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Eight great virtual appliances for VMware, free for the downloading

Frank J. Ohlhorst | Sept. 2, 2010
The combination of free open source and virtual machines is hard to beat; here are some of the handiest virtual appliances you'll find

Configuring Openfiler can be rather complex, but there are plenty of resources available on the Web that cover the most typical installations. Openfiler is managed using a browser-based console, which offers dashboard-like simplicity and several submenus to address the more complex configuration settings available. When paired with VMware ESXi, Openfiler brings enterprise level storage capabilities -- including iSCSI and other SAN and NAS services -- to most any network, completely free of charge. Support plans and commercial add-ons are available at www.openfiler.com for those looking to add additional capabilities or receive professional technical support.

Opsview monitoring

Opsview Community Edition 3.8 is free, open source enterprise network and application monitoring software that is available as a virtual appliance for VMware player. However, it can be converted to run on VMware ESX or ESXi by using the free VMware vCenter Converter tool.

Opsview is built on Nagios, an open source enterprise management platform. Opsview adds enhancements to notifications and alerting (both in terms of controls and methods), support for SNMPv3 with MRTG, flap detection, faster importing, and improved uptime checks. In addition to the VMware appliance, Opsview Community Edition can be downloaded as source or binaries for RHEL 5, CentOS 5, Debian, Ubuntu, and Solaris 10.

Opsview offers some unique features that make it a formidable management tool, such as support for monitoring virtual servers and a variety of hardware components found throughout the network. Normally, an advanced management tool like Opsview would be difficult to install and configure -- however, most of the pain of installation is eliminated with the virtual appliance version of the product, where initial setup takes only a matter of minutes. The browser-based GUI is informative and easy to navigate, making it a snap to add devices to be monitored and to define dashboards that offer meaningful information. The Community edition is offered under a GPL license, while a more advanced version of the product that includes support is offered under a subscription model. Managers of smaller, simpler networks may find everything in the free version to meet their needs.

Cacti network graphing

Cacti is a network monitoring and performance graphing tool that works with SNMP to capture what is happening on the network and present that information in easy-to-understand graphs. As with any network monitoring tool, Cacti can be somewhat complex to set up, because of the dependencies on MySQL, PHP, and other components. However, for those administrators who want a visual representation of what is happening on the network performance wise, it is pretty hard to beat the flashy, informative charts that Cacti can offer.  

Cacti works by polling all SNMP-capable devices on your network and adding the information you've selected to graphs. In its simplest form, Cacti will give you the ability to create graphs for the most common aspects of host monitoring, such as disk space, loads, memory usage, NIC monitoring (bytes in/out of an interface), and so on. The browser based management console is nicely done, and plenty of support is offered on www.cacti.net.

 

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