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LAN & WAN Reviews

Network Management

Additional menus become available once you click on a customer. ReidNet is the customer I created for this review. As mentioned, the OnPlus product is targeted at Cisco partners who will hopefully purchase multiple OnPlus services for deployment at each of their customer sites. Clicking on an individual customer brings up the topology diagram of that customer's network.

When troubleshooting a network, I find a topology diagram to be a valuable starting point. For me, having a picture of the network makes alarms and/or fault indicators far easier to understand and determine a course of action. Creating a topology map and keeping it current, however, is time consuming. Thus, I found one of the most useful aspects of OnPlus is its topology mapping capability.

The ON100 automatically goes out and searches for all connected devices on the network, regardless of manufacturer. Numerous discovery protocols are used, including Bonjour, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP), Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), NetBIOS, Server Message Block/Common Internet File System (SMB/CIFS), Service Location Protocol (SLP), and Windows Management Interface (WMI).

OnPlus has “enhanced support” for certain Cisco devices as listed in this compatibility list. Enhanced support means things like an icon that matches the device on the topology diagram plus additional monitoring and management options. In my test, the only Cisco device I used from the compatibility list was a Cisco RV042 router. I also used a Cisco SG500 switch listed as “coming soon” on the compatibility list, plus a Cisco SG200 switch and a Cisco WAP321 wireless access point.

Cisco states it can take 10-20 minutes for the ON100 to complete full network discovery. I didn't put a  stopwatch on it, but I'd guess it took less than 10 minutes for the device to map the test network used for this review. The OnPlus device is continuously polling your network, so it will add devices to the topology map as they are discovered.

Shown below is a topology image of my test network, as initially discovered by OnPlus. As you can see, OnPlus has detected 26 devices and displayed them in a tree diagram. The top of that tree is a Cisco RV042 router.

Autogenerated network topology map

Autogenerated network topology map

The different rows in the diagram imply different portions of the network topology. I found the automatic OnPlus diagram didn't initially produce a completely accurate topology. The RV042 is on top as it should be, but connectivity between the switches and wireless network weren't accurately depicted.

The diagram should show the RV042 on the top row and a Cisco SG200 in the second row. The third row should show multiple devices connected to the SG200, including a Cisco SG500 switch and a NETGEAR GS108T switch. The fourth row should show end devices connected to the SG500 and GS108T, including a Cisco WAP321 connected to the SG500. Finally, the fifth row should show wireless devices connected to the WAP321.

Modifying the topology map to accurately depict your network is point and click, but took me a minute to get used to. First, you click on the device you want to move. Then, you click on the device you want it to connect to and click the topology option. This moves the device to its parent in the topology. My test network topology after I reorganized it in the OnPlus portal is shown below.

Autogenerated network topology map

Manually tweaked network topology map

In the above topology, all of my devices are on the same VLAN. However, OnPlus can detect devices in multiple VLANs if the ON100 is connected to a standard 802.1q trunk port. No configuration on the device or portal is required for this to work. When the ON100 detects it is connected to an 802.1q trunk, it will create a sub-interface for each VLAN, acquire an IP address on the corresponding subnet, and perform network discovery over each VLAN.

I successfully tested multi-VLAN capability by configuring the port on the SG500 connected to the ON100 as an 802.1q trunk with membership in multiple VLANs. I then added another router with its DHCP server enabled to a different VLAN on the SG500 to see if OnPlus would get a second IP from another subnet. I had to reboot the ON100 to kick start it into finding the other VLAN. But after the reboot, the ON100 had an IP address from both the original and new subnet and successfully discovered devices in both VLANs.

Device Management

OnPlus provides a lot of options for device management. OnPlus will discover virtually any device on a network with a MAC and/or IP address. If OnPlus doesn't discover a device, it can be manually added.

The discovery capability of OnPlus appears to leverage device MAC addresses. The first 6 digits of a device's MAC identify the manufacturer, and OnPlus uses this information to make a “best guess” on what type of device it is.

I found it necessary to manually update many of my devices in the topology map. I changed the device icon and device name on the topology of many devices to more accurately depict the device. For example, I changed the icons on the PCs in my topology to reflect which ones were laptops and which were desktops. OnPlus has 50 different device icons, as well as five different categories for classifying devices on a network.

Once a device is discovered, it remains on the topology map even if it is offline. OnPlus puts a “?” on devices that are currently not available. Further, it appears that OnPlus tracks devices by MAC, because it automatically updates a device's IP if it changes due to DHCP, instead of adding a new device.

Clicking on a device's icon on the topology map brings up a considerable number of options. Below is a shot of the SG500 expanded from the OnPlus topology map.

Device settings page

Device settings page

As you can see, OnPlus accurately detected the device type and icon, as you would expect since it is a Cisco device. Interestingly, OnPlus also detected a NETGEAR ReadyNAS and applied a NETGEAR icon, but did not do the same with a NETGEAR GS108T switch.

Notice the menu bar across the top in the device page shown above. These are the device management options. Some devices will have more menu options than others, depending on the detected device capability.

In these menus, a network administrator can enter the device log on credentials, remotely connect to the device, view a summary of detected information about the device, configure multiple different monitors on the device, view events/alarms from the device, perform backups, upload firmware, and add notes about the device.

Remote Control

OnPlus' remote connectivity is very handy. Since OnPlus is cloud based, the portal is available anywhere you have Internet access.

It's convenient to be able to look at a network topology diagram and connect to a device from that diagram. Remote connection options include web page access (port 80 or 443), Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Virtual Network Computing (VNC), and Generic Connection capability for SSH or Telnet connectivity.

Cisco's OnPlus manual advises “Support for remote connections to third-party devices and Cisco devices that are fully supported by OnPlus is limited.”  The manual goes on to list multiple other caveats, such that only one remote connection can be up at a time and the connection will terminate if idle for more than 10 minutes. The take away here is OnPlus is not designed to replace other remote access technologies such as a VPN tunnel. But it can be a useful tool for remotely managing a network.

I successfully tested OnPlus' remote access to several Cisco devices and was able to RDP to a Windows laptop on my test network via OnPlus. However, connectivity wasn't straightforward with some other devices, and I couldn't connect to some devices on my test network.

For example, NETGEAR's ReadyNAS configuration GUI is accessible via https://ip/admin. I didn't see an option in OnPlus to configure the /admin portion of the path, but was able to manually adjust the path once the connection screen was presented. You can see the connection options screen OnPlus provided for the ReadyNAS below. On the other hand, I couldn't connect at all to a NETGEAR GS108T switch via OnPlus.

Connect options screen

Connect options screen

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