Raspberry Pi has unsurprisingly been a smash hit with the maker community. But here’s an enterprise startup that is using the $35/$25 microcomputer — or rather hundreds of them at a time — as a network monitoring tool for corporate networks that bypasses the need for humans to report network outages to a help-desk.
U.S. startup NetBeez, which was founded in April and recently graduated from the Pittsburgh-based AlphaLab accelerator, is developing a tool that uses multiple Raspberry Pis to monitor network connectivity and notify administrators when a problem is detected. NetBeez received $25,000 from AlphaLab and is also backed by $100,000 in convertible notes. It’s currently raising a seed round.
The basic idea is that the Pis simulate user activity on a network, enabling the system to pick up problems that affect end users without having to wait for actual humans to be annoyed by a sudden lack of connectivity. Being as each Pi is so (relatively) low cost, it’s possible for NetBeez to install hundreds per company to monitor uptime across an entire enterprise network footprint — such as every bank branch outlet, for instance — without the overall cost becoming prohibitively expensive to the customer.
“NetBeez is a tool to validate network changes and catches outages before they affect the end user,” explains co-founder, Panagiotis Vouzis. “A large percentage of network outages are caused after engineers make changes to their network. Current monitoring tools give a detailed view of the routers and switches, but they miss the information about the connectivity of the end user. So, when an engineer makes a change at 2:00 am (they work off hours to affect the least number of users in case something goes wrong) they don’t know if the end user has been affected or not.
“Often, the outages they cause are detected at 8:00 am when the first employees come in to work, and they can’t work until the problem gets resolved. Only on critical configuration changes people are sent office to office at 2:00 am to check if everything is up and running. This is cumbersome, costly, doesn’t scale, and cannot be applied to every change.”
This is where NetBeez steps in and installs Pis running its monitoring software (aka Beez) behind the switch — aka “exactly where the end-user connects” — thereby giving the network engineer visibility on whether configuration changes done in the middle of the night are going to affect all the local office workers in the morning.
“There are many types of outages that are detected by the end user only. They have to call the help desk, that then informs the IT department about the problem. The Beez acts as a proactive and distributed network monitoring tool that catches problems that remain undetected by the current state of the art. It bypasses the help-desk process,” adds Vouzis.
Vouzis says it intends to target the tool at large and medium companies that have complex networks and a need to minimise network outages and downtime. It’s been running a beta program since May, with three demo customers on board who have “a strong presence in Pennsylvania and West Virginia”.
Both Vouzis and his fellow co-founder, Stefano Gridelli, have a background in network engineering. The business model for NetBeez will either be an upfront cost or a monthly or yearly fee per Bee and for use of NetBeez’s server system, adds Vouzis.