Some time ago it became apparent that we would require environmental monitoring in our server room. The primary reason being that our server room was never initially intended to be a server room and the after-the-fact A/C unit installation (size, vent placement, etc.) is definitely less than optimal. Not to mention the A/C unit is likely overloaded as well, judging by some of the data we gathered after installing the environmental monitoring equipment and software. Basically, I needed to be made aware of any potential problems with the environment in that room so that should anything go wrong, I can act quickly. A secondary use of the data is to trend the environment changes in order to reveal specific patterns that may help with long-term planning.
The monitoring product I decided upon is the SuperGoose (WxGoos-2) from IT Watchdogs. In this review I hope to provide a overview of the device and what my personal thoughts on the device are.
NOTE: IT Watchdogs has since released the SuperGoose II. Since I haven’t compared the two products, I can’t comment on any differences.
I really don’t know a lot about these guys but they appear to be a fairly small company. Their name came up several times during my searches for environmental monitoring solutions. What I do know is that their support people get back to you fairly quickly and they aren’t demanding a product serial number before assisting you with your IT Watchdogs related product questions. Their support gives you the impression you’re speaking with people that understand the product very well.
They provide firmware upgrades on their website where you can download them and get instructions on the upgrade process. There is no service contract necessary to continue getting firmware updates, which is very nice considering one of the main points they seem to be competing on is price and thus you not only get good initial value for your dollar, you get long term value in the software improvements over the lifetime of the device.
It’s a plane, it’s a bird, it’s a SuperGoose!
IT Watchdogs have a wide range of monitoring products but the SuperGoose (also known as the WxGoos-2) is (was) their flagship product. With a $499 price tag, it’s not dirt cheap but comparing it’s feature list to much of the competition out there and it really does start to look like a bargain.
The unit itself is a tiny litte 1U rackmount box that is no deeper than it is tall. That is, it’s about 1U deep. The unit has an LCD on the front that will cycle through readings from your various attached sensors that provide visual stimulus for those lonely nights in the server room. The unit also has a audible alarm which is of no use to me, but we’ll come to that later.
The build quality of the SuperGoose is good. It’s made out of metal, which is always nice. Everything is solid and well manufactured. There is just one design feature of the SuperGoose that I just don’t get: It requires an external power adapter (included), the kind you use to charge your cellphone or to power your crappy D-Link hub you’ve got installed in your office that the IT guys keep ragging on you about. It really isn’t a big deal but I just don’t see why they couldn’t have integrated the power transformer (A/C to D/C) into the chassis of the device and allowed the common and standard IEC C13 plug for power. Such a solution would have been cleaner and more compliant with the existing power infrastructure in the average server room/data center. Not to mention that the current power adapter plugs into the front of the SuperGoose, another little design issue I don’t fully understand. Either way, this is a minor gripe but something worth noting regardless as you’ll need to have a suitable PDU or extension cable to power the thing.
The SuperGoose allows for two kinds of external sensors to be added in addition to the full set of built-in sensors. The first kind of sensor is connected via RJ-12 jacks. The sensors supported in the RJ-12 jacks are digital sensors which means there is some kind of tiny microchip in the sensor itself. It’s not “passive”, if you will. While only five physical RJ-12 ports are included, the SuperGoose supports up to 16 sensors by using an RJ-12 splitter. The second kind of sensor is analog. In our case, we’re only using digital sensors so I cannot comment on the analog sensor functionality at this point, unfortunately.
Setting up the SuperGoose
Setup is really quite easy:
- Mount the SuperGoose in your rack (and cable it up).
- Grab the MAC address from the front of the device and setup a DHCP address for it (or just leave the default IP and setup a host on that subnet to initially configure it).
- Power it up.
- Point your browser to the SuperGoose’s IP address and begin configuring!
Of course, you can add many sensors as well at this point, which is key to a general purpose environmental monitoring solution.
The SuperGoose has a robust web server where you can view the collected data and graphs and configure various things such as networking, NTP, email, SNMP, camera setting and the device information. You can also configure alarm thresholds for your sensors so that you can get an email or SNMP trap fired off in case of abnormal readings. While useful for smaller shops lacking a centralized monitoring solution, these built-in alerts are not a factor when integrating the SuperGoose into a larger environments where a centralized monitoring solution has been implemented. It’s nice to have them, but you might not need them.
The configuration page is clear and straight forward. The language used to describe configuration options should be totally familiar to anyone with cursory knowledge of the various technologies, standards and protocols in use. The SuperGoose provides three level of access to the device: View-only, Control and Administrative. Each access level has a configurable account name and password. The SuperGoose unfortunately does not support multiple accounts of the same level. That said, enterprise use of the SuperGoose will often involve SNMP data collection instead of users and admins logging into the SuperGoose web server directly and so, more fine grained per-user/admin accounts can be configured in the SNMP monitoring solution to control access to data while at the same time locking out access to the SuperGoose directly to all but the SNMP/env administrators in order to achieve “lock down” and logging on who can see/do what.
Digital Sensors & SNMP Monitoring
Digital sensors have unique IDs to which names can be assigned within the configuration interface. This means that when you connect/disconnect your digital sensors, or the SuperGoose reboots, the graphs produced by the SuperGoose and the data it has collected remain valid and consistent.
One snag I did run into momentarily is that although the SuperGoose will internally track the digital sensors correctly, the SNMP OIDs for each sensor were not consistent upon reboot of the SuperGoose! My SNMP monitoring station would collect false data when the SuperGoose was rebooted because the sensors were detected in a different order and thus the OIDs for each sensor changed! The reason this happened is because I was monitoring the OIDs in static fashion by associating a sensor definition in the monitoring software with a particular, static OID. When the OID for the any sensor changed (as it often does upon reboot), the monitoring station would be collecting information for a particular item in the monitoring database from the wrong physical sensor. The solution is to use SNMP monitoring software that supports using dynamic SNMP indexes. Zabbix is such an open source monitoring solution. It took me a little while to configure Zabbix correctly for dynamics SNMP indexes but it was worth it: no more collecting data from the wrong sensor and thus more consistent and correct long term trending data is collected.
For what it’s worth the following is an example of the “OID” string I use within a Zabbix “item” to implement the dynamic index feature:
Where “Ambient Front” is the name of the sensor, as set in the SuperGoose configuration.
Well Folks, that’s Part 1
Well, that’s part 1 of the review. Part 2 of the review will arrive sometime in the future… I’ve just been sitting on this much of the review for too long now and it needs to be posted. I hope everyone enjoys half reviews (for now)!