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Alternative to Icinga: Pandora FMS open source

July 22, 2020

Alternative to Icinga: Pandora FMS open source

This post is also available in : Spanish

Pandora FMS as an alternative to Icinga 1.x, both open source

Examine. Search. Browse. Icinga, in Zulu language. The origin of the names of many software are somewhat strange (or unknown). In fact, that would be enough material for a whole different article. This time here I come to propose Pandora FMS as an alternative to Icinga and, if you are a frequent reader of ours, it may ring a bell.

By the end of 2018, we evaluated here several tools, including Icinga, briefly though. That’s why today we update the information and offer at the same time Pandora FMS as an alternative to Icinga. Initially, Nagios, the forefather of monitoring software, was born in 1999, just before the end of the millennium. It stayed fresh and new for ten years and in the meantime Pandora FMS was born in 2004. The Nagios community is enthusiastic and at that time it was cohesive. Until a group of programmers from this community stood up to Sr. Ethan Galstad and announced they were separating: Icinga. To be more precise, this happened in May 2009.

I consider that at that point Nagios suffered from connections to robust databases, such as Oracle® and PostgreSQL®. In addition, a web interface written in PHP was missing (don’t laugh, take the time into consideration). These two features were the first points that the ones who separated rewarded to the original project. All in all, “the student surpassed the teacher”. Unfortunately, the separation was painful, with details not worth commenting on.

Today Icinga has not lost an iota of its dynamism, but its heritage from Nagios is undeniable.

alternative to icinga 1

Caption: Principles of operation of Nagios https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icinga

Icinga and Icinga 2

In October 2012 they announced “Icinga 2”, which was written almost from scratch in C ++ language, for both Microsoft Windows® and GNU/Linux® platforms. As you are well aware of, having just a clear idea of what you want and/or need is no guarantee for success: building a stable version of the kernel took several years and in June 2014, it was successfully reborn. This sometimes strong “competition” between Nagios and Icinga strengthens them both. Generally speaking, that is how the world of technology can evolve. It took Icinga 4 and a half years of hard work to become independent from Nagios through Icinga 2. In the case of Pandora FMS, it was already clear from its planning that Nagios is rather general-purpose (here we are very aware of the limitations of Nagios). Here is where a true alternative to Icinga is born!

Icinga, a company as such, emphasizes that when they use the simple term “Icinga” instead of “Icinga 1.x” they refer to the fork of Nagios (their shared nucleus). “Icinga 2” is so different that you need a conversion to go from one to the other. Pandora FMS offers the same kernel from the very beginning, making the transition to the “Enterprise” version extremely easy.

At this point I should point out that, for even higher complexity – not to mention causing confusion – regarding types, versions and components and their names, there is also “Icinga for Windows®”… But no, it is not what you are thinking. Although Icinga 2 can be installed on Windows®, this component that I bring up is a completely complete module for PowerShell (PS), actually a programming environment for this tool. Pandora FMS takes the scripts alternative with the standard PS commands for when you monitor on said platform. This then leads us to talk about the agents of both solutions.

Data collection methods

To sum it up, there are two ways to obtain data from the machines under your charge: “ask” directly your devices (also called active verification) or use software installed on each of the devices (also called passive verification). The first option is based on the Icinga and Pandora FMS servers, here there is no major difference (these data might be HTTP, mail -POP3 and its commands- and ICMP ping, for example). However, Pandora FMS as an alternative to Icinga has a slight advantage in the most useful aspect of remote consultation: SNMP

alternative to icinga 2

Caption: Icinga monitoring methods https://www.digitalocean.com/community

So let’s look at software agents, or simply agents: Icinga uses “Nagios Remote Plugin Executor” (NRPE), which also adds a server on the client side. I already mentioned the aspect about PowerShell but it also applies to GNU/Linux: if you abide by normal and standard, you can quickly create our own custom diagnostics. I tell you this because NRPE also expects the Nagios server (or Icinga in this case) to explicitly ask for the data to collect, which is similar to the first method of data collection (and in all fairness they are more complex data such as storage and memory usage, running services and many more that you cannot do through public consultation to the network interface).

Pandora FMS works in a different way: it sends data in XML with its Tentacle protocol for higher security, in an interval of 5 minutes (default value) to the specialized server for that purpose in Pandora FMS («Data Server»).

That makes your work easier and minimizes the need to install new agent versions, because you only have to configure internally small scripts with a quick-to-learn syntax (in the “Enterprise” version, it even goes one step further: they can be edited through the console and saved in Pandora FMS server and it is automatically distributed in each device, or groups of devices, even if there are thousands of them).

Pandora FMS focuses more efforts on presenting performance data, while status are at the next level of importance. A status data is generally true/false, such as “is it online?”, while a performance data might be “how long have you been online with no interruptions?”.

Installation notes

Icinga, on GNU/Linux, only needs to be installed by means of apt since it is found in most Debian repositories and their derivatives. For its graphical configuration, you can use NConf, a tool that supports Nagios as well (although in 2019 its development and support stopped). In these cases, I always praise free software because you can well make your changes and pave your own way.

In the case of Pandora FMS, CentOS is recommended. Add the “Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux” (EPEL), add Pandora FMS to the local repository and then download and install with yum. There are also other installation methods like direct cloning from GitHub or using Docker.

Interfaces

Icinga comes with a classic interface appropriately named “Icinga Classic”. It comes with HTML and CSS without much dynamism, so you will need to reload the page very frequently such as when changing something or adding a configuration, etc. It was improved in Icinga 2 with «Icinga Web», which uses AJAX technology (which is essentially JavaScript with which information is exchanged in the background with the server and modifies/updates the web page). I point out that there is also “Icinga Web 2” for “Icinga 2”, which requires even additional components, such as flatpickr (lighter calendar written in JavaScript). The Pandora FMS console, as an alternative to Icinga interfaces, uses any modern web browser, without any hindrance.

alternative to icinga 3

Caption: Login to Icinga Web 2
Screenshot

Pandora FMS as alternative to Icinga

If you want to try and see how our community version works, we are on Github and we also have a Software Virtualization Device, which includes CentOS as an operating system, all ready to use. I recommend you to read our Frequently Asked Questions, practical and direct explanations for most of our work situations in the monitoring area.

Before finishing, remember Pandora FMS is a flexible monitoring software, capable of monitoring devices, infrastructures, applications, services and business processes.

Want to know more about what Pandora FMS has to offer you? Find out by entering here.

Or if you have to monitor more than 100 devices, you can also enjoy a FREE 30-day Pandora FMS Enterprise TRIAL. Get it here.

And remember that if you have a small number of devices to monitor you can use the OpenSource version of Pandora FMS. Find out more here.

Don’t hesitate to submit your inquiries. The Pandora FMS team will be happy to assist you!


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