Cacti is an Open Source based Network Device performance monitoring tool that is easy to install and easy to operate. The biggest advantage of Cacti is the fact that it can create output graphs using a variety of built-in templates as well as user created templates. Cacti is a user friendly front end for RRDTool. The various graphs generated by cacti hour-wise/ device-wise/ day-wise etc, can be monitored over the network using any industry standard browser.
Cacti, itself can be downloaded from its website. Cacti may require RRDTool, MySQL, PHP, Apache to provide all the functionalities. Cacti can monitor any device that supports SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol). So, for example, if you need to monitor the performance/ bandwidth/ traffic statistics of a server over a period of time, you could connect it to a managed switch port and then monitor the traffic of that particular switch port to analyze the various parameters.
Cacti has rich administrative functionalities as well. There can be one super-administrator and various users of the tool who can be given selective administrative rights / selective rights for creating and viewing (only) graphs, etc. Triggers/ Alerts can be set up to inform the administrator (by using syslog/ mail messages, for example) if certain parameters cross predefined threshold values.
It is possible to do distributed monitoring with Cacti. This means that Cacti can be installed and run from multiple servers (if one is not enough for monitoring high network loads). Moreover, when multiple devices (tens/ hundreds) are monitored simultaneously, its difficult to view individual performance output graphs one by one. So, Cacti allows for creating graph trees where the performance output graphs of multiple devices (for the same parameters being monitored) can be seen as a single output, hence saving a lot of time and enabling easier monitoring.
To answer the question of which devices can be monitored with Cacti its generally assumed that any device connected to the network and supporting SNMP can be monitored. To answer the question of what parameters can be monitored in individual devices, Cacti can actually monitor certain default parameters (using its default in-built templates) like bandwidth, network traffic, CPU Load/ utilization levels, device temperature, etc. There are certain user developed templates that offer additional monitoring functionalities like motherboard health monitoring, requests per second, requests currently being handled by a processor, number of open processes, etc.
Apart from the available templates, users can create their own templates (by creating scripts) to customize the monitoring parameters over a period of time. For example, Cacti can be used to calculate the Nth Percentile parameters using the data it has polled.
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