Monitoring the Situation
In the world of Mac based IT services, one of the most elusive and thorny issues facing the OS X Admin is how best to monitor his servers and networks under his care. For most of us, we manage small pockets of Mac servers, and simply can’t afford the pricey Enterprise tools that big companies use. We need it to be cheap or free. For the admin who only takes care of one room of servers, Lithium 5 is a great choice and does an excellent job. But for us, we needed more. We needed a way to reach out from one central place and check the pulse and vital stats of groups of servers all over town – each group hiding behind a firewall. Each group providing a unique mix of services for that client.
Sure, we all wish we had a fancy little iPhone app and server piece that could do all of this with Apple style and simplicity, but sometimes the best solution is one that was not built for the Mac, but can still work with it.
Our search ended last year as we settled on an amazingly powerful yet free product called Hyperic HQ. Yes, they have a paid enterprise solution (HQ E), but they also provide a free version that seems to do just about anything we want it to.
In short, Hyperic allows us to monitor all of our managed servers, their availability and the health of their individual services. We setup triggers and alerts with escalation and then just wait for the email or SMS text to tell us when and where a problem occurs. Through the Hyperic web console we can see trends and historical data to determine if any of our servers have an impending problem. And for any server behind the firewall, we only have to open one port to allow communication to either one server or many.
And just to show off and let Lithium know who’s the boss, any Hyperic agent running on a Mac can be setup to reach out to other resources on the local network and monitor them and report back to the mothership. It’s basically distributed monitoring at it’s best.
On the technical side, we did a few things to make it easier for us. We built our own package installer for the Hyperic Agent that allows us to deploy it in about a minute. After the install and a quick Q&A in Terminal, the new managed server is reporting in to the Hyperic server and we can assign preset triggers and alarms.
Using Hyperic is just one way we are setting ourselves apart from and above our competition in the DFW area. We love it. And an unexpected upside is that it allows us and our clients to sleep better at night. Thanks Hyperic.