Alongside Hybrid Share, Active Insight is yet another feature/service that will be of big use to a wide range of users when it comes to monitoring, reporting, and just the overall big picture as well as a better overview of your NAS and their operations.
I wrote about AI back in April as part of an overview of both Hybrid Share and Active Insight. Then we didn't have hands-on but now after a few months of running AI, I can give a better understanding of the platform.
Active Insight - Synology's version of Grafana
Even though I run my metrics with custom dashboards that I can customize the way I want them, using Grafana, AI will give you a turnkey solution that will allow you to get up and running in no time, and all you have to do is click a few buttons.
So what is AI?
Well AI is Synology's (at the moment free) metric platform that will allow you to monitor, analyze, and troubleshoot any system-wide problem that you might have. Interested in how your NAS is being used in periods of 5 AM-7 AM? No problem, you can see all of your NAS statistics on a single page and monitor its CPU, RAM, I/O, HDD, LAN, etc.
To make things more interesting you can have a historical view of all of your data in case you need them and even drill down to a specific period in history to see how the NAS was working before you switched it to full SSD stack (we are geeks after all right?).
Another benefit of AI is that it will report all of your NAS stats in a matter of minutes so you can have an almost "live" view of the system.
Just the other day I have had an experience with AI that was positive. Considering that at the moment I run one test NAS unit with DSM7, I got an email from the AI system that one of my drives was experiencing disk problems in one of my arrays.
I thought to myself, strange that I didn't get a general notification about that from the NAS itself, and then I figured out that I didn't configure system-wide notifications. Why? Well, I figured if this NAS is in an AI system that would be kind of redundant. Happy to say that AI did an excellent job of notifying me, directing me what to check and how to do it, and in the end resolve my issue.
The overall conclusion was that even though there was no problem with the drive then, after 6 days that drive failed with 23 bad sectors and was replaced. Happy end indeed. So DSM7 in a combination with AI registered a potential problem that in the end turned out to be true, the drive was failing and DSM7 detected it well before it was too late.
Luckily I had a spare new drive waiting for that array. Truth be told rebuild of that affected storage pool did not go as planned and I was forced to recreate it from scratch. The reason for this was that the replacement drive was just a tiny bit smaller (even though it is from the same vendor and same declared size) so it had a problem creating the system partition on that drive before including it into the array. Haven't had a similar situation even before, but that is not the topic of this article anyway. All in all, AI did its job and that is all that matters now.
Too good to be true?
So what's the catch? Well, the catch is that when DSM7 finally comes out, this might be a paid service. At least for some cases (number of NAS devices, how often you get your metrics updated, that kind of thing), we might have free access to AI with some limitations.
At the moment, Synology is not restricting anything, but, there is a section in AI dedicated to subscriptions and "premium features". This remains to be seen how it will play out.
Still saying all this, I like how Synology has designed this platform. It is informative, clean, and fast. For someone who doesn't want to or has no time to simulate something like this on its own, AI will be a great asset for monitoring a single NAS or a whole fleet of them.
I will continue to use my private Grafana monitoring considering that it is free, and monitors in near real-time as opposed to several minutes delay in case of AI.
How to setup your NAS with AI?
Setting up AI with your NAS has a few prerequisites and limitations.
- Valid and active account with Synology.com
- Synology Active Insight is not available for Synology NAS models with 256 MB or smaller system memory
- Synology Active Insight is not available for Synology NVR, Unified Controller, and Virtual DSM
- In a high-availability cluster, only the active server is monitored
To get your NAS metric into AI, you only have to go to your DSM Control Panel > Synology Account section and tick one checkbox, Enable Synology Active Insight. That's it, you are done.
In a matter of minutes, NAS will start to ship data to the AI cloud and you will start to see metrics once you log into https://insight.synology.com
You can of course opt-out of AI by turning this setting off at any time.
For the time being, I have to say I like how fast and responsive the AI platform is and how well it illustrates your stats. AI will show its full potential once it accumulates enough data (few weeks) as then you will have a better picture and data to play around with.
Another benefit of AI is also that stats are coming from a 3rd party Synology cloud platform so if there will be any problems with your NAS AI will notify you even if your NAS is inaccessible. In other words, it might show you some info about what the error occurred and what was the cause of it.
I am sure that Synology will keep working on this platform, and all that remains now is to see how much premium features will cost and what will they offer.