Netreo Service Takes Agentless Approach

Review: The subscription-based OmniCenter OnDemand tool reduces overhead costs.

Netreos OmniCenter OnDemand provides network, system and application management without using agents or appliances. While OmniCenter OnDemand currently lacks a full-fledged configuration management database, it provides performance monitoring breadth without mandating new IT head count.

OmniCenter OnDemand is a subscription-based service. With no hardware or agents to install, the product slipped easily into the network during eWeek Labs tests. Our evaluation showed that OmniCenter OnDemand is best suited to heterogeneous hardware and software environments where IT feels it is overwhelmed with a spaghetti of single-vendor monitoring tools.

IT managers in small shops should also consider Nagios, an open-source host and network monitoring program. Weve used Nagios for some time here at eWeek Labs; it takes a bit of hand-holding to get Nagios properly tuned, but weve achieved good results at a fraction of the price charged by commercial vendors.

OmniCenter OnDemand requires at least a three-month service contract for a minimum of 10 managed devices. Costs per device range from $75 per month to as low as $7 per month. The longer the contract and the greater the number of devices monitored, the lower the price. After installation and maintenance costs are factored in, OmniCenter OnDemands pricing is comparable with competitors.

OmniCenter OnDemand became available in late 2006, at the same time as Netreos OmniCenter 6.0 appliance. The main difference between the two products is that the appliance version allows output to a syslog repository. Otherwise, OmniCenter on both platforms uses SNMP, WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), WBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management) and other protocols that are supported by monitored servers, switches, routers and applications to provide availability and performance information.

In fact, Netreo is insistent about not using software agents to gather network information. The downside to this is that data collection is limited to the information the host can provide. For example, the SNMP implementation in Windows 2000 Server is minimal and thus limits OmniCenter OnDemand to only the most basic knowledge of a Windows 2000 Server systems performance.

During tests, we monitored an assortment of Cisco Systems switches and routers, along with servers running Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 and Ubuntu. We also monitored a variety of firewalls, including a WaterGuard Technologies WatchGuard Firebox X Core, as well as Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server.

We installed OmniCenter OnDemand in our test network by downloading a VMware OnDemand virtual machine from Netreo. We installed the OnDemand VM on a host system that was already running the free version of VMwares Virtual Server. The OnDemand installation process used SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to create a VPN tunnel back to the Netreo head end server.

We had technical help from Netreo to ensure that the OnDemand VM correctly discovered all of our servers, network infrastructure and applications. Including the time needed to ensure that discovery was working correctly and that our monitoring thresholds were configured the right way, we were on the phone with Netreo for about 2 hours.

The only time we needed configuration assistance was for monitoring parameters on our Exchange Server system. We wanted Exchange Server to have a lower threshold level before OmniCenter OnDemand showed the service as "degraded." To do this, we had to adjust the values assigned to the Exchange Server in the administrative interface. ´

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at


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