Is Monitoring with Agents Right for Your IT Environment?

by Aug 12, 2019

After determining that your IT infrastructure will benefit from the introduction of enterprise-level monitoring, you will be faced with selecting an appropriate software solution. This can be a daunting undertaking, as you want to choose the right product which provides the insights into your environment that you need without any negative impacts due to overhead. Among the first and most fundamental decisions you need to make is whether to opt for an agent-based or agentless monitoring platform.

There are advantages when monitoring with agents as well as some potential drawbacks. The same can be said for an agentless monitoring deployment. You may discover that your environment and monitoring goals lend themselves to choosing one of these methodologies over the other. It is also possible that your IT infrastructure may make it advantageous for you to use a mixture of the two techniques.

Let’s take a look at what differentiates the two methods of performing IT monitoring. We will concentrate on the metrics that are made available as well as the overall capabilities and overhead of the competing monitoring strategies.

Agent-Based Monitoring

Agent-based monitoring implementations require that a software component be installed on each client server or device that is being observed. Ideally, the agent is lightweight and does not consume substantial system resources while carrying out its monitoring duties. Unfortunately, not all agents are created equally and some can lead to poor performance on the servers they are monitoring. They can increase the workload and space demands on a machine, especially if the agent is self-managed rather than being controlled from a central monitoring station. The negative impacts of rogue agents can negate the benefits afforded by monitoring a particular system.

The application that comprises the agent is responsible for collecting the data used in the monitoring process. One of the advantages that an agent-based system provides is the ability to return more granular data regarding the entity it is monitoring. This granularity enables better reporting to be performed by the tool. It also facilitates the generation of more intelligent alerts and more comprehensive historical data which can be used for capacity planning and tuning. An agent will help mitigate downtime with its alerting and reporting capabilities.

Advanced functionality can be unleashed when employing an agent-based monitoring solution. The agent may be capable of interacting with the client to perform housekeeping duties such as compressing and archiving log files to address a space shortage. Agents also introduce the concept of customizable service monitoring which executes scripts to gather non-standard metrics.

Agentless Monitoring

As you might surmise, there is no need to install any software components on the devices to be monitored when using an agentless solution. This makes it easier to deploy and maintain. An agentless implementation can take two forms. One performs the direct analysis of data packets traveling between components. The alternate method employs a remote API that is used by the platform being monitored.

Agentless monitoring is usually done with the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Agentless monitoring of Windows servers can also use the platform’s Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) facility. SNMP monitoring provides a reduced set of metrics in comparison with an agent-based solution. Systems using WMI can supply more detailed information due to its vendor-specific nature.

Typically, an agentless application will not allow for the same level of customization or interaction with the monitored service or device. This makes it less useful in some situations where the functionality of the agent can contribute to the robustness of a system.

Which is Right For Your Infrastructure?

Here’s a quick summary of the advantages and disadvantages of the two monitoring techniques.

Agent-based systems provide more data and functionality that can enable you to quickly address problems and is well-suited for critical applications and servers. It entails installing agents on each monitored server and keeping these agents updated. They also may impact server performance if they consume excess resources.

Agentless monitoring eliminates the need to install and maintain software components on the monitored entities. In most cases, it provides less granular data and cannot be tailored to the same extent as can an agent-based solution. An agentless implementation may not be suitable for mission-critical servers that cannot afford any downtime.

A Hybrid Solution

Many IT environments can benefit from a mix of both monitoring methodologies. A hybrid monitoring strategy that can employ agents where the need for granular data is great as well as observing a subset of your environment in an agentless manner sounds about perfect. IDERA has a solution that can monitor your infrastructure in both ways. Say hello to Uptime Infrastructure Monitor.

Uptime offers a comprehensive monitoring solution which makes use of both the agent and agentless mindset. Construct the monitoring strategy that makes the most sense for your organization using the capabilities built into Uptime. Here are just a few of the features of this monitoring solution.

  • The capacity to perform multi-platform agent-based or agentless server monitoring;
  • An SLA Manager that enables you to monitor, alert, and report based on SLAs;
  • ServiceNow integration that enables automated incident management;
  • Customizable dashboards to make your monitoring sessions more efficient.

Uptime Infrastructure Monitor will work for any type of IT environment. If you are searching for a complete infrastructure monitoring solution, you need to give Uptime a look.