10 Best Open Source Switch Port Monitoring Tools

in Monitoring and Observability

10 best open source switch port monitoring tools .jpeg

Switch port monitoring is one of the most crucial facets of network management. It not only provides insights about network switch port status but CPU load, memory utilization, historical port utilization, and more.


    Introduction

    Switch port monitoring is one of the most crucial facets of network management. It not only provides insights about network switch port status but CPU load, memory utilization, historical port utilization, and more.

    Investing in switch port monitoring improves network-related performance across your organization and optimizes port usage. As a result, you'll enhance security, reduce cybercrime, optimize networks, enhance compliance, and safeguard your entire IT infrastructure.

    One of the most significant benefits of switch port monitoring is tracking used and unused switch ports in your network. Unused switch ports often increase security vulnerabilities and invite unauthorized or rogue users to infiltrate your network. Switch port monitoring reduces the risks associated with unused switch ports, protecting the infrastructure you rely on to facilitate day-to-day workflows.

    Switch port monitoring also helps you:

    • Monitor network efficiency.
    • Manage downtime and uptime.
    • Save energy.
    • Save money and time.
    • Manage endpoints.
    • Safeguard sensitive data.
    • Troubleshoot bottlenecks.

    Some organizations still execute switch port monitoring manually, which takes up resources. But switch port monitoring software automates the entire process, providing growing enterprises with a cost-effective and time-saving solution.

    But not all switch port monitoring tools are the same. Open-source platforms provide organizations with additional value such as lower costs, scalability, no vendor contracts, and stability. Plus, many of these platforms come with extensions, add-ons, and plugins for enhanced functionality.

    But what are the best open-source switch monitoring systems for 2021? Read on to learn more.

    Why Is Switch Port Monitoring So Important?

    Switch port monitoring provides your organization with real-time intelligence about switch ports and the bandwidth and throughput that travel through these ports. When you monitor switch ports, you'll generate analytics and metrics for:

    • Port usage.
    • Network switch capacity.
    • CPU usage.
    • Full-duplex/half-duplex interfaces.
    • Routers.
    • Historical port utilization.
    • IP addresses.
    • Flow data.

    These insights influence your overall network management strategy for better performance, productivity, precision, and security.

    As you monitor switch ports, you'll identify the security risks that could damage your entire business. You'll also improve switch port performance, latency, stability, speed, and overall IT operations. These are the reasons so many of the world's most successful companies monitor switch ports regularly.

    Switch port monitoring lets you track switch port metrics for many switch devices, including products made by Cisco, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Netgear, and other manufacturers. You can monitor all your switch devices from one centralized system, even if you lack a large monitoring team.

    Even the smallest change to switch ports has a significant impact on your organization's network management strategy. Monitoring switch ports provides peace of mind, reducing the risk of cybercrime, insider threats, malware, and other vulnerabilities.

    Different Switch Port Monitoring Software

    There are two types of switch port monitoring programs:

    Proprietary switch port monitoring tools involve a vendor who charges you to use the software, typically on a subscription (SaaS) basis. Most vendors require you to enter a contract and pay expensive fees for terminating the agreement. But in return, you get full support for the software and other perks like regular updates, training, and implementation.

    There are other drawbacks to proprietary tools. Often you can't customize the software the way you like or integrate tools with third-party apps, plugins, and extensions. You have less flexibility. An example of a switch port monitoring proprietary tool is User Device Tracker from SolarWinds.

    This software monitors switch ports and many other network elements. The end user tracks network devices from one centralized hub, which provides accurate real-time performance metrics for better organizational decision-making.

    Open-source switch port monitoring tools are copyright-free, allowing for more functionality. You don't have to enter a long-term contract or pay any fees at all. (Open-source software is free.) Some open-source tools are basic, with only a few switch port monitoring features.

    The best platforms, however, are scalable, customizable, and brim with features. Best of all, these platforms won't cost you anything to run. There are various open-source tools for switch port monitoring on the marketplace. These tools provide insights into port usage, CPU usage, and more.

    Implementing one of these tools into your organization improves switch port performance over time. But which one is best for you? Here are 10 open-source switch port monitoring platforms you should consider in 2021.

    1. Graphite

    Graphite is a comprehensive open-source FOSS tool that tracks time-series data for various network elements, including switch ports. The platform displays performance issues for users on a dashboard. Because Graphite is one of the most popular open-source switch port and network monitoring tools, it appears first on this list. But the platform has limitations.

    IT teams can't access insights, and users can't load data to databases or a data center. Optimizing Graphite with an open-source solution like MetricFire provides additional features for switch port monitoring (and overall network monitoring), including granular dashboard permissions, data warehouse integration, team accounts, enhanced user experience, and a built-in agent.

    Click here to discover Graphite as a Service from MetricFire.

    2. Prometheus

    Like Graphite (and most tools on this list), Prometheus doesn't exclusively monitor switch ports but tracks various network elements in one place, providing users with insights into memory utilization, CPU, latency, and more. Prometheus displays these insights on a centralized dashboard.

    Prometheus features include Netflow flow analysis, support for Windows operating systems, and support for Cisco switches, Dell switches, and more. The platform prioritizes switch port issues and only sends users critical notifications that require attention.

    Just as you can optimize Graphite, you can increase Prometheus functionality with MetricFire's hosted solutions, which provide better scalability, full support and troubleshooting, and long-term storage.

    3. Nagios Core

    Nagios Core (formerly Nagios) is an open-source network performance monitoring tool that provides switch port monitoring data for growing enterprises like yours. You can generate insights into thousands of network devices, such as port utilization and current switch status.

    Other features include agentless monitoring, network outage detection, per-port bandwidth utilization tracking, error tracking, and switch monitoring via SNMP v1, 2c, or 3. Nagios Core has extensions and plugins available via the Nagios Exchange for even more functionality.

    4. Checkmk

    Checkmk is a monitoring solution that tracks multiple network components. Its switch port monitoring features include analytics for packet rates, CPU, power, and bandwidth of ports. The platform supports devices manufactured by Cisco, Dell, Intel, Extreme Networks, and more. 

    Checkmk provides real-time and historical switch port statistics, providing users with a holistic approach to monitoring. There's an open-source free version (Raw Edition) and a paid-for version with additional features (Enterprise Edition).

    5. Pandora FMS

    Pandora FMS is an open-source network infrastructure monitoring program that manages switch ports. The platform collects information about switch ports, networks, capacity planning, servers, and applications and creates charts and reports on a single dashboard for easy analysis. 

    Because it has limited switch port monitoring capabilities, Pandora FMS works best as an all-in-one tool for solving network issues, generating insights about disk usage, memory usage, CPU, system overload, and more.

    6. Cisco Switched Port Analyzer (SPAN)

    This open-source mirroring device monitors switch port activities in networks via traffic monitoring and VLAN filtering, providing valuable network analysis insights. One of the more popular open-source switch port monitoring tools, SPAN has a thriving community of users who can help you set up and navigate the platform. 

    The big selling point is that Cisco has made this tool, so there's lots of functionality and support available, and it's easy to configure. However, you won't be able to monitor switch ports made by other manufacturers like HP and Dell.

    7. LibreNMS

    LibreNMS is a MySQL- and PHP-based network performance monitor system that supports a Unix agent, horizontal scaling, automation, and customizable alerting. It's useful for Linux users that want to monitor their entire network.

    It's certainly possible to monitor switch ports in LibreNMS, but the process is difficult. Still, LibreNMS is open source and comes with loads of features, including monitoring notifications via email and Slack.

    8. Icinga

    Icinga (now Icinga 2) is network monitoring software built on Nagios Core that lets you track switch ports across networks. (However, the process can be a challenge, and you will probably require a tutorial.) Features include altering, rule-based configurations, application performance monitoring, and elastic search.

    9. HPE ProCurve Switch Mirror

    HPE ProCurve Switch Mirror is a mirroring device (similar to SPAN) that tracks the HPE ProCurve 2824 Switch J4903A and HPE ProCurve 2848 Switch J4904A ports. However, there are limitations. ProCurve doesn't notify you when these switch ports have vulnerabilities, and the system is difficult to set up.

    10. Zabbix

    Zabbix is another network performance monitoring solution that tracks IT infrastructure in your organization. Although primarily used to monitor performance management, packet loss, network mode, CPU, bandwidth, and memory utilization, it's also possible to track switch port status, connectivity, and usage from the platform. (There are various tutorials online on how to do this.)

    With Zabbix, you can schedule different aspects of network monitoring from an easy-to-use dashboard and receive notifications about switch ports automatically. Therefore, you don't have to track switch port status, utilization, and usage manually.

    How to Choose the Best Network Switch Port Monitoring Tools with Open-Source Licenses

    Pricing isn't a consideration when choosing between open-source switch port monitoring solutions. These free platforms provide value for your team, generating accurate real-time insights about switch port status, usage, utilization, performance, and security.

    However, remember open-source tools might not come with the support, features, or security updates you'd expect from a paid-for proprietary tool like SolarWinds User Device Tool. If choosing an open-source platform like Prometheus or Graphite, invest in MetricFire's hosted solutions for enhanced support, additional features, data warehouse integration, and other business-critical benefits.

    When choosing between the tools on this list, also consider the size of your monitoring team. More complicated platforms like Zabbix (for switch port monitoring, at least) require expert skills, so a hosted solution with customer support makes sense. If you don't have a monitoring team, you might struggle with some of the platforms above unless you invest in hosted services.

    Conclusion

    Switch port monitoring is one of the less-talked-about aspects of network monitoring, but it serves an essential purpose. Regularly tracking switch ports prevents unauthorized and rogue users from infiltrating these devices and accessing sensitive data. Monitoring also enhances the power and performance of switch ports, letting you identify minor issues quickly and improve response times.

    The latest software automates monitoring for your team so you can focus on other aspects of your business. These tools alert you when there's a problem with switch ports, prompting you to take action. Open-source tools come with additional benefits like customization, scalability, and no vendor contracts.

    Whether you want to track TCP transmissions, UDP transmissions, switch port status, historical port utilization, or something else entirely, open-source platforms provide reliable insights that drive your network management strategy.


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