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LAN & WAN Reviews

Monitoring

Various different monitors can be configured on each device. The ON100 device runs multiple monitors by default, including monitors for WAN Network Performance, Duplicate IPs, DHCP servers, DNS Servers, as well as CPU Load and Memory Usage on the ON100. A complete list of device monitors and alerts is shown in the table below pulled from the OnPlus data sheet. Some of the alerts, like jitter loss, packet loss and latency depend on a device's ability to generate them.

Supported device monitors and alerts

Supported device monitors and alerts

Since OnPlus is a cloud based service, an email can be sent from the OnPlus portal in the event a customer's Internet connection fails, such as the email shown below.

Failure email

Failure email

Monitors can also be set up to check DHCP, DNS, Performance and Up/Down status via ICMP, Email Servers (IMAP, POP3, SMTP), IP changes, Web Servers (HTTP, HTTPS), SSL Certificates, TCP or UDP ports, as well as Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

A simple monitor available via OnPlus is an ICMP monitor which pings a device and send an alert if the ping fails.

ICMP monitor

ICMP monitor

I set up a monitor to ping one of my VoIP devices, which produced a Critical Alert, shown below, when the device stopped responding to pings.

Critical alert for ICMP monitor failure

Critical alert for ICMP monitor failure

Reports and Applications

OnPlus has numerous reports available that can be generated ad hoc or automatically generated daily, weekly, or monthly. Reports include a Customer List, Customer Inventory, Event History, Executive Summary, and a Notification History. Reports are available for download from the portal, or can be configured for automatic email delivery.

For example, I ran the Customer Inventory report which has options to report on Device Categories, Device Summaries, Device Details and Market Share. This report produced a summary listing all devices on my test topology by IP address, Name, MAC address, and firmware revision if detected.

Cisco also makes available several different applications to complement the OnPlus service. Most of them are listed as free. I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually convert to fee based as the OnPlus product grows. Table 1 is a listing of the available applications for OnPlus.

Application Price Description
Ntop Packet Monitoring Free Starts the ntop application to analyze traffic on the MON port of the ON100 Network Agent
OnPlus Wireless Management Free Free for a limited time. Enables enhanced wireless management.
Autotask Ticketing Free Enables the Cisco OnPlus Portal to create tickets in your Autotask account.
ConnectWise Ticketing Free Enables the Cisco OnPlus Portal to create tickets in your ConnectWise account.
Kaseya Service Desk Free Enables the Cisco OnPlus Portal to create tickets in your Kaseya account.
AIRMAGNET Planner for Cisco Small Business Fee based Takes the guesswork out of designing wireless networks by allowing you to accurately plan, place, and configure access points for successful deployments. Available to Cisco Partners at an attractive price.
Table 1: OnPlus apps

I played around with the Ntop application, which leverages the MON port on the ON100. Recall from earlier in this review that the ON100 has two Ethernet ports. Only the LAN port needs to be connected for most of the OnPlus functionality. However, if the MON port is connected to a switch port configured for port mirroring, the Ntop application will provide summaries of the traffic flows going through the mirrored port.

I set up the SG500 switch to mirror all traffic coming from the WAP321 access point and direct the mirrored traffic to a port connected to the ON100 MON port. With the Ntop application installed, which is just a couple clicks in the portal, there is a separate Ntop portal for viewing reports on traffic flows including data on host activity and protocol summaries, as well as numerous other reports.

Shown below is partial output from the Network Traffic report by Host for all traffic sent and received.. The Ntop application appears to be a work in progress, because it produces a lot of unnecessary information. So I exported the data to a spreadsheet and deleted the less-interesting data to produce the table below showing information about traffic flows going to and from the WAP321.

Massaged Ntop output

Massaged Ntop output

At the time this snapshot was taken, the device with IP 192.168.199.107 must have been surfing the web, generating 108.4 MB of HTTP traffic.

Pricing and Conclusion

I last looked at a comparable network monitoring product in 2007, the Belkin Pulse. Belkin no longer sells the Pulse, but the product is still available from the original developer, Jump Node.

OnPlus and Jump Node have a lot in common. Automatic device discovery, web/cloud based management and remote access to devices are offered by both products. Both products are also targeted at managed service providers instead of end-users.

I'm sure Jump Node's product has evolved significantly since 2007. so it wouldn't be fair to compare the 2007 Jump Node product to today's OnPlus product. On the other hand, a look at Jump Node's current pricing options is relevant. Jump Node has multiple pricing models from a limited free product to more expensive monthly service charges ranging from $49 per month to $199 per month based on the number of devices being monitored. 

As mentioned in the introduction, OnPlus is targeted primarily at Cisco partners. But since anyone can easily partner up, OnPlus can be used by anyone with a small-to-mid-sized network to manage and monitor. Cisco has also made it easy to purchase OnPlus by bundling each ON100 appliance with a three-year OnPlus Service subscription, limited lifetime hardware warranty and no other service contract needed. With lowest street pricing around $172 (from Amazon), that works out to less than $5 per month. After the initial three years is up, renewal costs $50/year for each ON100.

What makes this even a sweeter deal is that Cisco doesn't impose a per-device charge. In fact, Cisco says there is "no known limit to the number of devices that OnPlus can manage on a network". And a single ON100 can be moved from site-to-site to troubleshoot or temporarily monitor a troublesome network. Just create another customer entry and OnPlus will remember each one unless you delete it. If you then want to be able to simultaneously monitor multiple sites, just add more ON100's.

In all, I found the OnPlus service quite useful. If I'm in business to manage customer networks, having a topology map, reporting capabilities, and various other network tools available via the web would be highly valuable. With the ON100 appliance deployed at a customer site, I'm sure I'd be better equipped to remotely manage my customers’ networks. And as less than five bucks a month, it would pay for itself quickly. Cisco even provides an ROI tool to help its partners calculate how to make money with the product.

In my experience working at an Internet Telephony Service Provider, I frequently encounter customers who could really use the tools provided by OnPlus. We have quite a few customers who have limited understanding of their network, and thus it is difficult for us to integrate our products into their existing network. It would be great if they all had OnPlus!

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