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WhatsUp Gold vs. Open Source Network Management

In this brief we address the main myths around open source network management, and present WhatsUp Gold’s affordable and comprehensive network management capabilities as a strong alternative.

In the network management arena, open source software alternatives provide a compelling argument against big vendors that sell high cost, monolithic systems. However, the central theme to their argument relies on “cost” -open source is ‘free’ compared to the ‘high cost’ commercial software.

But is it really? In this brief we address the main myths around open source network management, and present WhatsUp Gold’s affordable and comprehensive network management capabilities as a strong alternative capable of delivering lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and greater value across the board.

Countering the Myths


Myth 1: Open source software is free

Fact: Most people think open source software is either free or relatively inexpensive, as compared to commercial software. However, this assumption glosses over the hidden costs of open source software. Typically, open source software implementations are time and labor-intensive, and require a great deal of technical skill and “open source community knowledge” to source the right components, install, configure and operate. Most open source network management platforms like Nagios or Open NMS are not solutions at all, but frameworks. As an open source network administrator, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time and effort configuring the system, building monitor templates and deploying them, documenting changes to the code to keep it maintainable, and so on. This process is continuous as you add new modules or code for upgrades, or wish to extend initial functionality. Although the download is free, the total cost of ownership for an open source software solution should include these labor costs. Over time, the hidden costs of open source can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the software life cycle!

Myth 2: Backed by an army of developers, open source software is comprehensive

Fact: While large open source projects like Linux and Apache projects are powered by a strong development community, open source for network management is a niche space. Contributors to network and system management (NSM) projects may number in the hundreds – but is this enough to provide you with a comprehensive solution? Based on the successful formula of matching community size to domain complexity, the answer is no. It would take a much larger open source community to manage the diverse and swiftly evolving set of network management instrumentation and infrastructure requirements. There are commercial vendors who have taken open source code and developed their own enterprise systems on top to offer a hybrid model. However, this is still not a match for the consistent, multi-year development efforts of commercially developed network management products, which focus on providing robust operation, breadth and depth of coverage, with a high degree of security, usability and outof- the-box intelligence.

Myth 3: Vendor supported open source software is just like commercial software

Fact: That is far from the truth. While commercial vendors providing technical or development support for open source software may make it less painful than doing it alone, they add considerable costs, and do not have the control to shape community opinion and future development effort to support your business goals. For example, can you be sure you’ll get the coverage you need in terms of product enhancements, platform support, or upgrade compatibility? Do you have assurance that roadmaps and long-term plans for open source projects will evolve to match new technology and infrastructure changes that you are planning? Moreover, as you are looking to reduce the number of management tools and consoles that you use - the ability to integrate different open source projects into one comprehensive management solution (covering say, fault, performance, configuration, security etc.) is difficult to achieve. While third party plug-in developers – both open source communities and commercial vendors try to fill the gaps – there is no unified vision, quality or timeline that they operate on. The result is that it is almost impossible to build an integrated IT management system – without incurring costly internal development workload and elevated project risk.

WhatsUp Gold vs. Open Source Network Management Software

The table below compares the key capabilities of WhatsUp Gold contrasted against currently available open source network management software like Nagios, OpenNMS and others. WhatsUp Gold’s market-leading affordability, rich feature set and proven performance make it an attractive alternative to using open source network management software.

Capability Area  WhatsUp Gold Open Source Network Management Software
Total cost of ownership (TCO) An affordable price (starting at $1595) and minimal operating overhead ensures a low TCO over time. License is typically free but the high cost of operating the software drives up TCO to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Out-of-the-box packaging Includes automated discovery templates and preconfigured monitors for most device types. Requires significant customization (time and manual labor) to cover even standard devices.
Ease of deployment Deploys in minutes. Installation, configuration and tuning may take months depending on the size and complexity of infrastructure.
Degree of automation Once you run one single installation everything is pre-packaged and ready to go. Much of the functional pieces (e.g. like discovery, reporting) are available only via 3rd party plug-ins which themselves require separate installation and time-consuming manual configuration.
Usability and ease of operation Highly intuitive workflows enable rapid process execution. Everything is manual and labor intensive. Get ready to spend quite a lot of time building, executing, maintaining and monitoring scripts.
Scalability of architecture, Multi-suite support Highly scalable architecture with the ability to seamlessly monitor multiple sites from the same console. Lacks scalability and typically requires multiple, independent installations.
Single Platform Extensibility Use WhatsUp Gold to discover, map, monitor and manage your entire IT infrastructure - network devices, servers, applications, virtual resources, VoIP, configuration settings and network traffic - from a single console. Plug-ins are available from 3rd parties and don’t integrate into the application seamlessly. Multiple consoles and lack of a single point of correlation will limit operational use.
Advanced Features Out-of-the-box standards support (SNMP v3 and WMI), performance reporting and trending, personalized workspaces, configurable alert conditions, inter and intra-device monitor dependencies etc Lacks advanced capabilities. Capabilities cover basic up/ down monitoring, alerting and reporting. Some advanced features may be available via plug-ins but face the same challenges as above.
Unifies roadmap and vision Product roadmap and vision is planned and controlled by corporate teams working closely with customer advocates. Roadmap and vision depends on the developer community and may vary in direction and timeline.
Security vulnerabilities Uses the highest level of security and protection available in the market - FIPS 140-2. Lacks hardened, system wide security testing. Moreover, the necessity of using 3rd party plug-ins and adapters leaves open the potential for introduction of malware or rogue code into the network.


The lack of success of the open source model in the network management domain highlights the challenges in catering to a highly complex but relatively niche market. WhatsUp Gold’s affordable license costs, low management overheads and comprehensive infrastructure coverage – caters to the same values as professed by open source software. Organizations that are deeply engaged in open source communities across multiple software domains as a strategy - may want to consider open source network management alternatives. For all others, WhatsUp Gold proven performance and track record for over 20 years may be reason enough to consider making a switch.

About Ipswitch Network Management

Ipswitch™ WhatsUp® Gold is a network management solution that reliably manages over 100,000 networks worldwide. Built on a scalable architecture offering automated device discovery and network mapping, real-time network monitoring (including SNMP monitoring and WMI monitoring), and versatile alerting, notification, and reporting functionality, WhatsUp Gold delivers 360° visibility, actionable intelligence, and complete control. WhatsUp Gold is available in four distinct product editions: WhatsUp Gold Premium Edition, WhatsUp Gold Distributed Edition, WhatsUp Gold Standard Edition, and WhatsUp Gold MSP Edition.

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