MMSoft Design’s MMSoft Pulseway, which begins at $3,200 per user per year, is a powerful IT management tool that covers a lot of ground, with excellent capabilities in the areas of asset management, infrastructure management, and application performance management (APM). MMSoft Pulseway is a ground-up mobile application, although the company also provides a desktop client that offers a subset of the information (available through the web-based interface used by other devices). MMSoft Pulseway is not only feature-rich, it’s also first and foremost a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering which really leverages that design choice for ease of use, and to deliver a very mobile-friendly feel.
While it’s not as feature-capable in APM as Stackify (our Editors’ Choice winner in that category), MMSoft Pulseway performed excellently as both an asset manager and an infrastructure management tool—so much so that we felt it deserved an Editors’ Choice award in both categories.
MMSoft Pulseway’s mobile applications are available in the Apple App store and Google Play plus in the Windows store for both Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 on a tablet. If you choose to install an on-premises server, it requires Windows Server 2012 or higher plus SQL Server 2008 R2 or higher. Additional requirements include one public, static IP address and an SSL certificate. The MMSoft Pulseway REST API makes it possible to push and pull information from outside the application should you need that functionality.
Agent installation consists of running an installer program and then selecting from a range of options presented on the agent management console. Figure 1 shows the options available on the Server Modules tab of the client manager. Notice from this screenshot that MMSoft Pulseway supports Microsoft’s Hyper-V, VMware’s ESXi, and Citrix’s XenServer virtualization products. It also supports Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure cloud service monitoring.
Other tabs include Windows Server Backup (WSB), System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) plus several other third-party products. The first time you select a tab (such as VMware), you will notice a pop-up dialog asking, “do want to download the additional components to support this function?” Once the module completes downloading, you will be presented with an additional screen to enter the address of the VMware vCenter or ESXi host plus administrator credentials.
We were able to quickly configure a connection to Azure using the Credential wizard. To connect to Azure, you first must obtain your subscription ID (as the credential created must match). Once you have your subscription ID, it must be entered in the Azure Subscription wizard so it is accessed when you hit the Generate New Certificate button. This will create the required certificate that must then be uploaded to Azure. Once that step completes, you should be ready to monitor your Azure account from MMSoft Pulseway.
The SNMP tab allows you to monitor SNMP devices including things such as network switches. We were able to discover a HP 3800 switch and have it display on the main MMSoft Pulseway webpage under Roles. The last configuration step required to actually collect information from the switch is to configure SNMP Management Information Base (MIB) variables of interest. This step might deter anyone from going any further with SNMP monitoring as it requires a knowledge of SNMP Object Identifiers (OID), which are made up of multiple digits similar to an IP address.
The local server option does require several things to be configured prior to installation, along with an existing local copy of SQL server. SQL Express editions higher than 2008 will work for this purpose. Beyond the SQL server requirement, you must establish a DNS entry for the server, with a primary name of pulseway.yourdomain.com pointing to the public IP address. This is required for all mobile connections in order to connect with the server.
For asset managers, installing the agents across platforms was also straightforward but initially took some time (mainly due to volume). If you physically need a barcode or label on the assets, or you are dealing with a number of non-network-capable assets that you need tracked that way, the base MMSoft Pulseway product may not be the right choice for you. However, there is an add-on in the Enterprise edition that will allow the use of barcodes in asset management scenarios.
While setup requires the installation of agents, we did not need to initiate or schedule a network scan or audit nor take any action to receive updates. A key point here is that, despite providing so much asset detail for each networked device, the MMSoft Pulseway user interface (UI) is attractive and simple. It’s a joy to use and is our current favorite interface from all of the cloud-based asset management services we’ve tested. Part of the fun was the nearly instant response when navigating into machines.
The notification options are detailed compared to other asset management tools such as Asset Panda and GoCodes. You can select services and scheduled tasks to manage, as well as performance counters, file browsing features, certificates, maintenance windows, and network connectivity, to name a few.
MMSoft Pulseway offers remote desktop access into Windows machines. Don’t assume that limits the capabilities to troubleshoot cloud-based servers and other operating systems. You can kill processes, restart, log out, suspend, and lock your non-Windows-based assets from the mobile client. The availability of real-time status updates from the mobile application is a game changer. While you do need to install the agent software first, once you do, the rest is easy. MMSoft Pulseway offers information including real-time status, system resources, logged-in users, network performance, Windows updates, IIS, SQL Server, Exchange, Active Directory (AD), VMware, Hyper-V, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)-enabled devices. MMSoft Pulseway also supports Debian, Windows, Unix, Raspbian, MacOS, and various flavors of cloud servers.
Automated asset updates along with MMSoft Pulseway’s deeper view into software usage results in more accurate data, without any proactive configuration beyond setup. Either notifications are on so you can track something specific or you can navigate to the specific device to learn more from the Web or mobile app.
Infrastructure Management and APM
MMSoft Pulseway had the most feature complete infrastructure management capability of any of the products we’ve so far tested in this category. Using the MMSoft Pulseway Manager, you can connect to an Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure account and manage virtual infrastructure in the cloud, while simultaneously using the software to monitor and manage locally-deployed AD, Microsoft Exchange, and a host of other applications and services. On the virtualization front, MMSoft Pulseway supports Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and various flavors of VMware out of the box. No additional plug-ins are required for monitoring any of these virtual infrastructure sources as opposed to other products such as ManageEngine OpManager and Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold.
MMSoft Pulseway’s visually appealing interface continues to shine when performing more rote infrastructure management and APM tasks. As this review went to press, MMSoft rolled out a new HTML5-based version which looks to be even better than the current Flash-based UI. The screen transitions and use of colorful icons are easy on the eyes and also serve to clearly organize its many tools and features. Systems can be grouped together to make it easier to associate specific resources together. Extensive details for individual systems are available through the installed agent (see Figure 2).
MMSoft Pulseway makes it easy to execute commands either one at a time (see Figure 3) or through a Microsoft PowerShell interface to run a script. Just like you can to a client desktop for remote support, a remote terminal session can be established through the MMSoft Pulseway service to any server running the client agent. This makes it easy to connect to internal resources without the need to establish any additional services like a virtual private network (VPN).
Figure 4 shows the details for one Azure test virtual machine (VM) along with buttons to perform the most common functions of restart, shut down, and delete. Our Azure portal management console shows a total of six VMs while the MMSoft Pulseway display showed three. However, this is likely due to the fact that three of the Azure VMs were in a deallocated condition. On a local VM plane, we found that MMSoft Pulseway provides somewhat better insight into Hyper-V and VMware virtualization platforms when compared to Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold.
Life as a Mobile Manager
MMSoft Pulseway really shines when you use the mobile client. Actions for responding to most common requests are available from the mobile app on Android and iOS devices, including restart, log-out, and terminal actions on Mac OS and Unix-based platforms. You have the ability to fully remote in to Windows machines from your mobile device, a huge win for IT staff within companies who can more readily react to outages before they are noticed by those outside the department.
The mobile application comes with a handy “Enter Maintenance Mode” option, which you can use to disable notification on a networked device while you are making changes. This reduces unneeded warnings and duplicative efforts, as other members of your support team can see the issue is being actively worked on. Each setting selected is tracked, providing a reviewable log. A notes field and tagging ability add to a technician’s options for describing an asset.
We loaded the MMSoft Pulseway app on an Apple iPad 3 to test these mobility features. The user interface looked very similar to the Web interface but felt even smoother on the touchscreen device. We were able to navigate through the different servers and see alerts with just a few touches. While you probably won’t do a lot of typing to enter script commands with the on-screen keyboard, you could get it done. A nice Bluetooth keyboard would make the mobile experience on the iPad especially useful.
Because of the focus on security, there are a few Web application drawbacks to consider. After 15 minutes, the Web application makes you log in again. Without an option to save your username or password, this can seem repetitive if you are using the Web application for more complex analysis and reporting. This mildly irritating circumstance appears to be an intentional decision to limit security risk, and is fairly easy to work around in practice (and, given the nature of the data being exposed, this level of security seems justified).
Additionally, if you employ two-factor authentication (2FA), the time limit isn’t an issue for your secured mobile device. You can also see reports and perform most actions from a mobile device, including accessing reports from all networked assets. In fact, we stopped using the Web client because the mobile application did everything we needed, more efficiently and without requiring us to log in every 15 minutes.
A Few Weaknesses
Reporting is not the strongest aspect of the MMSoft Pulseway product. At present, a total of 18 canned reports exist, with no way to modify or create new ones. The reports display on-screen and can be sent by email. It is possible through the management console to view the system logs from individual systems but no easy way to export those logs directly from within the product.
Price may also be a blocker for some. As an asset manager, MMSoft Pulseway Professional allows for up to 200 systems for $3,200 per year with one user account. The Enterprise edition is $10,440 per year for 500 systems, and $20,880 for 1,000 systems and five user accounts. One thing to note about asset management pricing: all assets are basically “systems” and assets included both monitored and networked devices, so your system count may not include every asset type. It can be hard to justify spending more if your company has a tight budget, unless you can advocate for the possible savings of shorter response times for outages, and prove you are saving on software licensing costs by reducing duplication.
From an infrastructure and app management perspective, the SaaS professional version comes out to $1.34 per system per month for one user account, one concurrent remote desktop session and up to 200 monitored systems. The enterprise SaaS version starts at $1.74 per system per month for up to 50 systems, and includes five user accounts and one concurrent remote desktop session. The on-premises version costs $1.20 per system per month and starts at 100 monitored systems.
Overall, MMSoft Pulseway definitely takes the top spot in both our infrastructure and asset management roundup categories. The new HTML5-based UI will only make the user experience (UX) even better. Some of the corner capabilities such as the Microsoft Azure monitoring and the SNMP device agent are a little rough around the edges but, from a feature standpoint, MMSoft Pulseway is definitely the most complete.
While it actually supports more application platforms than Stackify, MMSoft Pulseway didn’t offer quite as much monitoring detail on the APM front, which is why it doesn’t win the Editors’ Choice in that category. However, because it covers so much ground so well, IT departments that want to standardize on one tool box across all of these categories should definitely give it serious consideration.