Three Tips to Finding and Using the ZenPack You Want [Part 3]

ZenPack LogoDuring my original interview with David Winter, the leader of the ZaaS team, Dave talked about how his group needed to extend the MySQL Database Monitor (Community) ZenPack to use with Zenoss’ new hosted solution. Well, I spoke with Dave again a few weeks later, and he told me he wasn’t aware of the original MySQL ZenPack starting out:

  • I went and wrote a spec so that the Zenoss solutions team could expand that ZenPack for me, and they said, “Have you looked at the community ZenPack for MySQL?” I hadn’t. And I saw it did 80% of what I just had specced out. Instead of redeveloping it, I told my team to grab the community ZenPack, go off and spec an instance, and then test it and see if it’s going to suit our needs.

Dave’s experience underscores two things. First off, the Zenoss community has created a lot of community ZenPacks, 348 and growing, according to the ZenPacks Wiki page. You can find ZenPacks that can do anything from monitoring SQL data sources to updating the login page graphic and the logo graphic for Zenoss Core 4.

The second thing is unless you are an avid follower of the Zenoss Core community, you can easily miss out on the new offerings and not know about ZenPacks being worked upon by your peers and colleagues.

A Good ZenPack is Getting Easier to Find!

As I decided to check out Community ZenPacks for myself, I realized it could be a laborious process. A Google search brought me to the Zenoss Wiki ZenPack Directory, where all the available ZenPacks were listed. However, you do need to click on each one individually to view its description. There were some other nuances within the site that required a level of familiarity with the website for your search to be efficient.

As I discussed this with Andrew Kirch, who came on as one of Zenoss’ community managers late last year, I was told this was going to change shortly. Andrew told me that the Zenoss.org is in the process of migrating all of its contents to the Zenoss Wiki. The new site has an interactive User Guide with video and will be a totally revamped forum that should be online before September. The information in the new ZenPack directory is continually being updated, making it very much of a one-stop shop for users.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help you find and use the right ZenPack for your needs.

1. Go Straight to the ZenPack Directory

The Zenoss Wiki ZenPack Directory is your starting point for finding available community ZenPacks. The main page gives a basic overview of ZenPacks, the types of ZenPacks available, and alternate ways to view what’s out there. Click on the Device Manufacturer view to find out, say, ZenPacks that help monitor Juniper hardware. If you want to know what ZenPacks come with Zenoss Core, the Core ZenPacks link will narrow that list down for you.

Each ZenPack has its own page that will tell you:

  • available release versions

  • ZenPack author

  • ZenPack maintainers (if different)

  • installation instructions

  • License

  • Link to download

  • Additional documentation

The information is continually being updated, and if you notice that it’s incomplete or out of date, go to Zenoss’ IRC channel, which is #zenoss at irc.freenode.net.

2. IRC Is Your Friend

Really, Zenoss’ IRC channel is the place to go for just about anything related to ZenPacks. When I’ve logged on, I’ve seen upwards of 100 people at any given time, and as long as you follow appropriate etiquette, you can find others to help you with your questions.

I’m guessing most of you are way more familiar with IRC than I am. If you aren’t, you can either access the channel on the web via webchat.freenode.net or use one of the many client apps out there. I’m using Colloquy on the Mac, which is free and works great. Windows users have a choice of options, including HexChat. And WeeChat runs on Linux, other flavors of Unix including Mac OS X, and Windows.

3. Get Involved With the Zenoss Open Source Community

But what if you don’t find a specific ZenPack for one of your devices? “Before you go building one from scratch, go to Zenoss’ IRC channel (again, #zenoss on irc.freenode.net) and ask,” Andrew told me. There’s a good chance a ZenMaster like Shane Scott (who participated in the recent webinar Torn Between Two Zenoss(es): How To Choose the Right Solution for You) or Jane Curry (check out her recent e-book Event Management for Zenoss Core 4 for starters) is in the middle of writing a ZenPack for it.

“That might get you access to the code to test it before they release it publicly,” Andrew said. “You want to engage with the community; it’s going to make your life easier.”