As we continue to enhance the features and capabilities of Usage Meter, one of the changes that has people asking questions is why we are requiring the configuration of SMTP when installing Usage Meter 3.6.x. This was a change from 3.5.x where SMTP was not a requirement.
Usage Meter Monitoring
One of the key reasons why this requirement is enabled is for alerting. Since Usage Meter facilitates resource utilization and consumption reporting, it is important to know when issues may be occurring as these issues may be directly related Usage Meter’s ability to collect or report data. For this use case, the SMTP server can be an internal server and does not require internet access. Optionally, It can also leverage an account that does not have the ability to forward emails outside of the local domain.
For the second use case of automatic reporting via vCloud Usage Insight, internet access is required. Integration with Usage Insight is important because it increases operational efficiency by automating the monthly reporting workflow. By not leveraging an internet facing SMTP server or allowing outbound-only HTTPS connectivity, this operational efficiency is not achieved. This is painfully apparent with Cloud Providers who have multiple Usage Meters today and have to manage each one individually.
For Cloud Providers who are concerned about reports with customer related data, fret not. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is not present in the email. Information such as customer names, hostnames, virtual machines names, etc are also anonymized using a one-way hash. The use of this one-way hash prevents the values from being decrypted. As an additional security layer, the emails are PGP encrypted. For additional information, please review the Metering Guidelines.
Ultimately, the need and value offered by the SMTP configuration far outweighs the risks. As we think about the direction, and goals, of Usage Meter and Usage Insight, being able to do more with less effort is one of the key drivers. Having an accessible SMTP server plays a critical role in the ability to deliver these features.
For additional information please check out the Usage Meter product page.