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Updated: 9th November 1999
Version 1.21
bcnu is a system which I developed for a number of different reasons. I manage a large number of different unix systems and had been investigating systems management tools. It appeared to me that most tools fell into two different categories:

  • Network management tools which covered some unix management issues, but were mainly designed to provide a graphical network view of network objects.
  • in depth system management tools which forced a change in the way systems were run and were difficult to set up and use.

Both types of system were expensive to set up in financial and training/maintenance costs.

I then came across the Big Brother network monitor by Sean Hughes - which inspired me to write bcnu. Big Brother is a simple web based monitoring package which uses shell scripts and a couple of c programs to provide basic management facilities.

The only problem I had with BB is that it is a bit complicated to install and maintain, and there is no real control over the scheduling of agents.

I also came across spong by Ed Hill, which was an execellent tool, but again still a bit inflexible and required perl5 on all systems.

I hope bcnu addresses all of the above issues.

bcnu is designed to run as a client on any unix system. The master requires perl and a web server for the full functionailty, but the alert mechanism will work without these.

The prebuilt binaries allow bcnu to be deployed within minutes, with only the agent thresholds to be configured.
What is bcnu?
bcnu is a client-server monitoring system. It consists of a server daemon running on each system to be managed. The daemon schedules the running of agents on the system. The agents can be used to check the health of the system or to run periodic bcnu admin tasks.

One central system is designated as the "master". This is where all data is logged to and where remote management can be carried out from.

A web browser is used to display the status of the systems under its control.

bcnu's main features are:

  • web browser based monitoring
  • multiple views of systems supported
  • easy to understand configuration file
  • cgi not required for basic monitoring
  • simple web server for static pages built into daemon
  • remote management of bcnu agents
  • separate agents for different functions
  • allows scheduling/enabling/disabling of each agent independently
  • each agent is completely configurable
  • proxy data gathering
  • discovery agent to find systems automatically
  • powerful queries on current or historical data
  • blackout mode for switching off agent activity
  • automatic logging and resending of agent information
  • alerts by mail,pager,web or custom program
  • files may be attached to agent data
  • historical data kept
  • flat file or mysql database support for data
  • runs on many unix platforms, prebuilt binaries available
  • free!!
What do I need to run it?
In addition to Unix systems, any IP connected device can be monitored by bcnu i.e routers, Netware/NT servers, gateways etc. It will use a ping to test whether the system is alive or not.

It is also possible to check for IP services on any system, i.e. ftp, http etc

To check other internal services on Unix systems requires a bcnu daemon and agents to be loaded.

Currently the supported Unix platforms for the daemon are:

  • Solaris 2
  • HPUX 9,10
  • AIX 4
  • Linux 1 and 2
  • FreeBSD 3
  • ICL DRS NX (deprecated)

As these are the only systems I have access to, these are the only ones I can test on, but I am hoping that others will contribute ports to other systems.

The software is distributed in source and with pre-built executables for the above platforms.

A C compiler will be required (gcc is fine) to rebuild.

For managed systems, that is all that is required as all the agents are bourne shell scripts and don't do anything very complicated.

For the master system perl is required to build the web pages. Perl 4 is fine.( but see below)

Currently a web server is required for the cgi scripts where these are used. I use Apache.

The web browser should preferably be Explorer 3+ or Navigator 3+, but it will still work on older browsers. The use of background colours in tables makes these browsers better.

(Optional) Kermit 6 is required for pager support.

(Optional) If you are using the Perl/TK alert script then Perl5 and the TK module is required.

You can email me at or subscribe to the low volume mailing list
© 1999,2000 John Phillips All rights reserved

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