[Disclosures at the end, as usual. Also, since this post was begun, NetBeez has announced discontinuation of their free tier of service. There is still a 30-day trial, though, so if you’re looking at deploying a paid option, you can still try it out first.]
At Cisco Live this year, I won a NetBeez monitoring agent (in the form of a Raspberry Pi 2 model B). It took a couple months, but I finally got it plugged in and running. NetBeez were kind enough to offer me an expanded license for a couple of devices, so I could run them from my home, my workshop, and possibly even a mobile rig.
See the previous article for how I started using the gear, and why I wanted to upgrade almost as soon as I got the first agent going.
B is for Banana – Pro, that is
With a 200mbit+ connection at home, and a 100mbit Ethernet port on my agent, I hit an obvious bottleneck.
Luckily, though, I’d stocked up on a couple of Banana Pi Pro devices, and had a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B as well. Since the only device I have a case for is the Banana, that’s what I ran with. I later realized the Raspberry Pi 3 is also a 10/100 device, so it would not fix the problem, although it worked fine as an agent on my backup DSL connection (which maxes at 20Mbps).
The Banana Pi Pro is a similar form factor to the Pi, and features specifications somewhere between the Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3. It has a 1Ghz ARMv7 processor, 1GB of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi on board, two USB ports instead of four, but eSATA with pass-through power that can drive an SSD or laptop drive with a $7 special cable.
If you’re curious about benchmarks and performance between the various devices, I found a pretty good benchmark writeup at htpcguides.com that covers a lot of the bases for the Pi, Pi2, Pi3, Banana Pi, and Banana Pro.
Setting up NetBeez with the Banana Pro
I decided to take the smoothest path, if not the most modern, and install Raspbian OS for Banana Pro (since NetBeez uses a Raspbian image for the Pi devices). After writing the OS image [lemaker.org] to an 8GB MicroSD card and switching the HDMI and keyboard from my freebie to the Banana Pro, I plugged it into power and the network and brought it up.
Once the system was available, I used Putty to ssh into the box and copy the curl command (to retrieve the agent setup script) and the agent setup command (with agent secret code) to the machine. It chugged along and came up within about 3 minutes, and almost instantly showed up in my NetBeez cloud account.
How did the gigabit Ethernet work out?
Thanks for asking! It worked as expected.
A caveat for speed test users – watch your data cap
So I was informed by Comcast shortly after upgrading my NetBeez agent that I’d exceeded my data cap. I had initiated both Bitcoin and Ethereum wallets (which came to about 200GB of data downloaded) and updated my Linux ISOs as well as Windows offline updates. I still had my second of two courtesy passes to avoid the absurd cost of additional data, so I wasn’t too worried.
However, when I looked at my Meraki dashboard, I saw another data culprit. Yep, all those speedtests added up to a quarter of my monthly data allowance.
Do I really need as many tests as I was running? (I had 49 a day, if you’re curious… hourly to two sites and one daily run separate from those.) Probably not. So I scaled the Comcast ones back to every 6 hours, and I will have 9 instead of 49 which should be smoother. I may cut it back to twice a day later in the month.
The takehome from this bit is that if you have a data cap, remember that speedtests will use more data if they can–it’s a metric escalation until a test takes a certain amount of time to complete, and 250mbps is a lot faster than the 15mbps on my DSL line or 8mbps on my slower DSL shop connection. So it takes more data to fill 8 seconds (or whatever the time frame is), and uses more data from your cap.
So where do we go from here?
Well, the Raspberry Pi 2 device will be moving to my workshop across town. I’ll swap the network tests to poke at the home side of the VPN, and run speedtests over there, and see what else I can do with the NetBeez platform.
If you’ve done anything interesting with NetBeez, in a POHO or a regular business environment, let me know in the comments.
Disclosures: While NetBeez were a sponsor and exhibitor at Cisco Live, and I of course am an employee of Cisco and a speaker at Cisco Live, I won through the random spin of a wheel, and my observations are based on my geek/practitioner persona, not my Cisco employee persona.