Ruby for Monitoring & Testing
In my recently professional experiences I have found Ruby to be a fantastic technology to use to accomplish this initiative quickly and easily.
Ruby is easy to learn and comes with a ton of free gems to make monitoring and testing easy. I recently put together a ruby_tester project on github for friends to fork to kick-off automation efforts.
Once pulled down the ruby_tester project makes it easy to launch an interactive prompt and test drive a browser with Ruby and Selenium. There are examples that structure tests with RSpec and do things like integration test a site with Selenium or call a REST services to monitor up-time and assert data integrity.
As a bonus I included a logging library and sample config file that I have used to push data directly to splunkstorm. At my previous job, with the Splunk storm 1GB free account, I have setup dashboards to visualize up-time and response-time for web services.
I find this tool-set much easier and faster to use than the one that come with other technology stacks. First hand I have seen .NET and PHP developers pick up the Ruby language in literally a few days and start using it.