Zenoss vs Nagios

Among the many options available for system monitoring, Zenoss vs Nagios are among the most popular ones. People often get confused because they don’t know exactly what these tools offer. Below, you can find out about how Zenoss and Nagios compare against each other, what advantages that each offers, and which tool that is generally more suitable for you.

After reading this article, you will understand better about

  • The benefits and advantages of Zenoss
  • The benefits and advantages of Nagios
  • Which network monitoring tool that is easier to set-up and use
  • Which tool that is more suitable for a large, growing system
  • Which tool that can provide deeper and more detailed reports
  • Whether you should go for Zenoss or Nagios

Zenoss: Overview

Zenoss has become one of the most exciting prospects in the world of system and network monitoring. It has one unique, distinctive feature: it can perform agentless monitoring. In addition, it comes with a complete dashboard that will allow you to access any function from a single place. See also: OpenNMS vs Nagios

If you have multiple servers in different locations, you will find Zenoss’s integration with Google Maps to be very handy. It will enable you to track the servers by location. Zenoss has been designed to be able to integrate into the entire system lifecycle and to simplify the adoption of new technologies.

There are two different products from Zenoss. The first one is Zenoss Core, which is also known as the Community Edition. This is an open-source platform for infrastructure management and monitoring, and is backed-up by the user community. The second one is Zenoss Service Dynamics, which is the paid version which adds more advanced features, unified event management, and official technical support.

Nagios: Overview

Nagios is one of the most popular open-source network monitoring tools in the market. It has been around for quite a long time. Unfortunately, the development has been quite stagnant in the last few years, without any significant improvement or modification. Even so, it is still a very viable choice because it is working well and very reliable.

There are several notable capabilities of Nagios, such as the ability to monitor routers and switches, network availability, uptimes, and response times. You can customize it with plugins, and you can even write your own plugin. The community is quite large, so getting help or assistance will be easy if you encounter any issue.

There are several different products for Nagios, such as Nagios Network Analyzer, Nagios Log Server, and Nagios 11. These can be used for monitoring network bottlenecks, critical data, and server infrastructure. Nagios runs most checks by itself.

Zenoss vs Nagios: Setup

The first thing that we can compare between Zenoss and Nagios is the ease of setup and operation. If you don’t want to deal with way too much complexity and technicality, Zenoss is probably not for you. Nagios is not the simplest tool to use, but compared to Zenoss, Nagios is considerably better.

Despite being a highly visually-driven tool, Zenoss’s installation and configuration will bring you into a lot of text files, terminal commands, and various pieces of operating systems and third-party apps. Just skim through the official documentation and you will see that there are more screenshots of consoles and text files than GUIs.

That’s not all. Zenoss uses the reverse polish notation (RPN) for postprocessing values. While regular expression often can be the most efficient solution for defining an operation, Zenoss has gone a little bit too far. In order to use Zenoss properly, you need a high level of technical knowledge. You also need a comprehensive knowledge about the system.

Nagios also has a fairly complex setup, but the entire process is quite centralized. You will not need to go around console screens and interact with different third-party apps. With fewer places to fiddle with, there is less risk of mistake or misconfiguration.

It is true that, with Zenoss, once you have fine-tuned all the hundreds of details properly, you can get a tool that is equivalent to the holy grail of monitoring – you can quickly detect issues and their causes, and you can even predict potential issues. However, this comes at the cost of having a very strict and limited operation methodology that may or may not prevent the team from working calmly. With Nagios, things are less complicated.

Zenoss vs Nagios: Integrations

Both Zenoss and Nagios provide customizability through integrations or plugins. With either tool, you can put in every function and feature that you need into a single monitoring panel. Still, there are notable differences in how they work.

Zenoss is very rigid when integrating with a third-party application. It can do everything, but it has established a systematic way for how everything has to be done. As the effect, relatively simple tasks can become quite complex. Obtaining information has to be performed through user-defined processes, and producing results or notifications often requires more than a simple four-line script.

Fortunately, Zenoss now has a JSON API which is quite flexible and powerful. You can use this API to set-up integrations a little bit more easily. There is a wiki that provides useful information on how to start using the API.

Nagios, on the other hand, is much easier to use when it comes to adding and setting up plugins. Simple tasks can stay simple. And, you can use pretty much any programming language to create your own check plugin. For example, you can create a bash script to check the current warnings. Just put the script together with your other plugins and add that to the configuration files.

That being said, in the end, Nagios’s plugins won’t be as powerful as Zenoss’s API. There are things that you can’t do with Nagios but you can with Zenoss.

Zenoss vs Nagios: Scaling

If you only need to monitor a few servers or a small network of a building, you don’t need to worry about scaling too much. However, if you are dealing with a huge architecture or a system that is growing rapidly, you need to make sure that your chosen tool can scale well.

Zenoss is better in this regard. It can handle 8000 nodes or more without much problem. This is also the reason why Zenoss has been used by many large companies, such as Cisco, BBC, and TransUnion. If scalability is one of your main concerns, Zenoss Service Dynamics is an excellent choice due to the seamless compatibility with all Cisco gears, fast user interface, and background task engine.

Nagios does not have good scalability. Everything is good when the system is quite small, but once the system has grown, many organizations have found that they need multiple instances of Nagios. This brings problems, because rather than monitoring through one master location, you will spend time and energy to correlate data from different instances.

Zenoss vs Nagios: Monitoring & Reporting

Finally, Zenoss and Nagios differ from each other in terms of monitoring and reporting capabilities. Both can provide data visualization through graphs. However, Zenoss can also utilize the stored data and graphic motor for real-time analysis, whereas Nagios simply displays them.

The reports from Zenoss are very detailed, though also very technical. The user can create reports according to item types and use TALES expressions (almost like regular expressions) to filter the results. Because of this, Zenoss is more of an interface for technicians and a reporting tool for technicians.

On the flipside, someone with minimal knowledge won’t be able to use Zenoss or read its reports. Managers and executives typically prefer summarized yet actionable reports that tell them whether everything is good or not, what has issues and what has to be done.

On the other hand, though, Nagios is not entirely better. Again, you can use plugins or write your own scripts to generate reports. This is useful in a variety of situations, whether you need detailed technical data or a summarized report. But the limited analysis capabilities may be an issue of its own.

Don’t forget that Zenoss has two strong points, which are unified monitoring and predictive monitoring. No matter if you have a huge architecture with different combinations of business tools, geographically distributed nodes, or hybrid cloud and local environments, you can monitor them all through one master location. Nagios can’t do that.

The predictive monitoring or “predictive analysis” as Zenoss calls it is also very interesting. It has a heuristic root cause detection mechanism. It is based on previous definitions and classifications of all assets, which are put in a series of related types. It will allow you to spot potential issues, while at the same time bringing a sense of order into a vast network that may feel like a complicated mess at times.

Zenoss vs Nagios

- More complicated setup - Easier, more centralized setup
- Complicated integrations, but has a powerful JSON API- Easy and flexible plugins that can be written in any language
- Very good scalability- Only suitable for a small architecture
- Advanced monitoring, analysis, and reporting capabilities- Basic monitoring and reporting
- Very detailed, very technical reports- Create custom reports with scripts


In general, Zenoss is more recommended. It has much more advanced capabilities, and it has very good scalability. It also has a powerful JSON API which you can use for integrations. Nagios is generally easier to use, and the plugins are very flexible, but the tool is only suitable for a small architecture.

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