August 11, 2008

Business combats network management woes with open source GroundWork

Author: Ian Palmer

When Sam Lamonica stepped into the CIO role at Rudolph and Sletten five years ago, he set out to tame an ungainly network by using an orderly open source network monitoring solution.

"Basically there was nothing in place," says Lamonica, whose Redwood City, Calif.-based company is a general contractor in the construction industry. "The infrastructure was pretty much a hodge-podge of different, disparate pieces and systems that had been cobbled together by a couple of previous IS directors. So basically it was a swamp.

"I was looking for a monitoring surveillance tool that would allow me to identify, detect and ... troubleshoot problems long before the phones started ringing or the executives beat me up in the hallways because the network was down."

Lamonica acknowledges that his short list, which included proprietary solutions such as OpenView (now HP Software), Unicenter, and BMC Patrol (now BMC Performance Manager), also featured GroundWork Monitor Professional, a tool that he had used with great success at a previous company. In fact, in previous jobs, he had rolled out, used, managed, and supported all of the aforementioned solutions.

When considering what solution would be best for Rudolph and Sletten, Lamonica says he had to factor into the equation things such as the need to support about 50 project sites, 60 servers, and 100 network devices that supported 600 full-time workers.

"I had tremendous success with GroundWork [while working for another company]," he says. "Because of the fact it was open source, it was far cheaper. The company itself was a great implementer, and the tool was geared towards the type of monitoring surveillance that I needed in my business. That's ultimately why I selected it. A lot of it was price-driven, but there was a lot of functionality decisions that I made based on GroundWork. GroundWork requires far, far less support than most of the other primary proprietary software vendors."

Making the switch to GroundWork took weeks -- only a fraction of the time it would have taken had his company opted for a proprietary solution -- and implementation challenges were too minimal to even talk about, says Lamonica. He says GroundWork fared better than rival solutions would have on the time-to-value scale.

Five years after the initial roll out, Rudolph and Sletten still stands behind its decision to go with GroundWork. The cost to acquire GroundWork was approximately 30% of the amount it would have cost to buy something from one of the major proprietary software vendors, Lamonica says, and the return on investment has also been impressive.

Lamonica explains that GroundWork almost immediately alleviated a lot of Rudolph and Sletten's IS staffing woes because it ensured that they were no longer "fighting fires." Lamonica and the IS team were actually getting meaningful alarms up front, and doing research and finetuning so that they could do root cause analysis on the front end.

"At the end of the day, it allowed me to get out of the 80% availability circus that was going on here," says Lamonica. "We're at four 9s now (99.99%) and have been four 9s over the last three years. The second benefit was with care and feeding. Some of the major proprietary software packages that I've rolled out have required a one or two headcount on a dedicated basis. Right now, we think managing the GroundWork solution is about one-third of one person's time per year. [Another] of the more compelling benefits that we were able to derive was people remain far more productive because there was far less downtime with the systems."

For companies that might be mulling over something similar, Lamonica says that he would heartily recommend GroundWork to his CIO peers. The product is strong and so easy to use that his company has not had to seek out a lot of vendor support, he says.

"Open source has reached a higher level of maturity," says Lamonica. "Businesses are doing a lot of intelligent things with open source solutions by wrapping other software packages around them and making them solutions instead of just software packages. I'd encourage my peers to be more comfortable with open source solutions."


  • Case Study
  • System Administration
  • Open Source
  • Business