Software Review: up.time 4 Enterprise Monitoring

As a systems administrator, I’ve used a number of freeware and open source system and network monitoring systems in the past twelve years. Ping and shell scripts, Big Brother, GNU mon, OpenNMS, and lately, Nagios. I always found various things lacking in the free offerings – ease of configuration, reliability, host OS support, customer support, etc.

A couple of years ago, I finally decided to look at commercial offerings again (despite a bad experience with HP OpenView) and had the opportunity to use uptime software’s monitoring package (then up.time 3) I was pleased with the software; to be perfectly honest it worked so well I don’t *remember* using it that often. Once I set it up to monitor my systems, I didn’t have to deal with it. To quote a late-night infomerical, “set it and forget it”!

uptime software’s current product is up.time 4 and the new version provides many enhancements over the older release that I started out with. I’m glad to report that the “configure it, forget about it” ease of use remains in the new release, and if anything, is easier to use.

At its core, up.time 4 is a server and service monitoring system. The “server” side of the system runs on a Linux (RHEL or SUSE), Solaris (8-10), or Windows (20003 or XP) system. This server is the “brains” of the monitoring system; doing data collection and archiving (with a configurable archive policy), active system and service checking, and notifications (via email, text messaging, or SNMP traps) when events occur.

Systems being monitored can have an optional client loaded. This client can provide detailed system stats (memory, CPU, and disk use, process load, and network utilization) back to the monitoring server. Client-side installation packages are available for for Solaris, AIX, FreeBSD, HP/UX, IRIX, Linux, Tru64 UNIX, and Windows (2000, XP, and 2003). Even without the client-side monitoring agent, you can still check TCP connectivity (through ping) and TCP services (by monitoring specific ports). For example, I used up.time 4 to recently help debug a problem with the network LOM port on a Sun T1000 that would randomly stop listening. I configured it to check the IP address and connectivity to port 22 every five minutes, and notify me if it stopped responding over the network.

Installation of the product couldn’t be any simpler – in my case, I used the provided Solaris installer script. Running
up.time-4.5.100-solaris-sparc.bin started the process that installed everything into /usr/local/uptime4 (the default, it can be changed) along with a customized Apache webserver and MySQL instance. Both the web server and datastore run on custom ports as to not conflict with instances that might already be running on your system (as was the case with my machine). After basic installation, the instructions walk you through adding the license key to the software and setting up an Administrator account, through which the rest of the configuration and management is done.

Installation of the client-side “agent” software for enhanced system monitoring is done via a standard Solaris “pkgadd”-format package or via a RPM file for Red Hat Linux systems.

Once the server-side application is installed and started, configuration and management is done entirely via a web interface.

Screenshots: Web Interface Login and Main Web Interface

The web interface for user accounts lets you set permissions so that users can log in to view system status, but not have the ability to change any settings.

To monitor systems or devices, you add them via the web interface:

Screenshot: Adding a new host via the web interface

Once a system has been added to the inventory, you can then add specific services (beyond a normal “ping”) to be monitored on that system:

Screenshot: Service Configuration

Using the client-side agent software, up.time 4 can natively monitor Microsoft Exchange, IIS, SQL Server, Windows event logs, and services as well as filesystem capacity, system performance, and process count. Plugins to monitor other applications and services are available.

Without using the client-side agent, the up.time 4 server can monitor the following services: Active Directory, DNS, FTP, HTTP, IMAP, LDAP, MySQL, NFS, NIS/YP, NNTP, Oracle, Ping, POP3, SSH, SMTP, SNMP, SQL Server, Sybase, TCP (ports), WebLogic, WebSphere, ESX v3, and Windows file sharing (SMB/CIFS).

Once your systems and services are configured and are being monitored, you can see their status in a variety of ways. The most basic is the Enterprise View which just shows a list of hosts. The most useful is probably the Global Scan, which uses color and charts to quickly point out systems that have problems or services not responding. It also shows a a history of recent outages as well as system and disk utilization for systems that have the optional agent installed.

One of the nicest things about up.time 4 is its reporting capabilities. The report generation screens let you generate historical reports for any aspect of the systems being monitored, individually or as a group. Reports can be saved as HTML, PDF, plain text, or sent as an email. Scheduled reporting can be done daily/weekly/monthly in addition to on-demand generation.

Reports are nice, but when you have system or service problems the most important thing is being notified of those problems. up.time 4 has fine-grained control for notifications. For example, in my setup I have a number of users in a “SysAdmins” group. I then have a notification group called “NotifySysAdmins”, with alerts for my (small) group of systems sent to that notification group. This will then send email and text-message alerts to everyone in the SysAdmins group. In addition to pager and email,
Windows Popup alerts are also supported.

Service packs (to add features and fix bugs) are released a couple of times a year. Customers are notified of the service packs via both email and a “Update is available – click here to download” link on their main enterprise monitoring screen. The service packs are installed via a simple binary executable; this process is one of the most painless ways I’ve ever seen patches applied to a commercial application.

There is extensive documentation online, as well as technical support available via telephone and email.

up.time 4 is availble as a download for a 14-day free trial. Permanent licensing is done on a per-server basis; the more servers you want to monitor, the higher the price. Available support contracts give you unlimited application and service pack updates for the length of the contract, as well as 24/7 access to web, email, and telephone support.

I’ve been using products from uptime software since up.time 3, and although my use of it to monitor my small group of servers barely scratches the surface of its capabilities, I’m very happy with it. If you need an enterprise-quality server monitoring solution that can grow with your enterprise, up.time 4 should be on your list of candidates.

up.time 4
uptime software inc.
555 Richmond Street West
PO Box 110
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5V 3B1

(416) 868-0152 telephone
(416) 868-4867 fax