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Thunderheads: November 2011

Knowledge is Powell
— Meet John Powell —

Hi. My name is John Powell. I am an iDigi Solutions Architect.

I have had a long career in various parts of the computing industry, both with manufacturers like Digi International®, as well as in large enterprise IT groups. Almost every job has involved managing large numbers of devices, such as physical servers, virtual servers, PCs, modem banks, etc.

The key to efficiently managing a large quantity of devices is a good set of tools. You generally need a server to monitor them, perhaps another server to manage firmware and configuration and almost certainly a toolkit of scripts to automate various management tasks. Additionally, you probably have a set of spreadsheets or some kind of database to maintain configuration data.

The iDigi® Device Cloud™ has addressed many of those needs in a single hosted solution. Your toolkit of scripts have been replaced by built-in functions featured in iDigi Manager Pro™, such as the ability to upgrade firmware or perform other maintenance functions on hundreds (or thousands) of devices with a few clicks of a mouse. There is little or no need to write Bash, Python, Perl or Powershell scripts to manage your devices if you are managing them with iDigi Manager Pro.

The next step is replacing those configuration spreadsheets. Our development team came up with two great features in iDigi v2.3 collectively called “Groups.” I will walk you through them, as well as give you some tips on how to use them, both through the iDigi Manager Pro web GUI and through the iDigi Web Services API.


Managing Many Devices
— New Features on iDigi v2.3 —

Device Tags
If you are familiar with the “Labels” feature in Gmail, you will immediately recognize iDigi device tags. Using this feature you can apply one or more “Tags” to each gateway. They are completely free-form, so they can be used in any way that fits your organizational needs. Here’s an example scenario:

Device1: projecta, staged, ChicagoDevice2: projecta, production, BerlinDevice3: projectb, production, ChicagoDevice4: projectb, decommissioned, BerlinDevice5: projectb, production, Berlin

Now you can group by project, status and/or location! You just type the tag name into the search box in the iDigi Manager Pro web interface, hit “Enter,” and only devices with that tag will appear in the device list. You can now select one or more (using ctrl-click) devices to perform actions on, such as firmware updates, push out Python programs, etc.

To add or remove device tags from a device, right click on the device and select “Edit Tags.”

 

Tip: You can multi-select more than one device to set a tag on multiple devices. Then enter your new tag in the add tag field and click the “Add Tag” button.

To remove a tag, just click on the adjacent “X” and click “Save” when done.

Tags can also be added using the iDigi Web Services API. Send an HTTP PUT formatted similar to this:

<DeviceCore><devConnectwareId>00000000-00000000-00000000-00000000</devConnectwareId><dpTags>,projecta, production, Chicago, </dpTags></DeviceCore>

 

You can also restrict queries or operations by specifying a tag in your iDigi Web Services API operation. For example, the DeviceCore GET operation below will only return device information for devices with the tag “production.”

 

http:⁄⁄developer.idigi.com/ws/DeviceCore/?condition=dpTags
like ‘%25production%25,’
 

Note: ”%25″ is the URL Encoded representation of a percent sign (%). The % sign is a wildcard character in our Java-style pattern matching scheme.

To show how this can be used in a real world scenario, do a compound query using tags and device state to select devices:

 

http:⁄⁄developer.idigi.com/ws/DeviceCore/.xls?condition=dpTags%20
like%20%27%25,production%25,%27%20and%20dpConnectionStatus=0
 

The query above will return an Excel spreadsheet with full device information for only those devices with the tag “production” that are currently disconnected! This same conditional structure can be used to apply operations, such as firmware updates, etc. to a select set of devices.

Pretty cool, eh?

UserMetaData Field
This free-form field allows you to enter a description of your gateway with any information you need. Many have used the SNMP Description field for this purpose. The SNMP Description has a fundamental disadvantage in that you need to have the gateway powered up to configure that field. UserMetaData is set and stored in the iDigi device database, so it can easily be set at the time it is added, even if the device has not been removed from the box.

An example might be “GW-35-15W basement next to telecom panel – Chicago.”

To set the UserMetaData for a gateway in the iDigi Manager Pro web interface, right click on the device, and select “Edit MetaData.”

Once you enter the information and click “Save” the text will appear in your device list with that gateway.

In addition to saving that information in a useful spot, you can now use that information to filter the devices shown on the devices list in the Web GUI. For example, type “GW-35-15W” in the search box and only devices with that string will appear on the list.

They can also be added using the iDigi Web Services API. Send an HTTP PUT formatted similar to this:

<DeviceCore><devConnectwareId>00000000-00000000-00000000-00000000</devConnectwareId><dpTags>,projecta, production, Chicago, </dpTags></DeviceCore>

 

You can also restrict queries or operations by specifying a string found within UserMetaData. For example, this DeviceCore GET operation will only return device information for devices with “GW-35-15W” in the UserMetaData field.

 

http:⁄⁄developer.idigi.com/ws/DeviceCore/?condition=dpUserMetaData
like ‘%25GW-35-15W%25,’
 

Summary

As you can see, these are two great new features to help you manage your devices in the iDigi ecosystem. Device tags provide a flexible and dynamic method to group your devices in a way that will fit how you manage and organize your network. UserMetaData provides a method to add descriptive information, even before you deploy the device. Together they help eliminate the need for separate configuration spreadsheets or databases, allow you to organize your devices, as well as perform queries and operation based on this information.

For more information, go to www.idigi.com.


What’s Up in the Clouds?

Digi® recently participated in the short film “Networked Society: On the Brink.” Visit the iDigi blog to watch the film or view the trailer. Look for commentary from:

  • Caterina Fake, the founder of Flickr
  • David Rowan, chief editor of Wired UK
  • Eric Wahlforss co-founder of Soundcloud
  • Rob Faludi talking about the Internet of Things


Looking Forward to the Year Ahead
— Digi Completes Fiscal Year 2011 —

Digi International® just completed another successful quarter and fiscal year, with 11.8% growth from the previous year. Highlights include:

  • Expanding Digi X-Grid™ Solutions to Itron ERT-enabled meters, used by many electric, gas and water utilities throughout the U.S.
  • Extending our relationship with Freescale Semiconductor with the launch of theConnectCore i.MX embedded module product family.

Our success is built upon a commitment to innovation and providing reliable, high-performing products and solutions. We’re proud of our achievements from the last year and are excited by the opportunities promised by the year to come.

 

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