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Best Network Management Software

ZPE – Comparison

Disclaimer: This comparison was written by a 3rd party in collaboration with ZPE Systems using data gathered from publicly available data sheets and admin guides, as of 9/29/2023.

Please email us if you have corrections or edits, or want to review additional attributes: Matrix@zpesystems.com

Network management software allows administrators to configure, monitor, and maintain networks and network infrastructure without manually touching each individual device or service. A couple of decades ago, it was almost exclusively used by larger organizations, but these days, most non-residential networks are complex enough to benefit from network management software. 

There are two broad categories of software: one targets public cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) network infrastructures, while the other works with on-premises and private cloud environments. This post compares the best network management software offerings from each of these categories and discusses the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each to help teams select the best option for their use case.

Two types of network management software, explained

As mentioned above, there are two types of software to choose from depending on your network architecture. The first is meant for network infrastructure that lives primarily in the public cloud, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) networking solutions. These platforms are usually hosted in the vendor’s cloud and use software agents to view or control cloud-based systems. Cloud-based options don’t require any hardware overhead and scale easily along with the cloud-based infrastructure. However, these solutions rely on the vendor’s cloud infrastructure and production network, so you lose control over vital management aspects like security and redundancy.

Some cloud providers include their own toolsets for managing their infrastructure, for example, Amazon’s AWS and Google’s GCP. For the purpose of this comparison, we’re not including this type of built-in cloud network management software. Additionally, there are some cloud tools that handle specific aspects of network management, such as Terraform’s infrastructure as code (IaC) configuration management platform. This comparison only looks at software platforms capable of providing (or integrating) full-scope network management functionality. 

The second category is meant for on-premises infrastructure residing in business sites, data centers, and private clouds. This network management software uses serial consoles (a.k.a. console servers, serial console servers, serial console routers, or serial switches) to directly interface with systems and devices. Unlike cloud-based solutions, serial consoles provide out-of-band access to remote infrastructure, creating an isolated management network that isn’t dependent on the production LAN, WAN, or ISP. OOB ensures continuous remote access even during major outages, allowing teams to troubleshoot and recover remote environments (for example, branch offices and edge computing sites) without costly truck rolls or managed service support. However, these solutions only control the systems they’re directly connected to, and usually can’t manage public cloud or SaaS infrastructure.

The best network management software

Let’s compare the key features, advantages, and disadvantages of the two best options for public cloud and SaaS, as well as the two best options for on-premises and private cloud.

Comparing the best network management software

Best For
  • SaaS, public cloud, or hybrid cloud infrastructure
  • Teams looking for a large (but closed) ecosystem of fully integrated management and monitoring tools
  • Monitoring public cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure
  • DevOps and NetDevOps teams looking for a comprehensive full-stack monitoring solution
  • On-premises or private cloud infrastructure
  • Teams just starting their network automation journey who need reliable remote access to infrastructure
  • On-premises, private cloud, or hybrid cloud infrastructure
  • Teams looking to advance their digital transformation with all-in-one, vendor-neutral platforms for network management and service delivery
Key Features
  • Network performance monitoring
  • SaaS and cloud observability
  • Network configuration management
  • Server, application, database, and security monitoring
  • IT service management
  • Infrastructure, network, database, and application monitoring
  • Application and cloud security management
  • Cloud SIEM
  • Browser, mobile, and synthetic user monitoring
  • Continuous integration (CI) visibility and testing
  • Remote console server management
  • Cellular failover
  • Out-of-band (OOB) management
  • NetOps automation modules
  • Zero-touch provisioning (ZTP)
  • Remote console server management
  • Cellular failover
  • Out-of-band (OOB) management
  • Automation over OOB
  • Vendor-neutral application hosting for automation, monitoring, security, SD-WAN, etc.
  • ZTP and automation for multi-vendor end-devices

SolarWinds Orion

SolarWinds is one of the biggest names in cloud-based network monitoring and management. The Orion platform unifies the large ecosystem of SolarWinds solutions to provide administrators with a single control panel. The Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is the solution most teams think of when they hear the name SolarWinds, but there are also tools for SaaS and cloud observability, network monitoring and configuration management, server and application monitoring, database management, IT service management, application performance monitoring, and security monitoring. These solutions primarily target SaaS and cloud-based infrastructure, with some support for hybrid cloud (a combination of private cloud and public cloud).

Orion and its ecosystem of solutions come with lots of built-in automation capabilities to handle everything from networking to configuration management, incident response, and backups. However, outside of a library of supported integrations, SolarWinds is a closed ecosystem, so teams can’t always use their chosen third-party automation tools or custom scripts. Additionally, a high-profile hack in the SolarWinds Orion supply chain has put thousands of their customers (and those organizations’ clients and partners) at risk, and the breach is still ongoing as of Summer 2023. Another potential issue is that SolarWinds is agent-based and typically delivered as a service, so if there’s an outage anywhere in the chain between their cloud and yours, you
lose all access to network management and monitoring capabilities. Additionally, you need hardware on which to host the agents, which introduces more points of failure, increasing device sprawl and network complexity.

SolarWinds Orion pros and cons

  • Unifies management of all SolarWinds tools
  • Large ecosystem of solutions and integrations
  • Plenty of built-in automation features
  • Large library of integrations
  • The platform isn’t vendor-neutral
  • Some network features only work with Cisco solutions
  • Currently suffering from a long-term security breach
  • No way to access management or monitoring during outages


Datadog is a robust monitoring platform delivered as a cloud-based service. The Datadog family includes solutions for infrastructure, network, database, and application monitoring; application and cloud security management; cloud SIEM (security information event management); browser, mobile, and synthetic user monitoring; and continuous integration (CI) visibility and testing. The platform also supports a large library of integrations, so you can use Datadog to build a full-scope network management solution. Datadog works best for public cloud, multi-cloud, or hybrid cloud environments.

Datadog’s monitoring solutions work on the open-source OpenTelemetry (OTel) standard, allowing interoperability with most third-party software and services. That vendor-neutrality is crucial because Datadog can’t directly control network devices or change configurations, meaning you need to integrate the platform with external tools if you want a single-pane solution. Datadog does provide a range of non-monitoring products such as security management, DevOps, and CI tools. However, every product offering is actually a mix of various individual tools, each of which is purchased separately according to different pricing tiers, so getting a full suite of solutions can be expensive and confusing. 

Datadog pros and cons

  • Robust suite of full-stack monitoring tools
  • Supports the open-source OTel standard
  • Integrations with many popular platforms and DevOps tools
  • Has powerful data analysis features
  • Can’t directly control or change network infrastructure
  • Product pricing can be confusing and expensive
  • No way to access management or monitoring during outages

Opengear Lighthouse

Lighthouse is a network infrastructure management platform that works with Opengear console servers (a.k.a. serial consoles, serial console servers, serial console routers, or serial switches) to directly control remote systems and devices. Opengear console servers use redundant network interfaces (including some cellular LTE options) for failover and out-of-band (OOB) management. For additional fees, Lighthouse is extensible with Opengear NetOps modules that provide greater automation capabilities with support for Bash, Docker, Pearl, Python, and Ruby. The upgraded Automation edition also includes zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) for end devices and RESTful APIs. Lighthouse only works with on-premises and private cloud infrastructure.

Opengear’s solutions improve network resilience by providing network failover capabilities and remote out-of-band management. They also support SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking), which allows organizations to streamline and automate WAN management. While Lighthouse enables some automation with NetOps modules, ZTP, and APIs, that all comes with additional price tags, and not all Opengear serial consoles have automation support. Additionally, aside from a small library of integrations (including SolarWinds Orion), Lighthouse is a closed ecosystem and may not interoperate with all your other monitoring and management tools.

Opengear Lighthouse pros and cons

  • Provides network failover and out-of-band management
  • Directly controls remote network infrastructure
  • Offers optional NetOps modules for automation
  • Supports SD-WAN
  • The platform isn’t vendor-neutral
  • Has a limited ecosystem of integrations
  • Each NetOps module is a separate license
  • Not all subscriptions or devices support automation
  • Doesn’t natively control SaaS or public cloud infrastructure

ZPE Systems Nodegrid

The Nodegrid platform is a remote out-of-band management solution from ZPE Systems. Nodegrid delivers OOB access via serial consoles and integrated branch services routers, giving teams plenty of flexible hardware options to choose from depending on the use case and environment. All Nodegrid devices can directly host any vendor’s software, so you can deploy third-party applications for automation, security, monitoring, and more without additional hardware overhead. Nodegrid’s management software is available in two forms: Nodegrid Manager runs on-premises, while ZPE Cloud is a cloud-based service. Both options work with on-premises, private cloud, and hybrid cloud infrastructure.

Nodegrid’s software is extensible with your choice of custom and third-party applications, making it possible to integrate all your other network management, monitoring, and security solutions into a single platform for unified orchestration. Additionally, ZPE offers a range of cloud-based apps to extend the ZPE Cloud solution, including a data lake, extended storage, generic forwarder, and SD-WAN. Nodegrid is also a platform for network automation because it can run or integrate all the most popular DevOps, NetOps, and AIOps solutions. Nodegrid’s vendor neutrality also allows it to extend automation to any connected end device, even legacy systems lacking native support.

Nodegrid’s hardware and software are hardened with enterprise-grade security features like TPM 2.0, self-encrypted disk (SED), Secure Boot, and strong authentication. Nodegrid supports third-party integrations with leading zero-trust providers like Okta and PingID to further defend management networks. Additionally, the Nodegrid platform is supported by a responsive engineering team that patches CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) within 24 hours. Plus, unlike other hardware-based solutions, Nodegrid devices are always in stock. That’s because ZPE’s been working with global tech giants for 10 years, streamlining our supply chain to ensure constant availability.

ZPE Systems Nodegrid pros and cons

  • Provides network failover and out-of-band management
  • Directly controls remote network infrastructure
  • Hosts and integrates any other vendor’s software
  • Extends automation to any vendor’s end devices
  • Supports & hosts SD-WAN and has its own SD-WAN app
  • Includes robust security features and is frequently patched
  • Hardware always in stock
  • Doesn’t natively control SaaS or public cloud infrastructure
  • Other vendors may require additional licenses to run their VNFs on the Nodegrid platform

Deploy the best network management software for your use case

Each of our picks for the best network management software has strengths and weaknesses to consider before selecting a vendor. SolarWinds Orion is a robust ecosystem of network management and monitoring tools for public cloud and SaaS infrastructure, but it has ongoing security issues and limited interoperability with third-party solutions. Datadog is a vendor-neutral platform of innovative monitoring and DevOps tools delivered as a service for public cloud and hybrid cloud environments, but product pricing can be confusing, and it can’t natively control or change network infrastructure. Both platforms are cloud-based and rely on production networks, which can impact security and resilience.

For on-premises and private cloud infrastructure, Opengear’s Lighthouse platform provides out-of-band management access, network failover, and some automation capabilities. However, automation is limited to NetOps modules (purchased separately) and specific hardware. The Nodegrid platform from ZPE Systems is a vendor-neutral alternative that provides OOB, failover, and virtually limitless automation capabilities, making it the best choice for teams focused on digital transformation. Nodegrid can even host other vendors’ tools for network management, monitoring, security, SD-WAN, and more, turning it into an all-in-one platform that orchestrates every component of your network architecture.

Deploy the best network management software with Nodegrid

Learn why ZPE’s Nodegrid platform is the best network management software for your use case by scheduling a free Nodegrid demo.