day.

For this release, the Zenoss developers have upgraded the software's event system so it now uses the message bus based on the industry standard AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol) to transmit event notifications.

AMQP speeds communication time among different internal Zenoss components, but a potentially bigger advantage is that AMQP provides an easier way for Zenoss both to send and receive data with other applications also using AMQP.

Such interoperability can be crucial in the emerging concept of the programmable data center. The programmable data center is shorthand for set a of technologies -- such as virtualization, software defined networking (SDN) -- that allow administrators to more tightly control hardware and software, so workloads can be moved around easier.

For a programmable data center, "there is definitely a need for a unified message bus for different applications to talk to with each other," Strimling said. "If I can put things on and take things off a single message bus, I can make any two applications seem to be unified."

For instance, Zenoss operational data can provide third-party applications useful event data, such as log-analysis software. Conversely, outside data can provide a Zenoss application with vital information about new hardware or software being added to a system. "There are a lot of interesting things can be accomplished," Strimling said.

In addition to adding AMQP, Zenoss also expanded the range of actions that can be called through the software's API (application programming interface), which should also meet the demands of the programmable data center. The APIs can be accessed through the REST (Representational state Transfer), which many developers prefer interacting with, Strimling said.

The software comes with a number of other updates as well. The open-source community version can now monitor Windows servers, thanks to the release of a ZenPack that used to be available only on the commercial version. Unlike Nagios, another popular network monitoring tool, Zenoss does not require agents to be placed on the Windows computers, Strimling said. The software also includes for the first time a new jobs system functionality for running asynchronous tasks.

And, as with most releases, Zenoss Core 4 comes with the usual assorted of bug fixes and updates. Because Zenoss relies on a number of other open-source software programs, this release updates many of the versions of the software it relies upon. This version, for instance, runs Python version 2.7 and MySQL 5.5.

Network engineer Erik Dahl created Zenoss system management software after he found commercial systems unsatisfactory. The Zenoss company was formed in 2005. Zenoss estimates that more than 100,000 users deploy the Zenoss software, either the open source or commercial version. The software has been downloaded over a million times. Corporate customers have included Customers include Rackspace, VMware, Hosting.com, LinkedIn, Motorola and SunGard.

While, technically speaking, this is the Zenoss Core 4.2 release, the company is labeling this Zenoss Core 4, given that this is the first public release in the 4.0 line -- previous versions were for internal development only. The Zenoss commercial distribution of the software should be upgraded to this version within the next month or so, Strimling said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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