The Drawback of Open Source Infrastructure Monitoring Tools for IT Capacity Planning

The freight shipping company serves five continents, moving shipments by land, sea, rail, and air. To offer cost-efficient, reliable service, they need their operations to run like clockwork. They must process their shipments quickly and store detailed information about them so they can rapidly ascertain the status of a shipment. The company cannot afford to have IT system slowdowns or downtime or to overspend on IT resources. Therefore, it must plan IT capacity wisely.

When trying to keep costs at bay, however, there is always the temptation to be penny wise and pound foolish. To save money, this company decided to use open source tools to monitor their server operations. The insights they gained from them, however, were limited. One limitation, for instance, was that they showed historical data at five-minute intervals, using averages, which disguised data spikes and, thus, skewed data.

Also, the user interface was not friendly. Because of this, admins and management did not use the program as much as necessary. The department, however, did not have time to refine it and make it easy and valuable to use.

Finally, the open source tool provided no information to help with planning the business’s storage capacity. For storage investments, they simply went with their gut feelings — often a recipe for over-provisioning.

5 Drawbacks of Open Source IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools

The drawbacks to open source IT infrastructure monitoring tools include:

  • A long learning curve that may involve hiring a consultant to train IT staff who use the tool
  • The amount of administration to implement and maintain the tool
  • The ever-present risk that developers may abandon the tool and you’re left with software that’s out of date
  • If you have difficulties, support may not be available
  • As in the case above, an open source solution may not meet your needs

The Benefits of Paying for the Right Solution

Luckily, the global freight shipping company realized that they had hamstrung themselves by going with a so-called “free” solution. Not only did it cost money to administer it, but they also were not getting the information they needed to plan server and storage capacity wisely. Because they were operating with little guidance, they risked buying too much or too little hardware and related software. That could lead to over-spending or slowdowns and downtime because they did not have enough capacity.

As a result, they looked for a solution that provided granular data, graphic charting capabilities and could oversee servers and storage. They found an IT infrastructure monitoring solution that did all that and more. Because it provided in-depth reporting and charts that provided insights at a glance, it:

  • Was easier for the IT staff to predict needs and purchase the servers and storage required to meet them — no more, no less
  • Took much less time to resolve capacity issues and ensure operations continued without a hitch
  • Enabled them to defer hardware purchases and the costs associated with software and administration
  • Helped them to balance their needs across their current hardware. For example, they determined which applications had high-speed I/O demands and placed them on solid state drive storage units. They moved all the less demanding applications onto physical disk units.

The moral of the story is to think of an IT infrastructure monitoring tool as an investment, not a cost. If you find the right tool, it will start paying dividends immediately. If instead you opt for an open source tool, you may end up with high administrative costs, wasted staff time, few valuable insights, and an IT infrastructure that’s no more robust and efficient than it was before you started using the tool.

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