4 Awesome Open Source Tools for Systems Administrators and Developers

4 Awesome Open Source Tools for Systems Administrators and Developers

March 5

Last year I wrote an article looking at the benefits of open source software. My focus was on mature, largely successful projects such as LibreOffice, Ubuntu, and WordPress that have been around for years. WordPress has changed a lot since I began using it in 2005. Today it’s used by 23% of the top 10 million websites and is the most popular blogging platform on the planet.

But what about nascent open source projects that are fighting for developer support? This week, I take a look at some promising open source projects and determine what areas are getting the most attention in terms of open source software support.

Taiga – Project Management Platform

About a decade ago I worked for the Microsoft Project team and spent a lot of my time gathering feedback from people who relied on our product each day. It didn’t take long to determine that many of them were not fans of project management software, but were compelled by company standards or market requirements to use Microsoft Project. If you’ve spend time using Project or similar software you understand that this type of software is made for professionals who manage large projects, and can be intimidating to those with basic project management needs.

Taiga dashboard

You can customize nearly every area of Taiga


Taiga takes a different approach. This open source projects was started by developers who desired a more straight-forward approach to project management. So they created a product that’s both easy to use and yet customizable for those seeking a more advanced feature set.

Taiga is still in beta through March 2015 and offers both public and private project options. I should mention that Taiga is geared towards those managing startups and agile developers and designers. Their philosophy comes through on their blog where they share their product’s progress and interact with users.

Docker – Rapid Application Deployment

Docker has gained an impressive following and generated a lot of excitement for an open source project. In just a short time it has gained the support from a number of well-known companies such as Red Hat and Google.


Docker is an open platform for distributed applications for developers and system administrators. Docker allows developers to create applications using the Docker Engine, which includes a lightweight application runtime and package tool. The Docker Hub is a cloud service for sharing those applications. In short, Docker allows companies to choose where their applications will run while giving developers the freedom to use the languages and tools they prefer.

Ben Thompson from Stratechery describes Docker this way:

“It doesn’t matter what is inside of a shipping container; the container itself will fit on any ship, truck, or crane in the world. Similarly, it doesn’t matter what app (and associated files, frameworks, dependencies, etc.) is inside of a docker container; the container will run on any Linux distribution and, more importantly, just about every cloud provider including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Rackspace, etc.”

One might ask how Docker is different than running apps in a VM. That was certainly one of my first thoughts as I combed through the documentation. From what I can tell, the main difference between running apps in a Docker container and a VM is that Docker promises a smaller, more portable solution because its container has a smaller footprint than the guest OS required by most VMs.

RackTables – Datacenter Asset Management System

Maintaining a list of all the various devices under your umbrella has traditionally been one of the least favorite sysadmin tasks. What used to fit in a spreadsheet can quickly spiral into an organizational nightmare when devices are retired or reassigned to another area.

RackTables was created by system and network admins for people who manage small or large datacenters. It manages not only your racks and devices but IP addresses that are assigned to those devices. It documents your NAT rules, maintains physical ports of all devices and links between then, and uses a tagging system to make sure everything is properly labeled. It maintains all this information and makes it available from the web.

This is probably the most straight-forward product on the list, but it could be a lifesaver if you’re currently trying to manage this information in Excel.

And don’t forget, documentation is the first step toward a really great backup and disaster recovery plan.

Observium – Intuitive Network Monitoring

Observium is an auto-discovering network monitoring platform that supports a wide range of hardware and operating systems including Windows, Cisco, Linux, HP, Dell, and many more. The goal of Observium is to provide the network admin with an intuitive glance at the health and status of his network.

A number of large companies such as Spotify, Yahoo, and Twitch already use Observium to monitor and plan their networks. Like many open source projects, Observium include a free version anyone can download and a professional version with expanded features and support.

These are few of the open source software project that caught my eye. Black Duck Software recognizes a number of the best open source products each year in their “Open Source Rookies of the Year” column. It’s worth a look at each recipient going back to 2008.

Infoworld gathers some of the best open source software and presents them in their “Bossies Award” column. Projects are broken down into six categories that range from nascent to established software projects.

The number of open source software projects is exploding. If you’re developer looking to contribute to a project or a sysadmin in search of the perfect tool, there’s probably something that will catch your interest.  It’s just a matter of locating it!

What are some open source products you rely on?

Top photo credit: via Flickr