Agent vs. Agentless Monitoring

Jeremy Sherwood

blog-201110-agentvsagentlessIn the IT Service Management industry, there has been an ongoing battle between agent-based vs. agentless monitoring and management technology. Some vendors purport to be agentless, requiring no special deployment of agents. Others require the deployment of proprietary agents. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

But most IT shops have a combination of agent-based and agentless and need to use both in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

For agentless monitoring, implementation ranges from built-in SNMP agents to remote shell access, such as ssh. “Agentless” is a bit of a misnomer. All management requires an agent, whether the agent is embedded in the management platform, the managed device, or a separately installed piece of software.

The industry has accepted the de-facto definition of agentless as a management agent that is embedded in the software of the device or as a capability of the manager, requiring no separate installation or licensing.  Agentless monitoring really means the use of existing, embedded capabilities.

Agent-based technology enables in-depth monitoring and management. Any software vendor will tell you that their agents work the best with their platform.  While this may be true, it may also be because their management platform is built only to work with their proprietary agents. 

The result is vendor lock-in, and changing vendors can mean expensive, large-scale, long-term deployments of replacement technology.  Because of this, when IT requirements change, it can be extremely costly to meet them.  Generally, open standards and flexibility work far better in the long run.

Many vendors will tell you that you must choose between the two. Agentless monitoring vendors see this as their value proposition; yet they ignore the fact that you already have a significant investment in agent-based technology. Agent-based vendors want to sell you agents.

Here’s the question: Do you have to choose between in-depth monitoring and management, but with vendor lock-in, or an open standard which gives you less functionality? We don’t think so.

When looking at both agent and agentless-oriented management technologies, what you’re attempting to do, at a high level, is to build a consolidated data model for managing your enterprise. In effect, you need the ability to collect, aggregate, and analyze that data over time. 

Using all available data sources empowers you to have a much more diverse information model.

We designed the ScienceLogic EM7 IT management software platform to provide the best of both worlds. EM7 “treads lightly” by taking advantage of monitoring and management capabilities already present in your IT infrastructure.

EM7 does not require proprietary agents. In fact, we designed EM7 to be vendor-agnostic, supporting agent technology from multiple vendors. We employ several methods of agent and agentless monitoring to provide the broadest coverage for IT infrastructures.

This provides you with the ability to deploy EM7 without the costs associated with licensing, testing, certifying and deploying new agents, and without compromising on visibility, capability, and situational awareness.

The key to ScienceLogic EM7’s capabilities is its ability to perform an in-depth discovery of each device to determine what monitoring technologies – both agent and agentless – the device supports.  Discovered capabilities are “aligned” with the device to enable their use.

Through this discovery process, EM7 can take advantage of monitoring and management capabilities already present in your existing IT infrastructure – whether commodity or proprietary – and virtually eliminates the operations and maintenance tasks associated with agent deployment and configuration. 

This way, if you have a proprietary agent-based solution already in place, you can preserve your existing investment in management capabilities, and use what is already present in your environment.

Most IT infrastructures contain a combination of agentless and agent-based monitoring. At the same time, most vendor solutions don’t offer capabilities for both agent and agentless monitoring, much less support agents from other vendors. IT needs to minimize costs and maximize value by utilizing capabilities already in their environment.

ScienceLogic EM7 is one of the few vendor-agnostic platforms to achieve this balance.

 

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  • Sree

    loved the way you demystified agent less monitor ;)

  • Sandeep K

    Neatly put.
    Both agent-based and agentless monitoring have their benefits:
    1. In terms of Deployment: Agentless Monitoring is easier to deploy as compared to agent-based. In agent-based monitoring, agents need to be deployed on each server.
    2. Network Overhead: Agentless monitoring requires additional network traffic as the raw performance data is transported to a remote data collector. Whereas agent-based monitoring is bandwidth efficient because data is collected locally.

    So, one needs to choose wisely according to the resources in hand and requirements to be fulfilled.
    Read more comparison details at Agent-based vs Agentless Monitor.