Top three best system monitoring tools

Choosing a system monitoring tool to recommend to your customers is complex, made more so by the number of products on the market. To help speed up the selection process, we chose the top three products for you to consider.

Service provider takeaway: With a wide range of system monitoring tools on the market, VARs can make a quicker recommendation to customers by choosing among these three best system monitor tools.

As most value-added resellers (VARs) know, integrating system monitoring tools is not as easy as deploying network monitoring software; you can't simply pick up the phone and order more HP OpenView licenses. While network monitoring is usually all about ensuring whether or not devices are running or have crashed, system monitoring tools need to provide details on the applications that reside on the hardware. And it's critical to work with products that encompass the full spectrum of operating systems, or, at the very least, Windows, Unix and Linux. Beyond that, mainframe support wouldn't hurt.

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Complicating the selection process is the number of system monitoring tools on the market -- there are a lot of them. So to help make your selection process easier, we've evaluated the options and selected the best tools for you to consider for your customers. We lay out why they're the best and how they'll help you help your clients.


  • BMC Patrol: BMC Patrol is the most mature of the products on our shortlist. It's available on dozens of platforms. The product line's flagship product, BMC Patrol Enterprise Manager, is extremely scalable and is tightly integrated with BMC's other products, including those that drill down further into system monitoring. I've used BMC products for almost 10 years and can testify to their worth. BMC Patrol Enterprise Manager functions as a central operations manager and consolidates alerts from all systems. It offers problem diagnosis and resolution suggestions, provides notifications and performs operator-type tasks. Patrol Enterprise Manager uses Sybase as its database engine, while REXX and Perl are used to automate scripting. The Unix admin console is written in Smalltalk, an object-oriented language, while C programs are used to provide alert filtering. Windows clients use Patrol Enterprise Manager's Patrol Explorer, which uses ODBC to communicate with the master Enterprise server. The console itself runs on Solaris, HP-UX and AIX.


BMC's partner program includes a number of tiers, most importantly Solution Provider and Consulting Partner designations. The Solution Provider program offers VARs the opportunity to deliver complete solutions by reselling and supporting products. The Consulting Program is services-focused, allowing providers to offer presales consulting and postsales implementation around BMC solutions. In addition, the company's BMC Flight Deck is a combination PowerPoint presentation and demo tool set that assists VARs in conducting demos. You know how difficult and time-consuming client demos can be; vendor-supplied resources are a nice time-saver.


  • Big Brother: Another system monitoring tool I've used in a production environment is Big Brother from Big Brother Software, a division of Quest Software. Available in both shareware and for-fee versions, Big Brother is a Web-based system that allows you to monitor virtually any kind of server; in fact, it supports more than 200 types of devices. Big Brother's out-of-the-box support allows the system to monitor disk space, CPU usage, error messages and user-defined processes. I really like that this product is affordable for smaller customers and is much more easily customizable than the others mentioned here. And, the product is integrated with the company's Foglight and Spotlight client/server applications, for end-to-end system monitoring.


Big Brother offers a free software trial as well as three tiers of service provider partnership: Elite, Preferred and Select.


  • IBM Tivoli Monitoring: Like the BMC tool, Tivoli Monitoring is an enterprise system monitoring tool. It provides for management of distributed and host systems through one enterprise console. The guts of the system is the Tivoli Enterprise Portal, a desktop or browser client that allows you to monitor and view the entire enterprise. It collects data about applications from agents and then passes the data to the management server for collection and filtering. The management server supports AIX, Solaris, Linux (Red Hat and SUSE) and Windows. Its database runs on DB2. It has links into applications and databases, such as Oracle, enabling support outside of standard server monitoring.
IBM offers multiple levels of support for its solution providers. Go to PartnerWorld for more information on becoming a Tivoli solutions provider.

About the author
Ken Milberg heads a consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience with Unix and Linux systems, as well as broad technical and functional experience with AIX, HP, SCO and Solaris.


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