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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

By Ben Martin on November 04, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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System administrators need to keep an eye on their servers to make sure things are running smoothly. If they find a problem, they need to see when it started, so investigations can focus on what happened at that time. That means logging information at regular intervals and having a quick way to analyse this data. Here's a look at several tools that let you monitor one or more servers from a Web interface.

Cacti

While collectd emphasizes data collection, Cacti is oriented toward providing a nice Web front end to your system information. Whereas collectd runs as a daemon and collects its information every 10 seconds without spawning processes, Cacti runs a PHP script every five minutes to collect information. (These time intervals for the two projects are the defaults and are both user configurable.) The difference in default values gives an indication of how frequently each project thinks system information should be gathered.

Cacti is packaged for Etch, Fedora 9, and openSUSE 11. I used the Fedora packages on a 64-bit Fedora 9 machine.

Once you have installed Cacti, you might get the following error when you try to visit http://localhost/cacti if your packages have not set up a database for you. The Cacti Web site has detailed instructions to help you set up your MySQL database and configure Cacti to connect.

FATAL: Cannot connect to MySQL server on 'localhost'. Please make sure you have specified a valid MySQL database name in 'include/config.php'

When you first connect to your Cacti installation in a Web browser you are presented with a wizard to complete the configuration. Cacti presents you with the paths to various tools, SNMP settings, and the PHP binary, and asks which version of rrdtool you have. Although Cacti found my rrdtool, I still had to tell it explicitly the version of rrdtool I had. While this information was easy to supply, a button on the wizard offering to execute rrdtool and figure it out from the --version string would have been a plus.

After the paths and versions are collected Cacti will ask you to log in using the default username and password. When you log in you immediately have to change the admin user's password.

The first screen you are taken to is the console tab. In the main section of the window you are offered three options: create devices, create graphs, and view your graphs. This might lead you to believe that there are no graphs already created. Clicking on the graphs tab you should see that you already have a small collection of graphs: Memory Usage, Load Average, Logged in Users, and Processes. The graphs view is shown in the screenshot below.

Additional information-gathering scripts available for Cacti let you expand what information Cacti can monitor. For example, they let you collect the load and input and output voltage of UPS devices.

Most of these projects' Web interfaces allow you to view your statistics using predefined time intervals such as hour, day, and week. Cacti goes a big step further and allows you to specify the exact interval that you are interested in through the Web interface.

Cacti offers the most functional and polished Web interface among these projects. It lets you select the time interval displayed on your graphs from more predefined settings, and it also lets you explicitly nominate the start and end time you are interested in. Cacti is the only one of the tools that lets you nominate a custom time range for your graph.

Next: Monitorix

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on Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.130.151.91] on November 04, 2008 04:50 PM

Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 93.172.203.232] on November 04, 2008 08:03 PM
Have a look on http://www.xpolog.com for log monitoring, server monitoring and log analysis

Or on http://www.log-viewer.com for log viewer and log monitor for linux, apache and more

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 97.120.82.204] on November 04, 2008 09:18 PM
As you say, it appears that the combination of collectd and cacti would be wonderful. However, I've long been searching for a decent explanation of how to connect the two. I haven't touched Cacti in a long time, otherwise it might seem obvious to me how this could be done, but I'm expecting it isn't. If anyone knows of a good way to do it, I'd love to hear about it.

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.21.200.238] on November 04, 2008 10:55 PM
Where is Nagios? none of tools mentioned in the article are as flexible and powerful as Nagios.... I'm disappointed.

http://www.nagios.org/

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.50.59.23] on November 04, 2008 10:57 PM
Why not Zenoss? Merging the functionality of cactii and nagios with an easy-to-use interface. http://zenoss.com

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.18.37.228] on November 05, 2008 01:15 AM
Don't forget dim_STAT: http://dimitrik.free.fr

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 218.219.203.156] on November 05, 2008 01:38 AM
Those 4 entries in the article do not have notification systems, but just graphing, as far as I can tell. So, Nagios and friends aren't listed for that reason I think. Besides, Nagios may be flexible and powerful but with a huge complication and clutter everywhere I wouldn't think to use it anymore, I'd rather use monit for that, which is much simpler, cleaner and does the job fine. The sheer amount of Nagios frontend tells something is wrong with itself and nothing really changed at version 3 unfortunately.

And there are also those unified server management packages like Zenoss and Zabbix. The latter is quite lightweight and a decent package in my opinion.

collectd seriously needs a decent frontend. Nothing is good if the data collected can't be revised... I don't know why author doesn't even try to start a sub project on that and let someone code it if he doesn't want to.

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Re: Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.201.123.212] on November 06, 2008 03:32 PM
I love it when people post negatives about nagios, or about how hard it is to deploy. I've played with Zabbix, HP-Openview, Solarwinds, Zenoss etc... and none aside from Openview can monitor servers with the depth that nagios can. net-snmp is very limited in it's scope to interact with various applications. Openview is out of the question due to cost. Try deploying Zabbix or Zenoss in a 1000 to 1500 server environment running 10,000 to 20,000 checks and watch what kind of hardware it requires to get it deployed. With nagios templating you have to setup your initial checks and the start grouping servers. Also if you can script in bash or perl there is nothing that can't be monitored with nagios. I may be biased because I've used it for 8 years, bouncing from one poser app to the next, but nagios is where I always land for mission critical systems, and it integrates easily with cacti or rrdtool to give you everything you need.

My opinion and everyone knows what they say about those

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.137.217.96] on November 05, 2008 07:56 AM
Also missed ganglia [http://ganglia.info/]

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.100.197.205] on November 05, 2008 10:28 AM
Don't forget Opsview (http://www.opsview.org/), based upon Nagios, Net-SNMP, RRDtool and the catalyst web fwk.

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 150.3.84.204] on November 05, 2008 02:13 PM
Zabbix for the win.
http://www.zabbix.com/

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.112.163.94] on November 12, 2008 03:45 PM
Another tool to check out for enterprise network monitoring, op5 Monitor http://www.op5.com/op5/products/monitor

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Four winning ways to monitor machines through Web interfaces

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.223.154.166] on November 13, 2008 06:31 AM
Take a look at Osmius. http://osmius.net
Its web based interface, service oriented, intrussive and non-intrussive monitoring and open source.

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How can you not mention Zenoss?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.19.110.133] on November 14, 2008 06:30 AM
http://www.zenoss.com/

Just out in v2.3 with tons of new features.
I've used it alot and it's amazing! Both an community version and a commercial version.

Best regards: in2os

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