How Different UniPing server solution v4/SMS Is From NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 (NBRK0201)?

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  • Created Date: 2019-08-07
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It is difficult to imagine modern life without informational technologies, such as electronic databases, directories, search engines, systems of company and corporation management, bank management, transportation management, control of technological processes at industries and many more. Today, there are information and management systems in the basis of these technologies that are designed on the basis of electric equipment of various purposes, such as servers, data storage systems, data transfer devices, supercomputers, and other important components. There is a need to ensure appropriate conditions so that these information and management systems that the comfort and often safety of our lives is dependable at, operate flawlessly in a proper environment suitable for the equipment that they are designed of, and their physical safety. This equipment must work flawlessly 24 hours a day 365 days a year providing the services that we need.

«Forewarned is forearmed» — Wikipedia explains the sense of this famous proverb as the importance of preparation because when a person knows about a danger that is close, this person should be prepared and protected from it and must cope with it well. This approach can be applied to many spheres of our life and perfectly relates to the issues of ensuring the flawless operation of equipment of information systems.

Evidently, if there is a chance to receive information about unfavorable tendencies beforehand, such as the information about temperature rising in a server room, or about smoke as the first sign of the fire, about the leak of the liquid, or about unauthorized access of third-party individuals indoors or in the closet with equipment, it is possible to take necessary measures early, and start the processes that are aimed at reducing the development of emergency. For example, it is possible to call emergency to the object before the servers are overheated or flooded, of corresponding services must be informed about a chance of fire, or police forces must be called to stop illegal actions. Obviously, the chances to avoid negative consequences from an emergency that was developing without any control are much higher when such an approach is used.

At this point, the leading place is given to dispatching systems because they ensure gathering, processing and transferring of the diagnostic information, forming warnings and notifications about emergencies and threats to the electric equipment of informational systems.

Such systems have one most important core component — devices that gather information from different sensors, initially process it and (in case of multiple-step dispatching system) may transfer the information to the higher levels of the system. It is a minimal set of features. At the same time, the features of data analysis, visualization of data, forming trends, information and emergency notifications and logs are executed by the upper level of the dispatching system. However, manufacturers often extend the functionality of these devices to take a bigger market share and add the next features:

  • visualization of data received from sensors (for example, through a web interface);
  • minimal analysis tools for the data that were gathered from the sensors;
  • executing built-in procedures for notifying personnel of the potential threat of an emergency or about such a situation using a sound notification, sending emails, using the SMS service of the mobile operator;
  • remote controlling of different equipment (for example, switching on and off the power supply of the server, a switch or an auxiliary colling an or air conditioner) using such executive mechanisms as built-in or remote relays, IR transmitters, radio transmitters, etc.;
  • implementing the simplest logic (for example, the feature of a thermostat on the basis of data from the temperature sensor, etc.);
  • a possibility to monitor other devices (for example, using ICMP requests/responses, methods SNMP GET and TRAP, etc.).

Most probably, this is caused by the aim to unify the devices that are manufactured for both usages: in small server rooms and in rooms of big data centers. The functionality of these devices «right out of the box» is sufficient to deploy the almost complete server room dispatching system with no need to use additional software and dedicated servers for it. At the same time, nothing prevents from using it including simultaneous use of these devices as well as controls of their data gathering for the upper level of the dispatching system.

In this review, we will examine the devices that have the functionality close to the one described above that are offered by the Russian company NetPing East Ltd, and Netbotz device manufactured by the company Schneider Electric, more specifically, powered by APC by Schneider Electric.

Review of the Equipment for Dispatching Netbotz and NetPing

APC Netbotz

In the 2000s, the company APC offered users its solution for monitoring of the environment for server rooms APC EMU (AP3140). After the company was acquired by Netbotz in 2006, APC extended the model line of its devices for monitoring and safety for server rooms and data centers. Modernized EMU was offered that was named as Netbotz 200 together with more functional models of the 400 series. Until now, the company continues to systematically develop the model line of devices for monitoring and dispatching, which made the company popular on the market of devices for dispatching data centers in many countries. 

A quick reference on the APC company.

The American company American Power Conversion (APC) that was registered as a corporation in 1981 and was created first and foremost for conducting research and developing solutions in the area of solar panels. Since 1986, the company was developing and manufacturing uninterruptible power supplies.

During the last decades, the APC company was creating and promoting many popular products, such as UPS Smart-UPS®, software PowerChute®, the system Symmetra® Power Array™, the architecture InfraStruXure™, and devices for monitoring environment (EMU and EMS).

In 2006, the APC company extended the scope of the offered products in the field of the engineering infrastructure by buying the Netbotz company that worked on solutions in the field of surveillance systems and controlling parameters of the environment via IP network. This allowed the  APC to get additional experience in the fields of management and safety.

In February 2007, the APC was acquired by the company Schneider Electric — transnational European corporation that is famous all over the world with its solutions in the field of energy management and automation. This led to forming the subsection of critical power and cooling systems that now produces solutions under the APC brands (including APC Netbotz) and MGE UPS Systems.

Now, the assortment of dispatching devices offered by the company includes rack models of the monitoring devices of the series 200, 400, 500 and 700.

Main features of these devices are collecting information about sensors connected to them, forming notifications for the personnel about the events, sending notifications on the network using TCP/IP, archiving and storing of both events and data received from sensors in the nonvolatile memory. Also, devices can send data to the upper-level software of the dispatching system and can work with the software produced by the third-party manufacturers, or with the own SCADA-system APC StruxureWare Data Center Expert.

Devices of various series differ by presence or absence of the support for certain options. For example, the series 400 and above supports connecting video cameras (also from the Netbotz line) to organize a video surveillance system and several auxiliary types of sensors.

In this review, a device APC NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 (NBRK0201) is chosen for comparison that replaced APC EMU (AP3140) after the Netbotz company was acquired by the APC company. Also, this device is positioned as economic and flexible control for all types of information environments from small networks to big data centers. Hereinafter we will call this device Netbotz for short.

NetPing/UniPing

Since 2011, Taiwan company NetPing east Co Ltd. is a designer and manufacturer of the devices under the brand NetPing.

A quick reference on the company NetPing east Co Ltd.

The Russian company NetPing east Co Ltd. was founded in 2011. The aim of the company was to develop and manufacture devices for monitoring TCP/IP networks under the brand NetPing.

The model line of the company has already included more than 20 different models of NetPing devices, including devices for monitoring networks, power control devices, controlled switches for the Ethernet of home networks, and devices for monitoring microclimate over the TCP/IP networks.

Since 2013, the company focused on launching devices for monitoring server and machine rooms into the market, while continuing to support and develop the line of the devices for remote power control and offer the equipment for PoE networks.

The company positions its solutions as universal and highly reliable systems with adequate pricing that work out-of-the-box.

A line of dispatching devices manufactured by this company includes non-expensive devices such as NetPing IO v2 that enable connecting several external discrete sensors and get notifications about their status over the network, as well as universal monitoring devices UniPing server solution v4/SMS with much wider functionality. They allow to connect a bigger number of discrete sensors to a device as well as temperature and temperature/humidity sensors, and smoke detector loops. These devices can alert a user about the events not only in the network using TCP/IP but also over the cellular network using the short message service (SMS).

Devices can be used to send data about the status of sensors to the upper-level software of a dispatching system.

Since the company has been founded, the company realizes the full-cycle development and launching into the market of their devices independently — starting from the circuit design and firmware and ending with the package design. To achieve the minimum cost, manufacturing processes of producing chips/boards, soldering, and assembly are implemented by contractors with constant quality control at all stages of production.

In our review, a device for remote monitoring of servers over the Ethernet/Internet network UniPing server solution v4/SMS (hereinafter UniPing) is chosen for the comparison that is the device of the third generation of devices for monitoring server rooms from the Russian company NetPing East Ltd.

Positioning

Both devices under study relate to the conventional class of intellectual controllers for data gathering and they do not only provide a user with the feature of sensor querying, preprocessing of received data and their transmission to the next level, but also have the extended set of features that is necessary and sufficient for deploying a small but full-value dispatching system out-of-the-box. The only thing that is necessary is to equip the devices with a necessary set of sensors, plug power, and connection cords, and perform necessary configuration. However, there are several pretty significant differences. Let's try to distinguish them.

Comparison Criteria

To have a full picture of devices, let's define comparison criteria for our devices:

  • main physical specifications (dimensions, weight, mounting, power, etc.);
  • equipment,
  • working with sensors (number, types, peculiarities of mounting and connection);
  • controlling external devices;
  • external communications, connecting to networks (connection types, protocols, etc.);
  • user interfaces;
  • possibilities of automation;
  • working with the upper-level SCADA systems;
  • alternate spheres of using the devices;
  • pricing.

After comparing the devices according to these criteria, we will do corresponding evaluations.

Main Physical Specifications

Both devices under study have the industrial design, their cases are made of the metal in the 19" form factor. Each of the devices will take 1U of the mounting space of the closet/rack. In the shipping kits, there are removable brackets for mounting a device in the 19" construction devices.

NetPing and Netbotz

Photo 1 — Appearance of the devices Netbotz and UniPing.

Main physical and electrical specifications of the devices are given in the table below.

Table 1 — Main physical and electric specifications of the devices Netbotz and UniPing.

Specification

APC NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 (NBRK0201)

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Power

100–240 V AC current 50/60 Hz

110–230 V AC current 50/60 Hz

Or 5V 1,5A

Power consumption, W

55

5

Mounting

19", 1U
It is possible to mount in the APC closets vertically on the mounting panel at the rear part of the closet

19", 1U
Horizontal mounting only

Operating conditions

Temperature: between 0 °С and +45 °С;
Relative humidity: between 0 and 95%
(no condensation)

Temperature: between 0 °С and +40 °С;
Relative humidity: between 5 and 95%
(no condensation)

Dimensions (W x H x D)

432 х 44,2 х 44,2 mm

430 х 44 х 143 mm

Weight

1,1 kg

1,7 kg

Special brackets for mounting in the regular enclosing space of the cabinet are added to the shipping kit of Netbotz.

Netbotz in a server cabinet

Photo 2 —  Netbotz device mounted in the standard 19" cabinet.

Netbotz vertically mounted in a server cabinet

Photo 3 — Netbotz device is secured vertically in the cabinet (to the right of the outlet strip).

Netbotz is more compact with the depth of less than 45 mm. This defines its feature of mounting without using any tools on the mounting panel that is located in the rear part of the mounting cabinet manufactured by the APC.

Netbotz element for vertical mounting
Photo 4 — Structural element of Netbotz for the vertical mounting

Special structural elements for vertical mounting are already included in the case of the device. At the same time, the device does not occupy valuable space in the cabinet and it can be used for locating the IT equipment.

UniPing is normally mounted only in the free mounting space in the cabinet or at the rack and takes one unit of space (1U).

UniPing server solution v3SMS in a cabinet

Photo 5 — UniPing device mounted in a standard 19" cabinet.

Nevertheless, when mounting in the 2-rack cabinet or a rack, the dimensions of the device (its depth) allow mounting one more device with small depth (such as a switch) next to the device at the same height on the opposite rack. Importantly, the same applies to the Netbotz device when it is mounted in the normal mounting place of the cabinet or a rack.

Devices are plugged to the single-phase AC and can function normally in the wide voltage range (between 110 and 230V for UniPing). At the same time, the UniPing device has an alternate powering of 5 V DC that can be used to plug either external power supply unit with the current of no less than 1,5 А, or the DC UPS. Such UPS (NetPing Mini-UPS) is shipped as the accessory for the UniPing, but it the UPS with suitable specifications made by the third-party manufacturer can also be used.

UniPing server solution v4SMS power options

Photo 6 — Variants of the powering of UniPing.

However, according to the manufacturer's statement, it is prohibited to power the UniPing device from two sources, both internal and external, simultaneously. This can cause damage to the device. That said, it is impossible to organize the failure-proof powering of the device using two lines with automatic switching from one to another by the means of the device.

But the same thing can be said about the Netbotz device as well because it has only one powering option. And we can connect it only to the UPS that produces AC voltage of 220V. Obviously, when using the same 220V UPS, the UniPing device that consumes much less power (almost 10 times less!), will work autonomously from the UPS significantly longer than Netbotz. Otherwise, NetPing device will need a less powerful that said cheaper 220V UPS for ensuring the same battery life.

Having an auxiliary 5V power input allows using more efficient and less expensive AC UPS for UniPing which is possible by excluding unnecessary иintermediate converters. This is just the aim that is pursued by the manufacturer by implementing an auxiliary power input.

Shipping Kit

Now, let's evaluate the shipping kits of devices. To do this, take a look at the table below.

Table 2 — Shipping kits of the devices Netbotz and UniPing.

Device

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 (NBRK0201)

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Mounting brackets for fastening in the 19" cabinet/rack

included

included

Power cord

included, 2 pc.

  • cord C13 - C14;
  • cord NEMA 5-15P - C13

included, 1 pc.

  • CEE 7/7 (euro plug) — C13

Cable management tools

Included

  • cable adhesive strip;
  • nylon ties;
  • power cord fixing bracket

no

Configuration cable

Included, 1 pc.

  • null modem cable RS-232 DB-9

no

Sensors

Included, 1 pc.

  • analog temperature/humidity sensor

no

Tool

no

Screwdriver for screw terminals

User guide

User guide: a printed version, documentation CD and software

Brief memo with reference to the Internet resource

Software

Documentation and software CD

no

GSM antenna

No (no GSM)

Included, 1 pc.

Resistors for the bus Modbus

Resistors 1/4 W, 150 Ohm (2 pcs.)
Resistors 1/4 W, 499 Ohm (2 pcs.)

no

Expansion Bus Terminator

A-Link terminator

no (no expansion bus embedded)

Shipping kit of the Netbotz device is quite rich (see photo 7). As soon as a temperature/humidity sensor is included in the shipping kit, it allows starting operation out-of-the-box.

UniPing server solution v4SMS shipping kit
Netbotz shipping kit

Photo 7 — Shipping kits of the UniPing device (on the left) and Netbotz (on the right).

At least puzzling looks the set of Netbotz devices shipped to Russia with the cord with a plug «NEMA 5-15P». At most, the buyers will need to find and buy a cord with euro plug for plugging a device in a standard outlet. At the same time, the power cord for connecting to UPS (C13-C14) is included in the shipping kit of Netbotz.

Traditionally, Netbotz sets include cable management tools (plastic fasteners and velcro tape) that allow to quickly and neatly lay and fix the cables connected to a device. In addition, there is a specific bracket to fix a power cord and protect it from random disconnection from a device.

As soon as evident from the photo, a shipping kit of UniPing server solution v4/SMS is more ascetic. There is a device itself, a power cord with a euro plug, brackets for fastening to the rack, GSM-antenna, little screwdriver (which turned out to be very useful later on). At the manufacturer's website, the set is offered that is named Ready Solution for Monitoring a Server Room on the Basis of UniPing server solution v4/SMS that already includes all necessary sensors and the device for monitoring a server room.

In the basic configuration, there are no sensors at all. Supposedly, a potential customer is going to take care of the sensors, choosing and ordering them independently. On the other hand, the lack of sensors positively impacts the starting price for the device. However, at least one temperature sensor in the basic configuration would be handy. A power cord for plugging to the UPS as well as cable management tools should be purchased additionally.

Also, having a small screwdriver included in the UniPing kit to plug wires to screw terminals is pleasant.

Working with Sensors

Nevertheless, the primary function of the devices under the comparison is gathering information from the sensors connected to them. Therefore, we analyze, which sensors devices can work with as well as the number of simultaneously connected sensors and extension features of the devices.

The range of sensors declared by manufacturers is generally represented in the table below.

Table 3 — Support of the main types of sensors by the Netbotz and UniPing devices.

Sensor

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Temperature sensors

Yes

Yes

Temperature and humidity sensors

Yes

Yes

Leakage sensor, point

No*

Yes

Leakage sensor, area No* Yes

Airflow sensor

No*

Yes

Fire alarm (smoke, current)

No

Yes

Fire alarm (smoke, 1 sensor — 1 port)

Yes**

No*

Fire alarm, combined (smoke/heat, 1 sensor — 1 port)

No*

Yes

The sensor of «dry contact» type by the third-party manufacturer

Yes

Yes

Sensor port expander

Yes

No

* — see in the text below;

** — a loop sensor, but a consequent connection of several sensors to the same port is not provided by the manufacturer.

The rage of sensors offered by the NetPing manufacturer is wider. However, basic sensors of critical parameters for the environment of server rooms — namely temperature and humidity — are supported by both devices. A feature of connecting the sensors of the «dry contact» type from third-party manufacturers extends the features of both Netbotz and UniPing. As soon as we will see next, the sensors that are not included into the Netbotz range (for example, the sensors of smoke, leakage, airflow are marked with "*" in the table) and the ones that are offered by the UniPing manufacturer are practically the sensors with the interface of the «dry contact» type. As a result, these sensors can be used for both devices. However, there are certain details and limitations that are going to be discussed further. In any case, the interfaces of the «dry contact» type can be used for both devices to monitor the status of other equipment that is not connected to the network but has a relay output (for example, certain models of the UPS).

Specifically, promoted APC smoke sensor (NBES0307) is nothing more than a sensor of the third-party manufacturer System Sensor® model 4W-B, I3 Series, Photoelectric Smoke Detector that is complemented with specific cable. Practically, it is also the current sensor, but the Netbotz manufacturer does not claim the feature of connecting several such sensors to the same port. That said, one sensor will occupy one Netbotz port. Unlike UniPing that supports a theoretically unlimited number of loop smoke sensors at the same port. therefore, this sensor is labeled discrete in the table.

Let's examine the features of connecting sensors to our devices in details.

Netbotz Ports and Sensors

To connect sensors, Netbotz device has six unique ports of analog sensors and two special ports of digital serial bus A-Link that are used to connect extension modules and sensors with the same digital interface. There is no indication of the operation of sensor ports on the case of the device.

Netbotz panel elements

Photo 8 — Location of ports and connectors on the Netbotz device (front view).

It is possible to connect the next equipment to the device:

  • Analog wired temperature or temperature/humidity sensors that are plugged to universal ports of the device. Signals from these sensors are processed in а device. Sensors are of own production and are suitable only for the devices of the Netbotz line. It is possible to connect up to six temperature or temperature/humidity sensors in any variations.
  • Digital wired sensors of temperature and temperature/humidity with a display that are connected to the special serial expansion bus (so-called A-Link bus). Sensors are of own production and are suitable only for the devices of the Netbotz line. It is possible to connect up to eight such sensors.
  • Discrete wired sensors are the sensors that are connected to the universal ports of the device. These include the sensors of own production that are suitable only for the devices of the Netbotz line. It is possible to connect up to six discrete sensors of opening/closing the door to the universal ports.
  • Adaptors of discrete wired sensors (sensors of the «dry contact» type) that are connected to the universal ports of the device. Using such adaptors, it is possible to connect up to six sensors of the interface of "dry contact" type to Netbotz.

When connecting any sensors to special or universal ports a device determines the sensor type and gets automatically configured to work with it. There is no feature of the device working with the sensors of the third-party manufacturers with normal normalized output parameters (for example, 4–20 mА or 0–5 V, etc.).

UniPing Ports and Sensors

To connect sensors to the UniPing device, there are 8 discrete configured input-output ports, 4 ports of the digital serial bus 1-Wire, 1 port for connecting current smoke sensors (fire alarms). The first four discrete input-output ports have the status indication on the case of the device.

All ports are located on the front panel of a device:

UniPing server solution v4SMS panel elements

Photo 9 — Location of ports and connectors on the UniPing device (front view).

It is possible to connect the next equipment to the device:

  • Digital wired sensors of temperature and temperature/humidity that are connected to the serial bus 1-Wire. Sensors of own production that are suitable only for the devices of the UniPing line. In total, it is possible to connect up to 12 1-Wire sensors to the device: up to eight temperature sensors and up to four temperature/humidity sensors.
  • Discrete wired smoke sensors and fire alarms with the current interface that are connected to the special port of the device for the deployment of the three-level fire alert system. Theoretically, the number of sensors connected to the loop is not limited.
  • Discrete wired sensors with the interface of the «dry contact» type that are connected to the discrete configured input-output ports. It is possible to connect up to eight such sensors.

Features of the UniPing device does not support working with the sensors of the third-party manufacturers with normalized output parameters (for example, 4–20 mА or 0–5 V, etc.).

Port and Sensors — Comparison

If the information is given in the form of the comparative table, it will look like as follows:

Table 4 — Main data on connecting sensors to the Netbotz and UniPing devices.

Parameters

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Sensor connectors

RJ-45

  • RJ-12 (for 1-Wire sensors);
  • plug-in terminal blocks (for discrete input-output ports) and current detectors

Ports for connecting wired sensors датчиков

  • 6 universal ports;
  • 2 ports of the serial expansion bus A-Link for connecting sensors of temperature/humidity with digital interface and/or expansion modules
  • 4 ports of the serial bus 1-Wire;
  • 8 discrete input-output ports;
  • 1 port for connecting current fire detectors

Maximum number of wired sensors connected simultaneously (without expansion modules)

  • up to 6 sensors for universal ports;
  • up to 8 sensors of temperature/humidity with the digital interface A-Link
  • up to 8 1-Wire temperature sensors;
  • up to 4 1-Wire humidity/temperature sensors;
  • up to 8 sensors of «dry contact» type;
  • unlimited number of current fire detectors (determined by the loop resistance)

Maximum number of sensors (including expansion modules)

Up to 72 sensors additionally for the universal ports (up to 12 expansion modules of up to 6 universal ports at each)

Are not provided

The maximum length of the line to the sensor, meters

  • up to 15 meters for temperature and temperature/humidity sensors that are connected to the universal ports;
  • up to 1000 meters for temperature/humidity sensors with the digital interface A-Link;
  • up to 30,5 meters for sensors of the «dry contact» type and door sensors
  • up to 50 meters for 1-Wire sensors, the length of the bus is the total length of the bus for all connected sensors  to the same device;
  • up to 100 meters (for each sensor) for the sensors of the «dry contact» type and door sensors


Historical Reference

Interestingly, in the 2000s, the early models of the monitoring devices from APC, ancestors of the Netbotz devices of the 200 series (they were called EMU — AP9340 back then), had four dedicated ports that could be configured for both working with dry contacts and the sensors with normalized output of 4–20 mА and 0–5 V. However, starting with the second generation, (when the company Netbotz was purchased on the line of devices was expanded with new models), this feature was cut off, and it was left in older models only, starting from the 400s series.

It is fair to note that it is possible to connect any sensors with the "dry contact" interface to the Netbotz device, and therefore most sensors of this interface by UniPing or other manufacturers. At the same time, it is important to note that each such sensor is going to take one universal port of Netbotz, the number of which is severely limited. In certain cases, this feature makes the consumer use expansion modules or digital sensors on the A-Link bus or wireless sensors. This causes additional, often significant expenses.

The UniPing device does not have such a flaw because it has eight dedicated discrete input-output ports. The advantage of such approach is significant. First, the consumer does not need to purchase the adaptor to implement the feature «dry contact» input (for Netbotz, each port needs a separate adaptor). Second, these ports are configured for both input and output, i.e. they can be used for controlling different devices using external relay modules. We will discuss this feature independently.

What about the maximum distance between the devices and the sensors, it depends on the type of the sensor. Analog sensors of temperature and humidity that are directly connected to Netbotz have this distance of only 15 m, while the sensors with the digital interface A-Link or the sensors that are connected using the expansion device Sensor Pod, can be distant from the main Netbotz device as far as 1000 m. And this distance is determined exactly by the characteristics of the A-Link bus (that is de-facto own variant of the CAN-bus from the APC company).

For the digital bus of 1-Wire sensors that is used in UniPing, the manufacturer limited the length with 50 meters (a total length of all sensors connected to the same monitoring device), and up to 100 m (for each sensor) for discrete sensors of the «dry contact» type. Practically, it is enough for most use-cases.

Shipping Kit, Connecting, and Mounting Sensors

Netbotz typical sensor kit

Photo 10 — Typical sensor set for Netbotz.

Practically, all Netbotz sensors are shipped with mounting and cabling means — clips, snaps, clamps, self-adhesive pads, screws, dowels, etc. — the kit depends on the sensor type. A kit also includes short paper instruction. Using these accessories, the sensor and its wire may be neatly mounted in the necessary location of the mounting rack.

An example of the typical shipping kit of the temperature sensor for Netbotz is represented on the photo 10.

NetPing typical sensor kit

Photo 11 — Typical sensor kit for UniPing.

Shipping kit of NetPing sensors (see photo 11) is more limited. Usually, it has only the sensor, connecting wire (already connected to the sensor), and a package.

However, mounting sensors brought no issues, except for looking for plastic fasteners for UniPing sensors. As evident in the photo 12 (on the left) at the perforation of the front door of the mounting closet, there are temperature/humidity HS sensor by UniPing, a sensor of temperature and humidity AP9335TH by APC, and temperature sensor AP9335T by APC that are fastened simultaneously (top-down). On the back door, (photo 12, on the right) there are (top-down) temperature sensor AP9335T by APC, and THS temperature sensor by UniPing.

Mounting NetPing and NetBotz sensors
Mounting NetPing and NetBotz sensors

Photo 12 — Mounting sensors UniPing and Netbotz on the front panel (on the left) and back panel (on the right)of the door of the mounting closet.

Netbotz connecting sensors

Photo 13 — Connecting sensors to Netbotz (connectors RJ-45).

Connecting sensors to both devices is not difficult but it has its peculiarities.

All wired sensors for Netbotz, including adaptors for connecting sensors of «dry contact» type by third-party manufacturers, they are equipped with RJ-45 plugs, and the case of the device has coresponding connectors, therefore no tools are necessary when connecting them. The A-Link bus that is used to connect digital sensors and expansion modules also uses the same connector type.

UniPing server solution v4SMS connecting sensors

Photo 14 — Connecting sensors to UniPing (terminal blocks and connectors RJ-12).

The sam applies to any sensors with the 1-Wire interface for UniPing. All of them are equipped with RG-12 plugs that are directly connected directly to the device or using extension cords and splitters.

UniPing server solution v4SMS a convenient screwdriver included in the kit

Photo 15 — A screwdriver in the UniPing kit is very handy.

To plug sensors to the universal input-output ports of UniPing, the tool is needed — a small flat-head screwdriver. The big thanks should be said to the manufacturer for such a screwdriver shipped in the kit with a device.

UniPing server solution v4SMS terminal connectors for sensors

Photo 16 — Terminal connectors (detachable) on the UniPing device.

At the same time, the terminal connectors are detachable and, being connected once, can be disconnected from a device with no need to use any tool.

A cable length of nearly any sensor for Netbotz can be increased using a standard bushing connector RJ-45 and a standard cable CAT5 within the limits of maximum line length determined by the manufacturer (depends on the type of the sensor).

For UniPing sensors with the 1-Wire interface, a manufacturer offers various extension cords, one of the examples is given on the photo.

NetPing 1-wire extension cord
Photo 17 — Extension cord splitter for 1-Wire sensors of the UniPing device.

At the same time, the manufacturer UniPing does not impede (not recommends either) using self-made or separately purchased extension cords if the requirements on the maximum line length are followed (depends on the sensor type).

NetPing sensors using the extension cord
NetPing sensors using patch cord

Photo 18 — Extending the cable for UniPing sensors. On the left, there is a regular extension cord, on the right, there is a patch cord CAT5.

Also, practically, it is possible to use CAT cables for extension together with RG-45 connectors, which is the same to Netbotz.

As the example, photo 18 (on the right) shows connecting 1 wire temperature sensor to the UniPing with the use of the regular 1-Wire extension cord, two straight-through cables RJ-45 and a standard purchasable patch cord CAT5.

As evident from the comparative table that we organized above, the number of ports on the device is not always equal to the number of connected sensors. Serial bus ports that are at both devices, allow connecting more than one sensor to the port. More specifically, all sensors with the same interface can be connected to the same port of the device if necessary. Other ports are implemented for the user's comfort. It is true for both digital sensors A-Link for Netbotz, and 1-Wire sensors for UniPing.

There is a need to note that discrete sensors provided by the manufacturer UniPing have too long tips at the ends of wires and they stand out of the isolation of the terminal block when mounting, which increases a chance for short circuit. It is not the best outcome for the reliability and resiliency of the system. It is true not for all sensors, but for many. It is clear that when mounting, it is possible to cut off the excess length making the connection safe but such approach is not going to facilitate the overall feeling of completeness and thoughtfullness of the device and its components.

UniPing wire terminals of sensors are too long

Photo 19 — Too long tips of discrete sensors UniPing can cause a short circuit.

The undoubted advantage of Netbotz is that it is possible to connect sensors to a device "on the go", i.e. no need to switch a device off to connect a sensor. A device automatically recognizes a type of a connected sensor and adjusts to work with it.

What about connecting sensors to UniPing, the procedure is less trivial here. To connect a sensor to UniPing, a manufacturer requires to power off a device (for sensors of discrete ports it is enough as soon as they work after switching on). But, if there is a need to connect a new 1-Wire sensor to the device (that is not registered in a device), then there is a need to perform the next series of actions:

  • switch a device off;
  • disconnect all 1-Wire sensors connected to the device;
  • connect a new 1-Wire sensor;
  • switch a device on and scan a unique number of a sensor using a special utility of a web interface;
  • copy a unique number of a sensor to a free slot in the sections of sensors at the screen of web interface designed for sensors, apply the changes, and make sure the sensor works properly;
  • switch a device off;
  • connect 1-Wire sensors that were connected before;
  • switch on a device.

Therefore, if a device is used as a part of the dispatching system when connecting or replacing a single sensor connected to UniPing, many alarm signals can be registered and corresponding notifications sent about failures of sensors and the device itself, etc.

The manufacturer provided a special mode for this case, «disable all notifications» in the section «Setup». However, formally, this does not eliminate the need to power off a device when connecting sensors, which is clearly stated in the user guide.

Within the testing process of UniPing, before writing this article, the possibility to connect sensors "on the go" without powering off the device was tested. In most cases, 1-Wire sensors were normally recognized. The same thing can be said about the sensors with the «dry contact» output. However, is a device or sensors fail, the manufacturer can refuse to repair the devices because the operating conditions were not followed.

The requirement of the manufacturers to power off devices when sensors are commuted is not rare. Therefore, in high-level SCADA-systems, a so-called service mode is usually provided that suppresses the notifications from the devices that are planned to be switched off or the ones that can give incorrect signals during configuration.

Nevertheless, the necessity of powering off UniPing when connecting or disconnecting sensors and modules can be considered a structural disadvantage for the devices of this type and when compared with Netbotz in particular. This peculiarity must be considered when planning the work at the object.

Controlling External Devices

Besides working with sensors, both devices provide a user with a feature to control the external equipment. Such features include:

  • built-in or external controlled 220 V outlets;
  • built-in or external relays;
  • controlling devices using IR channel;
  • controlling devices using network protocols.

Controlled or smart outlets can be used for remote management of any load. It can be a server, a heater, a lamp or another notification device that is powered from 220V.

Relays can also be used to commute the big load with fewer operating voltage — for example, signal beacons, sirenes, fluid shutoff valves, pumps, etc. It is possible to use the relay the same as the «Reset» button or «Power» of a server that allows rebooting the equipment remotely.

Controlling devices using the IR channel is a function or the remote controlling of any devices that are controlled by the IR remote control.

Some external devices can be controlled by sending commands with the use of the network protocols that are supported by these devices (for example, SNMP, Modbus, etc.).

In this section, we will regard controlling external devices using dedicated ports through controlled smart outlets, relays or using the IR channel. The management using network interfaces will be examined further, in the section devoted to communication features.

Output Ports

Features of the devices for controlling external equipment that we examine look the next way:

Table 5 — Output ports of Netbotz and UniPing devices.

Means of control

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Built-in 220V outlet

1 х 10A

not supported 

External outlet

not supported

up to 8 outlets 10А each

Built-in relay

1 х 1А/30V

1 х 2А/50V

External relay

not supported

up to 8 relays 16 А/250 V at DIN rack

External relay block

not supported

up to 2 blocks 4 channels each 10 А

Exteral IR transceiver

not supported

Yes, controlling devices with the IR port

Voltage Output Contacts

12 V of direct current,
24 V of direct current,
No more than 75 mА in total for 12 V and 24 V

5 V of direct current
12 V of direct current,
No more than 200 mА in total for both 5 V and 12 V

Netbotz switched integrated socket

Photo 20 — A commuted built-in 220V outlet at Netbotz device (the socket of C-13 type).

As soon as we see, a Netbotz device is much poorer than UniPing. Despite the fact it has a built-in switching outlet, it is only one outlet, with no features for extending this number. The same thing can be said about a relay in Netbotz.

On the contrary, UniPing, has not only a built-in relay but it also allows controlling eight power outlets or eight external power relays (including 220V ones), that are provided by the manufacturer as an option in any combination. All of this, firmware features included for implementing logic algorithms, allows realizing different equipment control patterns. The control patterns can be remote (performed after the operator's command) or automatic, depending on certain external events, such as rising or falling of the temperature, finding the leak, closing the door, the increased level of in the liquid level.

NetPing relay module
NetPing power relay
NetPing AC DIN controlled outlet

Photo 21 — Variants of executive UniPing devices produced externally. From left to right: 4-relay module (250V 10A), relay for a DIN-rail 250 V 16 А, controlled (smart) outlet (220 V 10 А).

To control external outlets or relays in the UniPing, universal discrete input-output ports are used. We have already discussed them in the section about sensors above. To work properly, each port should be switched to the corresponding mode. Evidently, each port can be used either for the input or for the output, ie. the total number of discrete sensors and running devices cannot exceed eight.

In the UniPing device, an interesting feature is implemented of remote controlling of any devices that are controlled using the IR remote control unit. For this, the manufacturer offers an option of specific IR extension module. Practically, it turns a UniPing device into the universal learning IR remote control. At the same time, an operator gains the possibility to send a command to any external device that is controlled using the infrared channel. The command can be sent from the web interface of a device, using an SNMP protocol or HTTP API commands. For example, it is possible to remotely control an air conditioner is a server room or start a backup air conditioner in the automatic mode. One more example is remote switching the channels of a satellite receiver.

NetPing IRC-TR v2

Photo 22 — IR extension module for UniPing.

However, UniPing has got some negative moments too, which mostly relate to connecting external devices. Specifically, connecting several outlets (see Photo 23) is a non-trivial task because:

  • many power cords should be fastened using one contact of the terminal block;
  • one of the wires in a signal cord must stay unplugged and it will hand freely in the air adding to a threat of a short circuit;
  • cable tips that are used are too long and exceed the isolation of the terminal block when mounting, which increases the chance of a short circuit (mainly, taking into account a previous point).

NetPing plugging sensors

Photo 23 — Long cable tips and wires in the blocks of external 22V outlets UniPing that are not used.

That said, the situation is the same as with the cable tips of the sensors that we discussed above.

If no measures are taken, then the connection node of external devices and UniPing is not going to look accurate. Moreover, the main point here is that this connection node is not going to meet the requirements of reliability and fault tolerance for this equipment complex.

Certainly, it is possible to solve these issues independently, using a creative approach: add a terminal splitter for power, cut and isolate unnecessary contact, shorten wire tips, so that they fit into the terminal block entirely and do not exceed it. However, the overall expression would be much better if the manufacturer would take care of this beforehand.

Connecting to Networks, Protocols, Interfaces

Dispatching devices that we examine would not be practically used if they would not be connected to at least one network. The connection is necessary at least for configuring, not even speaking about the features of alerting or remote control. To do these things, any similar devices should have the network interfaces implemented to stay connected with the external world.

Let examine, which communication means (interfaces and protocols) are provided by the manufacturers in the devices that we compare.

Table 6 — Comparing physical interfaces and supported protocols for the Netbotz and UniPing device.

Feature

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Physical interfaces

Ethernet Port

1 Ethernet port 10/100 BASE-T

2 Ethernet ports 10/100 BASE-T
(2-port switch)

Serial port RS-232

1 port RS-232
(supports the command line interface)

No

Serial port RS-485

1 port RS-485
(for connecting to the Modbus network)

No

Connection to the GSM network

Not supported

Built-in GSM-modem 
(only for SMS-notifications and control)

Supported Protocol

HTTP

Yes

Yes

HTTPS

Yes

No

Telnet

Yes

No

Secure SHell (SSH)

Yes

No

NTP

Yes

Yes

FTP (server)

Yes

No

DHCP

Yes

No

SNMP

Yes, v1 and v3

Yes, v1

Reading OID of a device (SNMP GET or GET-NEXT)

Yes

Yes

Setting OID values of the device (SNMP SET)

Yes

Yes

Sending SNMP TRAP

Yes

Yes

Cotnroling random equipment using SNMP

No

Yes (SNMP SET, 2 channels for variables)

Controlling a device using Modbus

Yes (RTU and TCP)

No

Tunelling RS-232 or RS-485

No

No

Tracking random equipment using ICMP (PING)

No

Yes (6 adresses)

Support of SYSLOG

Yes

Yes

HTTP API commands 

No

Yes

Supporting SMTP email protocol

Yes

Yes

Physical Interfaces and Basic Protocols

The main physical interface for both devices is Ethernet 10/100 BASE-T, using which they are connected to the network and get a possibility to fully interact with the external environment using TCP/IP protocols. Ports at both devices are not the speediest, only up to 100 Mbit/sec, but it is more than enough for the devices of this class.

Differently from Netbotz that has only one such port, the UniPing device has an interesting an handy feature — the presence of two built-in Ethernet-ports 10/100 BASE-T that make a two-port Ethernet switch when operating together.

UniPing server solution v4SMS built-in switch

Photo 24 — Two-port built-in switch in the UniPing.

At the same time, one port can be used to connect to the network while another one can be used for connecting auxiliary equipment (another NetPing, administrator's laptop, etc.). This feature allows avoiding to install an additional switch at the remote platform. Ports are equal, and any port can be used to connect to the network.

The Netbotz device has the ports RS-232 and RS-485. The RS-232 port is designed to connect to the console of the device using the interface of the command line. To do this, null modem cable is included in the Netbotz kit. It is possible to use the converter USB-RS-232 that is purchased separately to emulate the COM-port at modern computers.

RS-485 port in Netbotz is designed to connect the device to the RS-485 bus with a feature of reading registers of the device and controlling a device using Modbus RTU protocol. This feature is often used to integrate a device in the BMS (building management system) or organizing interaction of the device with the high-level SCADA-system.

The undoubted advantage of the UniPing is having the alternate independent channel for connecting a device using the GSM network, specifically using the short message service (SMS). At the same time, two-side interaction is implemented:

  • receiving information from a device as SMS notifications for the events determined before, about a status of sensors, and inputs/outputs;
  • controlling a device using SMS commands — requesting the status of sensors, IO-lines, switching IO-lines or issuing the pule to the line, transferring an IR command using an IR extension module.

Having such features enhances the fault tolerance and accessibility of the monitoring system that is built on the basis of UniPing as soon as even when the main (wired) connection channel fails, a device will still be able to inform the operator about the issues at the object. Moreover, no additional equipment is necessary to use this feature, even a GSM antenna is included in the shipping kit of the device. Everything needed is that a device is at the GSM network coverage area and there is a contract with the GSM operator, and a corresponding SIM card is inserted in the device.

Now, let's discuss the protocols. The interaction with the dispatching systems of the higher level or other applications of both devices can be organized using the protocols SNMP (using such methods as TRAP, GET, GETNEXT, SET) and SYSLOG.

Importantly, it is possible to receive the data about a status of the devices (including the status of sensors and inputs) and control them (for example, built-in relays, discrete outputs, running devices, smart outlets, etc.) using the SNMP protocol.

The UniPing server room monitoring device has an interesting feature: it enables a user to control external devices using the SNMP protocol and SET method. In particular, it is possible to control IO-lines, relays, and other parameters of the remote device over the network with the support of the SNMP using the commands from the logic block (including automatic mode). In some cases, this allows refusing using an additional computer, which is especially useful for the remote platform or within the limited budget.

However, there are differences between devices in the part of supporting protocols: a UniPing monitoring unit has got a feature of organizing the interaction with the external system using the HTTP protocol (HTTP API). At the same time, the manufacturer does not intend to support the Modbus protocol.

On the contrary, Netbotz can interact with the external system using Modbus (both reading and writing registers is supported) and at the same time, it does not have the feature of HTTP API.

Certainly, the examined devices support the protocols that are necessary for maintaining the interaction with the user. In other words, they support protocols for user interfaces. For example, HTTP, HTTPS — are used for the web interface; Telnet and SSH are used for the command-line interface; SMTP is used to email notifications. We are going to discuss the user interfaces further, in the corresponding section.

Considering the use of secure communication protocols, UniPing falls behind: it does not support the protocols with the encryption, such as HTTPS, SNMP v3, SSH.

As a result, it is possible to conclude that the devices have a basic set of physical interfaces and network protocols with several nonsignificant differences that is sufficient for the majority of use cases.

User Interfaces

Connecting examined devices to the communication networks and having a set of protocols and their interactions with other systems and programs that we examined in the section above — are a must but not single condition for the full operation of the devices.

There is a need to have at least one user interface to configure and display the status of sensors and running devices as well as to receive another information about monitoring objects, visualize data and control remote objects. This user interface is the interface for the interaction between a user and a device, so-called HMI (Human-Machine Interface).

Let's take a look which user interfaces our devices have. The user interfaces are represented in the table below.

Table 7 — User interfaces of Netbotz and UniPing devices.

Interface

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Web interface

Yes (HTTP and HTTPS)

Yes (HTTP)

Command-line interface

Yes (Telnet and SSH)

No

SMS-interface (notifications and commands)

No

Yes (GSM)

Emailing notifications

Yes (SMTP)

Yes (SMTP)

A basic interface for both devices that is used for configuring, controlling and visualization is a web interface — it is developed in both devices.

Web interfaces have a menu system that is used to access the pages of the status of sensors, running devices, configurations of all parameters, control conditions, etc. It is possible to control running devices — built-in relays, built-in or external outlets, output lines — the components depend on the features of a particular device that we regarded above.

Both web interfaces are enough comfortable, intuitive and clear, therefore there is no need to address the user guides all the time to work with the interfaces.

However, there are peculiarities that are specific for every examined device.

The first thing that catches the eye is the Russian language of the UniPing web interface. Evidently, it is a big advantage for Russian speaking users. At the English web site http://www.netpingdevice.com/ there is also a firmware version with the English interface.

Netbotz interface is English, and there is no support for other languages.

In Netbotz, the first page of the web interface is the summary information on sensors, failures, and several last events in the system. It allows to quickly understand the situation with the device and the environment practically from the first sight: are there any accidents or not, do the readings of the sensors exceed specified thresholds, are doors open or closed, is the smart outlet on a device switched on or switched off, learn several last emergencies and informational notifications of the log, etc.

Cross-links on this page allow a quick transition to the «problematic» issue and evaluating the situation with no need to follow the menu chain.

NetBotz web interface

Photo 25 — Example of Netbotz main screen.

Anyway, as we can see, there is a classic menu, too. Using the classic menu, it is possible to move through all the section of the web interface.

Overall, the menu of Netbotz has a higher level of nesting, when the main menu has only five sections and the other sections and points are grouped in them. it is a positive thing for the interface because there is no overloading of the interface.

UniPing has a more linear menu structure. It is possible to say that the menu is totally linear as soon as it shows no nesting. One section means one category. As soon as the functionality of the device is wide (wider than the one of Netbotz), these categories count to 20 (as for the moment when the article was written).

UniPing server solution v4SMS web interface

Photo 26 — Example of the main screen of UniPing.

Unfortunately, UniPing does not have a summary table. Therefore, the first screen is the window of the network configuration and information about the device.

In the Netbotz device, the command line interface (so-called CLI — Command Line Interface) is supported in addition to the web interface.

Netbotz CLI

Photo 27 — Interface of the command line in Netbotz.

Using this interface, it is possible to fully interact with the device — configure any parameters, view the status of sensors, control a relay and an outlet. Taking into account that the access to this protocol is possible not only behind TCP/IP using SSH or Telnet, but also using the serial port RS-232, it is possible to get the access using CLI, even if there are problems with the Ethernet connection. Evidently, this interface has minimal requirements to the network bandwidth and can be used in the «narrowest» network channels.

Working with Sensors

Web interfaces of both sensors provide all necessary basic tools for working with connected sensors:

  • configuring connected sensors (identification, notification thresholds, names, etc.);
  • the output of the measured values to the web interface;
  • configuring notifications from sensors (using which interfaces to transmit notifications about the events of sensors).

In Netbotz, the data on the status of temperature and humidity sensors is displayed at the single screen in horizontal rows. It is a good solution as soon as the number of displayed sensors can reach several tens taking into account extension blocks.

Netbotz sensors in the web interface

Photo 28 — The screen displaying the status and configurations of the sensors for universal ports in Netbotz.

UniPing developers divided all sensors by their types and separated them at different tabs. Even temperature sensors and temperature/humidity sensors are in different locations. At the same time, the status of sensors is represented in the vertical columns. An individual user can decide for herself how comfortable it is. 

UniPing server solution v4SMS sensors in the web interface

Photo 29 — The screen for displaying the status and configurations of the temperature sensors in UniPing.

For Netbotz, there is a need to point out a feature of configuring the hysteresis for sensors (in UniPing, the hysteresis is fixed as 1°C for temperature sensors and 1% for humidity sensors) and the presence of two auxiliary thresholds for notifications — warning, top, and bottom. In UniPing, a dew point is calculated according to the readings of the humidity sensor and the value of the dew point is displayed. There are only two thresholds for notifications: critical top and bottom.

Netbotz has an important feature that is worth mentioning — the log of registering data from sensors and displaying them not only in the text view but also as graphs. It is possible to choose one or several parameters simultaneously to represent them on the graph, as well as apply the chosen time period and scaling. This feature can be very handy and comfortable for speeding up the understanding of the situations when incidents happen at the monitoring object. For example, it is possible to quickly estimate when the temperature inside started rising, and which speed it was increasing with, and which values eventually reached in a certain moment.

Netbotz visualizing data from the sensor
Netbotz registered data of the sensor

Photo 30 — Screens that display registered data from sensors (on the left) and data visualization (on the right) in Netbotz.

At small objects, such a feature can be very demanded, especially when the SCADA-system is not deployed or SYSLOG-server is not deployed. It is possible to upload the data from the device in a variety of ways, including an FTP protocol.

Besides working with physical sensors, a UniPing device can request any other external device using the ICMP protocol (PING method) — the feature is named «Pinger».

NetPing pinger

Photo 31 — Is a part of the screen «Logic». Configuring «Pinger».

It is possible to activate notifications about the accessibility of the network node and execute a logic command in the logic module according to the event from the «Pinger». For example, it is possible to reboot a remote server.

Logs

Both devices have a log that is stored in the nonvolatile memory and accessible only through the web interface.

UniPing log stores nearly 220–350 last notifications. All notifications are recorded in a round, i,e, the oldest notification in the log is replaced with the most recent one. There is no feature of sorting or filtering notifications. It is possible to load the journal only by copying its contents in the web interface (see photo 32) and inserting in any text editor.

UniPing server solution v4SMS log

Photo 32 — Screen of the event log in UniPing.

In Netbotz, the web interface provides more features to a user to work with the log. There are features of sorting and filtering using different parameters.

Netbotz log

Photo 33 — Screen of the event log in Netbotz.

It is possible to say that the Netbotz web interface is more thoughtful and more structured. Also, it exceeds UniPing in terms of visualization features (building graphs from data for certain time interval), features of working with a log. On the other hand, UniPing lacks a feature of storing historical data and their visualization. Therefore, when using UniPing, to accomplish these aims, there is a need to use the external dispatching system that will require additional IT equipment and software.

Automation

Netbotz has relatively poor automation features. When one or several sensors reach a certain specified threshold, it is possible to activate a built-in relay, built-in 220V outlet or an alarm beacon.

At the same time, eight universal input-output ports of UniPing (that are good to connect sensors, additional relays, smart outlets, and an IR module), well-developed firmware for automation and web interface allow solving most tasks of simple automation.

The basis for these functions is the next UniPing features:

  • automation and executing rules of logic (module «Logic»);
  • automatic controlling external devices using IR commands;
  • automatic controlling external devices using SNMP.

Management scenarios may be initiated by events from either physical sensors (temperature, humidity, smoke, leakage, etc.) or from «virtual» sensor — module «Pinger».

Also, the action on the event may be implemented either at a physical port (this can be an internal or external relay or smart outlet) or at an external device that supports remote control using an SNMP protocol (using a so-called SNMP Setter).

UniPing server solution v4SMS logic

Photo34 Photo 34 — Logic (automation) setup screen in UniPing.

In total, it is possible to program up to 16 logic rules and two commands of an SNMP Setter. «Pinger» can be used to test the accessibility of two network devices.

For a built-in relay, such as useful features «Watchdog» and «Schedule» are implemented.

A feature of «Watchdog» is the implementation of the external watchdog that allows increasing the stability of work of any remote device (for example, a server), eliminating the need of manual reset if it freezes. According to the polling results of one or several IP addresses using a relay built in the UniPing, it is possible to reboot a remote device (which is the imitation of pressing the Reset or Power button), and when there is an auxiliary power relay, it is possible to organize switching on/switching off a remote device. This feature has a wide setup range: polling up to three IP-addresses, setting a polling period, time-out, reset pulse duration, relay operation logic if there are no responses, etc.

The module «Schedule» performs the feature according to its name: it allows to specify a schedule, according to which a relay that is built into UniPing will switch on and switch off. Moreover, it is possible to set up to six internals of switching on-switching off a relay per day for each day of the week. A feature of applying specific schedules for holidays is supported.

Practically, «Watchdog» and «Schedule» are specialized sets of rules that may be programmed using the module «Logic», but their presence as separate modules allows using the features of the module "Logic" - that are limited - for other purposes. 

However, «Watchdog» and «Schedule» work only with a relay that is built into UniPing. It is impossible to link them to either of discrete ports in the «output» mode. Therefore, if there is a need to organize a «watchdog timer» for several remote devices, you will have to use the modules «Logic» and «Pinger».

It is possible to connect an IR transceiver to a device and in this case, you will be able to record and replay IR signals of remote controls of household appliances. It can be an air conditioner, satellite receiver, and other devices that are controlled using an IR channel.

UniPing server solution v4SMS controlling IRC-TR v2

Photo 35 — Setup screen for IR commands in UniPing.

Overall, it is possible to write up to 16 IR commands to the memory of an IR transceiver using control elements in the UniPing web interface. Afterwards, you will be able to reproduce these commands through the UniPing web interface or using an SNMP protocol and HTTP API commands.

Overall, automation is a strength of UniPing. Therefore, a choice of a device for the users who need to control a big number of external devices and loads using a web interface or SNMP, according to events on sensors and conditions in automatic mode is evident.

Working with High-Level SCADA-Systems

All APC equipment produced by Schneider Electric, including Netbotz, is automatically recognized by own high-level dispatching system APC StruxureWare Data Center Expert. In fact, this system is a SCADA system specifically adjusted for APC equipment. It is an independent hardware and software system that consists of a specialized server and installed proprietary software. For example, a photo below shows two Netbotz devices and four InRow APC air conditioners installed in the Netbotz system.

Netbotz Data Center Expert

Photo 36 — Netbotz devices in the high-level SCADA-system APC StruxureWare Data Center Expert.

StruxureWare Data Center Expert is an independent product, not freeware, with its own conditions and licensing policies. The Netbotz device can be used together with StruxureWare Data Center Expert (the same as with any other SCADA-system), and, thanks to the firmware and interfaces, it can be also used as an independent functional device.

The fact that Netbotz supports such protocols as SNMP and Modbus, allows integrating a device to third-party SCADA-systems — Insat Master SCADA, Zabbix and other.

Today, NetPing east Co., Ltd. specializes in manufacturing hardware only. Therefore, a UniPing device is developed at autonomic use or the use with the external dispatching systems of third party developers, regardless paid or free, for example, Master SCADA, Zabbix, PRTG Network Monitor, NOC and others. All necessary protocols are supported for this, for example, SNMP. At the manufacturer's website, there are users' articles about organizing the interaction of UniPing with different dispatching systems, which can considerably speed up the configuration process in some cases.

Below, there is an example of graphs from sensors after connecting them to PRTG Network Monitor.

UniPing server solution v4SMS in PRTG

Photo 37 — Graphs from sensors after connecting them to PRTG Network Monitor.

Alternate Device Applications

Besides its main application - monitoring microclimate in server rooms and controlling server equipment - compared devices can be used in other spheres. Moreover, for example, UniPing is positioned by the manufacturer for such applications as :

  • monitoring temperature and humidity in any rooms;
  • organizing systems of fire and security alarm systems for any rooms and objects;
  • remote management of any equipment: alarm, light, fan, etc.;
  • controlling electric lock, electric gates at a remote object;
  • controlling (including automatic control) elements of smart home: watering plants, opening, and closing blinds, water pump, heating boiler, electric heaters, etc.;
  • remote controlling of a power plant (diesel generator, gas generator).

Really, a UniPing device has got a sufficient number of universal discrete input-output ports for this, supports a wide variety of sensors, has extended control features for managing external devices and automation, has got popular protocols and a built-in GSM-module for monitoring and management using SMS.

What about Netbotz, it has much more limited functionality compared to UniPing and a device is positioned by a manufacturer only as a device for monitoring server rooms. It has poor features for controlling external devices and automation. That said, a device is less universal than UniPing, and its specifications are balanced specifically for fulfilling the main task and using a device in the IT environment.

Now, let's switch to regarding one of the most important issues — equipment price tag as soon as very often it is the determinant factor when choosing this or that solution.

Price Comparison

Let's compare the prices for devices and sensors. We will regard only the sensors announced by manufacturers at the website and/or in the documentation and positioned as regular ones.

Table 8 — Comparing prices for devices and sensors UniPing and Netbotz.

Device/sensor

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

Price (as of May 2019)

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Price (as of May 2019)

Rack device for monitoring — main device

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

661–771 USD

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

267 USD

Rack sensor unit — extension device 

NetBotz Rack Sensor Pod 150

434–454 USD

No analog

-

Temperature and humidity sensors




Temperature/humidity sensor with a digital display (AP9520TH)

409–488 USD

1-Wire temperature/humidity sensor on HIH4000 (HS) *

50 USD

No analog

-

1-Wire temperature sensor on DS18B20 (THS) *

19 USD

Temperature sensor (AP9335T) *

94–157 USD

No analog

-

Temperature/humidity sensor (AP9335TH) *

188–251 USD

No analog

-

Door sensor


NetBotz door sensor for indoors or racks of third-party producers (NBES0302)

99–111 USD

Door sensor metal

18 USD

NetBotz door sensor for APC racks (NBES0303)

152–193 USD

Door sensor metal

18 USD

«Dry contacts»

Cable (adaptor) for connecting the «dry contact» sensor NetBotz (NBES0304)

52–86 USD

No need for a special cable, any suitable cable is used

-

Light alert

Signal beacon (AP9324)

305–368 USD

Audible Light Fire Security Annunciator

6 USD

Sound alert

No analogue

-

Buzzer (mod.STD-3025)

29 USD

Cabinet door locks

Handle set NetBotz 125 kHz (NBHN125) — for APC closets only

864–960 USD

No analog

-

Handle set NetBotz 13,56 MHz (NBHN1356) — for APC closets only

no information/ product unavailable

No analog

-

Shock/vibration sensors

Vibration sensor NetBotz (NBES0306)

174–176 USD

Shock sensor (mod. Z09-1)

18 USD

Fire detector


Smoke sensor NetBotz (NBES0307)

346–424 USD

Smoke detector (mod. M206-5E)

22 USD

No analog

-

Combined smoke sensor (smoke/heat)

33 USD

Liquid sensors

Liquid sensor NetBotz Spot Fluid Sensor (NBES0301)

166–193 USD

Liquid sensor (mod.2605)

38 USD

No analog - VT592 cable leakage sensor 59 USD

Ventilation (fan unit for a closet /server room)

Fan unit for the closet wiring (ACF301)

1682–1685 USD

No analog

-

Wireless sensors


Wireless temperature sensor (NBWS100T)

158–176 USD

No analog

-

Wireless temperature/humidity sensor (NBWS100H)

225–226 USD

No analog

-

220V sensor

No analog

-

Supply voltage sensor

18 USD

Movement sensor

No analog

-

PIR detector (mod.M105-1E)

26 USD

Airflow sensor

No analog

-

(GLS) Airflow sensor + GRID 120*120*10mm NC

38 USD

* the table contains a formally proper comparison of the sensors taking into account the interface type: digital ones with digital ones, analog ones with analog ones. However, such a comparison is not always correct about a practical situation. Therefore, let's introduce a notion of «Main sensor type» - such a sensor type that is most often used with a device and cannot be used independently. For Netbotz — it is analog temperature and temperature/humidity sensors that are connected to universal ports on a device, for UniPing it is digital temperature sensors and temperature/humidity sensors that are connected to 1-Wire ports.

Therefore, if we speak about sensors for parameters of the environment, it will be more correct to compare «main sensor types» of devices that is given in the table below.

Table 9 — Price comparison of main sensor types of Netbotz and UniPing.

Device/sensor

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

Price (as of May 2019)

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

Price (as of May 2019)

Temperature and humidity sensors

Temperature sensor (AP9335T)

94–157 USD

1-Wire temperature sensor on DS18B20 (THS)

19 USD


Temperature/humidity sensor (AP9335TH)

188–251 USD

1-Wire temperature/humidity sensor on HIH4000 (HS)

50 USD

Indicators of specific cost of connecting wired sensors (excluding the cost of the sensor itself, that is, the "port cost") when a maximum number of sensors of this type is deployed (for main sensor types) are given in the table below. Indicators in the table were formed in this way: the price of a device is divided by a maximum number of ports for sensors of this type.

Table 10 — Comparing «port cost» for Netbotz and UniPing devices.

Device

NetBotz Rack Monitor 200

UniPing server solution v4/SMS

wired analog temperature sensor

110–125 USD

Not supported

wired digital temperature sensor

Not supported

42 USD

Wired analog temperature/humidity sensor

110–125 USD

Not supported

Wired digital temperature/humidity sensor

83–97 USD

83 USD

«Dry contact» sensor

146–188 USD *

42 USD

* For Netbotz, both universal and special ports are taken into account (ports for connecting door switches (NBES0302) — two such adaptors are calculated. Price of adaptors is taken into account (six units) to connect the «dry contact» sensor NetBotz (NBES0304).

As far as we discussed above in the section «Ports and Sensors - Comparison», a NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 device can be connected to any sensors with the «dry contact» interface, including sensors with the same interface from UniPing server solution v4/SMS or any other manufacturers. However, there is a need to take into account the next moments: first, there is a need to buy an additional "dry contact" adaptor to connect every such sensor (see the table above). The price of such adaptor may exceed the price of a connected sensor in many times. Second, every such sensor will take one universal port of NetBotz Rack Monitor 200, and their number is severely limited. In some cases, this situation is going to make you use either extension modules of Sensor Pod type, or digital sensors on the A-Link bus, or wireless sensors. In turn, this is going to cause additional, often significant, expenses.

Even with a quick glance at the table, it is evident that UniPing server solution v4/SMS has no rival here. The price of the devices and sensors differs considerably (for some cases, several times). But, it makes a UniPing server solution v4/SMS device exceptionally interesting solution from the point of view of the quality-price correlation. Thinking about this parameter, it is possible to forget some insignificant device faults.

Conclusions

To perform its main task, NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 has a well-thought set of interfaces and protocols, including the ones protected by encoding. NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 is automatically recognized by its own high-level dispatching system APC StruxureWare Data Center Expert. At the same time, it is easily integrated into any SCADA-system thanks to supporting such popular protocols as SNMP. Working with Netbotz sensor equipment is not that difficult as soon as sensors are connected without using any tools, "on the go," and are automatically recognized by the device.

When choosing APC hardware and software by Schneider Electric, a user gets a pretty closed ecosystem that is simple in configuration and easy in use. All other devices of this manufacturer are integrated into this ecosystem, including uninterruptible power supplies, air conditioners, controllable socket outlets, monitoring devices, and other equipment. When only APC equipment is used there is no such issue as mechanic electronic or software compatibility. APC sensors are easily fastened at the doors of closets using the plastic brackets that are included to the kit. Monitoring blocks or APC outlets units are fastened in the closet in a vertical position, with no need to use any additional tools and not taking any place of the main IT equipment.

However, if there is a need to minimize expenses and buy closets of another manufacturer, there is a need to take into account that plastic brackets may not fit the closet doors, which means that the fasteners are not going to be that beautiful and a device is not going to be placed vertically, and it still takes a necessary unit of the closet space. If there is a need to plug devices by another manufacturer to the APC dispatching system, for example, air conditioners, the problems are likely to come: not coinciding SNMP versions, lack of a necessary protocol, lack of templates for necessary equipment, impossibility to aggregate graphs, etc..

Unfortunately, a high price of NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 and its sensors is a significant disadvantage. Both a device and its sensors are costly. If we think that the functionality of the examined device is below the features and possibilities of UniPing server solution v4/SMS (sometimes considerably) in certain sections, and there is a need to spend a significant sum to buy various adaptors and extension ports to make the features equal. All this limits the use of NetBotz Rack Monitor 200, especially for small applications, such as server rooms.

The functionality of UniPing server solution v4/SMS is shifted towards programmed controllers with the extended features. A device has a developed, convenient, and intuitive configuration and setup interface, as well as all necessary protocols, duplicating network channels, etc. A device can be integrated with the dispatching system popular on the market, either paid ones (Master-SCADA, «Round», etc.) or free — for example, Zabbix and others.

Overall, it is possible to conclude that the UniPing server solution v4/SMS device is more universal compared to NetBotz Rack Monitor 200 and can be effectively used in different spheres of activity.

Disadvantages of the UniPing server solution v4/SMS device are the need to power it off when connecting new or replacing failed sensors, and the inconvenient procedure of registering new sensors. Overloaded linear web interface with a single nesting level and not that thoughtful wiring of discrete sensor conductors do not impact the device operation as soon as it is possible to get used to the interface and long wires can be shortened, but nevertheless, they do not add to the comfort of the device.

Nevertheless, UniPing server solution v4/SMS has a big number of universal discrete input-output ports, a wide range of sensors, extended control features for external devices and automation, support of popular protocols and GSM for monitoring and management using SMS. All these technical specs of the UniPing server solution v4/SMS device that we regarded earlier can satisfy even the pickiest users — system administrators, developers of smart home systems, architects of SCADA-systems and many others. A device can be successfully used in the middle and large IT environments as a part of the dispatching control of engineering infrastructure of data processing centers as intellectual devices for management and gathering data.

The features of the UniPing server solution v4/SMS device together with a low cost of the server and connected sensors — of regular or third-part manufacturers — allows discussing its high competitiveness at the market of similar systems.


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