Infrastructure Management Software Blog

Smart Plug-Ins (SPIs) and Agent-Based/Agentless Data Collection Explained: What you need to manage your IT environment

Have questions about HP Operations Center SPIs like the infrastructure SPI or the SPI for virtualization? Wondering what agents you need to get? And how many? The following post is a good high-level summary of what you need and where you need it. Read on …

In general, an HP Operations Manager solution consists basically of two things: an Operations Manager server along with data collection technologies. Data collection technologies, at a very high level, are either agent-based or agentless. The purpose of this post is to explain the latter two: agent-based data collection and agentless data collection and what you need to implement a solution comprised of both. The following two figures provide high-level architectural representations of the following discussion.












Agent-based data collection explained

HP Operations Manager agents collect, aggregate, and correlate monitoring information to manage data and events collected and aggregated from multiple sources. The agents can suppress irrelevant and duplicate events and correlate the remaining relevant events to produce actionable and enriched management information. In addition, dependencies and propagation rules show the cause of an incident, which assist in reducing mean-time-to-recovery and downtime. Agents are installed on each managed system or node, regardless if it is a physical or a virtual machine, and have the following additional capabilities:

· Allow the addition and customization of monitoring sources not included in out-of-the-box monitoring policies.

· Collect and analyze performance data from operating systems and installed applications and use historical patterns to establish performance baselines.

· Autonomously perform automated corrective actions (in isolation from the Operations Manager server) and manage by exception (forward only actionable events to the Operations Manager server through the use of intelligent filtering, duplicate suppression, and correlation techniques).

· Set up HTTPS communication with the Operations Manager server – even in outbound-only communications configurations.

· Support monitoring data center technologies such as virtualization and clusters.

Agentless data collection explained

Agentless data collection, through the use of HP SiteScope monitoring probes, complements agent-based data collection by providing flexibility in how information is gathered from the IT environment. Like agent-based data collection, agentless monitoring is performed on both physical and virtual systems and has the following capabilities:

· Gathers detailed performance data for infrastructure targets without installing an agent on the managed node.

· Provides easy monitoring of the IT infrastructure.

· Has an intuitive user interface.

· Allows actions to be initiated automatically when a monitor’s status changes.

· Provides solution templates that enable quick deployment of monitoring probes, which include specialized monitors, default metrics, proactive tests, and best practices for an application or monitoring component.

· Has the ability to monitor previously unmanaged or hard-to-manage systems and devices through easy-to-use customization tools.

Infrastructure Smart Plug-Ins – what are they and where do they fit in?

Infrastructure Smart Plug-ins supplement agents by collecting data at the infrastructure or managed systems level. They provide out-of-the-box, packaged, and intelligent management and are comprised of the following three SPIs:

· The “system” SPI discovers operation system and platform resources, generates alerts on system diagnostic events, monitors system services and processes, and monitors resource utilization.

· The “cluster” SPI automatically discovers and represents cluster nodes and configured resource groups in a clustered environment, monitors cluster services and processes, and enables monitoring of clustered applications - even as they move “on-the-fly” between cluster servers.

· The “virtualization” SPI -which is supported on the most common virtualization hypervisors - discovers and monitors virtualization platforms (both host and virtual machines) and provides graphs and reports on resource utilization.

Application SPIs – are these different than infrastructure SPIs?

In a sense, yes and no. Yes because they basically perform the same functions as infrastructure SPIs in terms of collecting, aggregating, and correlating monitoring information. No in terms of what data they are responsible for. Infrastructure SPIs, as mentioned before, do this at the system level, whereas application SPIs do this at the application level. The following picture builds on the previous one, but more clearly depicts where application and infrastructure SPIs reside:



And does HP have SPIs! We have SPIs for databases (Oracle, Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2), web application servers (IBM WebSphere, JBoss, Oracle WebLogic), storage (HP Storage Area Manager, Veritas NetBackup and Volume Manager), and ERP/CRM (PeopleSoft, SAP, Siebel) products. Not to mention lots of SPIs developed by HP partners around Cisco, Novell NetWare, and Documentum products.  

New Licensing of Agents and SPIs!

Yes, we’ve changed our licensing structure for both SPIs and Agents. They are now instance-based, meaning you have one per operating system or application instance. Plus, we’ve got this great new “Operating System Instance Advanced License”, which includes the following:

o Operations Manager agents

o “System” Smart Plug-In

o “Cluster” Smart Plug-In

o 15 agentless monitoring probes/points

If monitoring a virtualized environment, a “virtualization” SPI - although an infrastructure SPI like the “system” and “cluster” SPIs - is purchased separately from the Operating System Instance Advanced License. One virtualization SPI is required for each monitored Virtual Server host.

I hope that this has helped explained agents and SPIs. If you have any questions about this post or instrumentation in general, please feel free to comment on this post.

For HP Operations Center, Sonja Hickey.

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