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NetPoint Beta 1.1 Released!


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June 14, 2006 – System administrators have always been faced with the complexities of tracking hardware and software installed on their networks. Neutex Systems today announces the release of NetPoint Beta 1.1, a complete hardware and software inventory system available for free to the general public at http://www.neutex.net.

“Conventional network inventory systems have amplified the complexities system administrators face in day to day operations. These systems typically require agents on remote systems, training, hours to implement, and are not cost effective. NetPoint addresses these problems by offering a web based network inventory system equipped with automated system discovery, agentless polling, and can be implemented in minutes. This simplified approach will appeal to many system administrators seeking to simplify their network operations.” says Shannon Ma, Founder of Neutex Systems.

NetPoint tracks 18 different hardware and software components that have been installed and uninstalled. These components consist of: BIOS, CDROM Drive, Disk Drive, Floppy Drive, Logical Disk, Memory, Modem, Monitor, Network Adapter, Operating System, Patch, Printer, Processor, Program, Sound Device, System, Video Controller, and Windows Service.

For more information please visit http://www.neutex.net.

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You joined to spam this. Nice of you... (looks like you've done this with more than one website too) I fail to see how it falls under "General Discussion". Spam coming from existing/participating community members is one thing, but posting for one's self-centered interests with no intentions of contributing anything besides spamming your URL...

It doesn't bring/do anything new (there are FAR more "agentless" WMI-polling solutions out there from what I've seen). Pretty light on features - the only thing it has is a half-decent search feature (and some stuff is downright weird, like the side nav - limited usefulness IMHO, very poor column ordering at best (alphabetically? LOL!) and can't seemingly customize which to show either [it's show a useless "uninstalled" column for CPUs but won't show if it supports HT or such], a bunch of clutter one can't remove, etc). There are MANY competitors in this field (many simple, free, open source, running on free LAMP stacks, etc), you gotta bring something new if you want to succeed at this. Even for free it's not very interesting. Lots of downsides (like, only works with AD - not NT domains, which are still used in many businesses; poor DB support - MSDE is outdated and truly is "teh suck" and MSSQL is overly expensive for such a trivial app, app is not open source, rather limited features, .NET 1.1 instead of 2.0 [no master pages for "branding", etc], etc)

Creating a similar app is easy and quick (speaking from experience). Being open source is a major plus in this field (I wouldn't be interested to even try one of those if I couldn't modify it to fit my needs - and this solution would definitely require it).

Edited by crahak
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Thanks for the comments crahak, I'll take them into consideration on the next release. Although I have recently created a user account, I've been following this form for quite a while. The community is great and I've found the BTS driver pack posts to be quite valuable. I did not join this forum to spam. As you can see, I recently released a free automated network inventory system. I felt this was a contribution to the community as network inventory is a task many IT shops haven't automated and takes hours to perform manually.

Edited by DotNetShannon
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Well, no need to thank me for those comments (I'd say that's more of a rant than anything). Sorry if I was a bit harsh, but I was in a bad mood (migraines don't help) and I get annoyed at ppl joining to "spam" an URL... There were a couple more yesterday (or was that the day before?), one of which even pointed to spyware...

Anyhow. I see it's free, but the "hardware inventory" field is getting pretty cut-throat lately (I know, for I've been looking at the "competitors" in this market lately). Free alone just doesn't cut it. There's ridiculous amounts of apps that do this nowadays - some you gotta pay for (almost nothing to large sums), freeware ones, and even a bunch open source ones are popping up lately. I'd guess it's due to the large amount of ppl getting into WMI lately (just a guess). I'm expecting them to become even more popular quicker...

The commercial ones overal are nice, but often are way too expensive for what they do... Kinda. Too expensive for small shops for the most part (like SMS - lotsa $ upfront), and if there's per-seat licensing, it quickly becomes overpriced (like Everest @ 10$/PC * a few thousand PCs). Either ways, there's lots of major competitors in the field that have lots of brand recognition helping their sales... And most companies that buy those big-name commercial apps are unlikely to change their ways - they'll just buy SMS regardless, at any price, no matter what...

Those not going for the expensive commercial offerings are likely to settle for something as inexpensive as possible. Having to buy a SQL Server license or an extra Win2k3 license (for IIS) defeats the purpose. MSDE sucks bad. Least you could do is ensure you app supports SQL Server 2005 Express (free and doesn't suck like MSDE), and perhaps other DBs including free ones like PostgreSQL, Oracle & DB2 Express - and perhaps MySQL even though it's not really free (dual licensed), but just because so many places already have it installed and know how it works. XP Pro has IIS indeed, but it's so limited, it's only useful for really small things, and a PITA overall (create a DNS entry for it - just for that app?) and most companies wouldn't put this app on their intranet's IIS (fear of bringing the whole box down, already too high server utilisation, you name it). While I'm no fan of PHP at all (ok, I truly despise it), it has the advantage of running on a 100% free "LAMP stack" i.e. lower licensing costs overall (I've seen sevreal java-based ones too, running on free app servers too).

Besides price (TCO - including the price of your and and that of the server software licensing), you still need more things... There's already a bunch of completely free apps out there - the app itself being totally free, the soft it runs onto (web server and database) and all. Some are even open source (just search for "inventory" on sourceforge to see a few)... And they're not necessarily complicated, hard to install, nor suck real bad. You gotta have something better than then (and it's pretty hard to beat totally free + open source really).

Many, many shops these days aren't even using any of these solutions - they just use a simple vbscript that does the "polling" (and dumps to DB or text file or such). Again, totally free, and open source kinda... (you can even find lots of such scripts all over the web, and there's countless script resources, including script making tools & wmi tools, script repositories and examples, etc - even MS themselves have a lot about this stuff). No server stuff to install, nothing complicated, etc. Just run the thing...

While I'm no huge open source fan (nice to find OSS stuff, but I don't adhere to the "Free" mentality part much), this is one type of app where it tends to matter a lot more than usual (the commercial offerings get away with it as they provide paid support and will release regular bugfixes and all). WMI scanning tends to be error prone. With only a handful of PCs everything seems to go right, but as you can a couple thousand PCs at a time, there's almost always something that will go wrong, no matter how well the app is written or how much error handling you got (some old PCs like to cause trouble every time it seems...). That, and you can be sure that people will want to customize something, or add/enhance something else... It's pretty much a given in this field. Flexibility is required and expected (they can already modify their free vbscripts to do whatever they want). And preferably integrate with other apps and info.

So, if you want your app to gain some market share or whatever, you'd kinda have to find a niche in there... Not easy to do. Most people's needs are rather well met. The only way I see one could get people to use their app is to have something fundamentally different in some way. Gotta "think outside the box" and come up with something innovative (easier said than done). There's got to be a reason to use your app over everyone else's...

I've made a hardware inventory app too (well, it does a lot more than just that). I was thinking of either starting a micro ISV to sell it, or as a last resort open sourcing it, and I'm somewhat giving up on both ideas... It's a multithreaded C# app (.NET 2.0). IIS required too for the web interface, and it's SQL server centric as well (could be easily ported to almost any DB in minutes though, just never had the need). Instead of having IIS do all the network scanning/pinging/polling and such, I have a desktop PC do all that stuff, IIS is only used to display the data.

Kinda typical... Depending on config, it enumerates PCs from either AD, NT domain, or reads from a text file, then uses built-in ICMP ping, WMI-scans the responsive ones... But instead of only dumping straight to DB, I also dump *everything* to a [large] XML file. It's easier to retain all the details that way (most DB schemas will only have total RAM, as being able to have every stick of RAM in there would need a table for RAM sticks and FKs to it and all - kinda ugly and nedlessly heavy especially if you do it for everything in the entire app - one ends up with countless tables and joins, or some n00bs use 4 integer fields, and the app crashes when there are more sticks or such... the XML file is extremely flexible, keep all the info you want in a hierarchical format, parse & modify as you want/need... FAR more powerful, although it gets large quickly). IIS is used to display the polled data as webforms (as well as provide some web services and such - it's part of a larger n-tier soa app, and there's also a winforms "rich" client - which again does a lot more than just this... in fact, this is just an "aside" to pre-fill data and do auditing).

About the interface, this is one point where you might need more work than you expect... It's pretty much what gives someone's first impression of your app too (if they don't like it, they won't even try it no matter how good the underlying architecture may be). I'm not proposing you go way overboard with usability studies and the whole 9 yards, but it needs to be good - REAL good. Especially if you web interface is your main interface/selling point... Columns sorted alphabetically don't cut it. At all. Ideally they'd be in some logical order, or order of importance (and some columns could be just considered useless clutter - ideally one can pick and choose which). That's just the starting point. Think of UML "use-case diagrams" - what's the end user going to do? Is having a menu that lets them list "all modems" installed across all PCs really that useful? Perhaps the feature might be useful too, but could belong in a sub-menu as it's not something frequently used? I'm thinking of tasks like "list hardware or software on a PC named XYZ", or perhaps tasks like "find PCs to lifecycle". Common tasks like those (or whatever) should have easy to find shortcuts that require no scrolling (list would ideally be easily customizable by/for customers). I have wizzards for tasks like "find old junk to lifecycle".

Also, telling ppl they can just access the database and "have at it" for anything else isn't exactly great either... If they're willing to do this, my guess is they're already using a homebrew vbscript or app, or are using one of the open source apps that they've customized. You want some export features and at least basic reports. No need for complex/fancy business intelligence & data warehousing stuff, but somewhere between that and none... The app should also have some sort of built-in security (AD integration or form authentication or whatever).

And that's if the app only does "WMI polling"... And I'm not suggesting it should only do that either (you can throw/integrate anything else useful in there: a more complete "non-computer" asset management part, an ITIL trouble ticket app, a knowledge base, bug tracker, anything goes!). And even if the app was perfect, there's the "getting it known"/marketing part... (and user docs, help files, etc - that's the part I hate most)

Wow. Did I just write all this? :blink:

Edited by crahak
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