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Monitoring Central

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This time of year is always exciting. The seasons change (depending on where you live), commercial buying season ramps up, and shopping lines resemble those of an amusement park in summer. The year is coming to an end, and we are busy shopping, making holiday preparations, traveling, and coming together with family to eat, exchange gifts, and be merry.

 

I’d wager access rights management doesn’t have a top spot on your holiday list. That’s ok. The topic doesn’t exactly exude that cozy holiday feeling. On the contrary, it might make you slightly uncomfortable. 

 

Most IT environments consist of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers. Those servers have thousands to tens of thousands of folders, groups, and paths. How can you really know who has access to what? Is your data safe? You have, no doubt, installed security monitoring and protection solutions to help protect the data in those folders and files. You’ve done everything you can, right? Despite all those protections, you still have users with access—but you don’t know who. You don’t know what. In fact, if someone asked you who has access to what, you probably couldn’t answer. It’s a hard question to field unless you have a solution in place giving you the visibility you need. Of course, if an auditor does ask you to answer these questions, your holidays could be spent digging through folders and directories to compile information and provide answers.

 

 

SolarWinds® Access Rights Manager (ARM) helps solve these challenges and more:

 

  • ARM provides a detailed overview of your users’ access rights, allowing you to easily visualize and show where access to resources has been granted erroneously
  • ARM enables standardization and automation of access rights, so you can easily apply the appropriate rights to users through templates
  • ARM helps demonstrate compliance and prevents insider data leakage by helping you achieve the principle of least privilege and giving you full auditability of user access over time

 

Let’s dig into this further.

 

 

ARM gives a detailed overview of your users’ access rights

 

The Active Directory group concept is essential for every administrator. These groups grow organically, and after years of existence and use, they often build up to complex group nesting structures. ARM gives you back control over these group structures.

 

The ARM AD Graph visualizes group structure and depth. Structural problems with these groups become transparent through this visualization.

 

 

 

In addition to the visualization provided by the AD Graph, the ARM dashboard allows a detailed analysis of the group nesting structures and circular nested groups. This enables administrators to work on the weak spots in the AD group structure, establish a flat group structure, and meet Microsoft best practices for group management.

 

With ARM, the issues related to lack of identifiable structures—or giving permissions to too many or the wrong people/groups—belong to the past. Once the group structure has been optimized, ARM allows you to compare any recorded access rights period with your current structure, and shows changes along with documented reasoning.

 

 

ARM enables standardization and automation of access rights

 

Compliance regulations, such as FISMA, GDPR, SOX, PCI DSS, BSI, and others, require administrators to adopt a high level of responsibility to ensure data is protected. Insider data leakage can cost companies large monetary sums in addition to lost customer, vendor, and reseller trust if data gets into the wrong hands. But it’s not always the headline-making data leak issues that harm companies. Employees leaving a company and taking valuable data with them is almost guaranteed without a cohesive access rights strategy to manage, control, and audit user rights—for users throughout the whole company.

 

ARM standardizes access rights across users and gives administrators a comprehensive tool to define, manage, monitor, and audit user access to resources across Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, and all your file servers.

 

 

 

ARM empowers administrators to predefine certain roles within the company, efficiently grant or deny rights with one click, and display all higher-level permissions in an easy-to- monitor overview. These different roles can be assigned a data owner (e.g., for department heads) to distribute control for managing access to resources the data owner is responsible for. In addition, this establishes a mindset of distributed access rights control to help ensure users with accurate access rights knowledge are granting and/or denying access appropriately.

 

Data owners, team leads, and IT professionals can be granted access to change personal information about a user, create or delete user accounts, reset passwords, unlock user accounts, or change group memberships centrally from within ARM. This allows the duties and tasks around access rights management to be shared while following standards to ensure full auditability.

 

ARM helps demonstrate compliance and prevents insider data leakage

 

Threats can emerge from the outside as well as the inside. Insider abuse can be a leading cause of data leakage. Of course, it’s not always a malicious insider; in many cases, data leakage is caused by negligent users who have access to resources, and are either compromised or take actions that inadvertently lead to data leakage. ARM takes special care to audit all changes within the ARM Logbook. The Logbook report enables admins and auditors to report on events and persons as needed to support investigations or auditor questions.

 

ARM also includes automated reports designed to meet regulatory compliance initiatives, such as NIST, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR. The flexible reporting views allow you to ask questions to quickly generate a report, which can be exported in an audit-ready format.

 

As mentioned earlier, ARM allows access rights management to be delegated to assigned staff members—placing control of the access rights assignment with the data owners that know their data. Changes made by these data owners are also audited so nothing goes unmonitored. ARM is designed to make your job easier—it helps you answer the questions you need to answer.

 

ARM is our gift to you this holiday season. It aligns with the SolarWinds mission to make your job as an IT technology professional easy. With Access Rights Manager, we make security easier too; we call it security simplified. If you are thinking of what you can do for yourself this holiday season, consider SolarWinds Access Rights Manager. It could turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Have you adopted Azure cloud services into your IT infrastructure? And do you know how much you paid last month and for what? And what about forecasting? Are you able to forecast your Azure spending in the current month? If the answer is no, don’t worry, you are not the only one. Unfortunately, Azure billing is really complicated with more than 15,000 SKUs available, and each have their own rate. But SolarWinds is here to help you! We’re proud to introduce a brand new free tool in our portfolio!

Cost Calculator for Azure is a standalone free tool that can help you discover how much you are paying for your Azure cloud services. It is as easy as it could be – you put the credentials of all your Azure accounts into the tool, so it can do all the work for you, telling you how much you really pay and for what specifically. This tool is designed to help all budget holders and SysAdmins of any sized-business who are responsible for cloud resources in their companies.

 

Cost Calculator for Azure at a glance:

  • No installation
  • Support
  • Show cost of all assigned Azure accounts and their subscriptions plans. There is no need to have more instances and work with Excel spreadsheet to have an overall number.
  • Show spending in current month, last month, last quarter, or year? Still not enough? You can set up your own timeframe that fits you.
  • Find orphaned objects
  • Consolidate all spending and show the final expense in users‘ preferred currency.
  • Filter spending

As you can see, Cost Calculator for Azure is a lightweight and easy to use tool that can help make your IT professional life a little bit easier thanks to better forecasting of your Azure cloud spending. And the best thing comes at the end – Cost Calculator for Azure is available completely for FREE!

So, why don’t you give a try? Click the link below to download your Cost Calculator for Azure free tool by SolarWinds. No installation needed.

 

Cost Calculator for Azure – Download Free Tool

Did you ever dream you had a Ferrari® parked in your garage? How about a Porsche®? Or perhaps a finely engineered Mercedes-Benz®?

 

When I was eight years old, my father briefly flirted with the idea of buying a Ferrari. He was 38. I don't believe additional explanation is needed. However, as the oldest child, it was my privilege to accompany Dad to the showroom. And there, right next to the 308 GTB was a Ferrari bike. No, not a motorcycle. A regular pedal-with-your-feet bicycle. And I knew at that moment that this car was my destin... I mean my Dad's destiny. And that bike leaning beside it was mine, Mine, MINE!

 

You may be asking yourself why Ferrari would bother making a bicycle?

 

The obvious answer is "marketing." With a cheeky smile, Ferrari can say "anyone can own a Ferrari." But there's more to it.

 

Before I dive into the OTHER reason why, I just want to point out that car-manufacturer-bicycles is not just a thing with Ferrari. The trend started in the late 1800s with European car maker Opel® and includes Peugeot, Ford®, Mercedes-Benz, BMW®, and Porsche.

 

So what's the deal?

 

Some companies, like Opel, started with bicycles (they ACTUALLY started with sewing machines) and built up their mechanical expertise in sync with the rise of automobile technology. But most decided to build bikes as a side project. I imagine that the underlying message went something like this:

 

"Our engineers are the best in the world. They understand the complex interplay of materials, aerodynamics, maneuverability, and pure power. They are experts at squeezing every possible erg of forward thrust out of the smallest turn of the wheel. While we are used to operating on a much larger scale, we want to showcase how that knowledge and expertise translates to much more modest modes of conveyance. Whether you need to travel across the state or around the corner, we can help you get there."

 

I was thinking about that Ferrari bicycle, and the reasons it was built, as I played with ipMonitor® the other day.

 

For some of you reading this, ipMonitor will be an old and trusted friend. It may even have been your first experience with SolarWinds® solutions.

 

Some quick background: ipMonitor became part of the SolarWinds family in 2007 and has remained a beloved part of our lineup. ipMonitor is nimble, lightweight, and robust. A standalone product that installs on any laptop, server, or VM, ipMonitor can help you collect thousands of data points from network devices, servers, or applications. It's simple to learn, installs in minutes, and even comes with its own API and JSON-based query engine. Users tell us it quite literally blows the doors off the competition, and even reminds them of our more well-known network monitoring software like Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Server & Application Monitor (SAM) server monitoring software.

 

Which is exactly why I remembered that Ferrari bicycle. It also was nimble, lightweight, and robust—a standalone product that could be implemented on any sidewalk, playground, or dirt path. It installed in minutes with nothing more than a wrench and a screwdriver, and epitomized the phrase "intuitive user interface."

 

And, like comparisons of ipMonitor to NPM, my beloved Ferrari bike was amazing until it came time to add new features or scale.

 

Much like the Ferrari bicycle, ipMonitor was designed by engineers who understood the complex interplay of code, polling cycles, data queries, and visualizations. Developers who were used to squeezing every ounce of compute out of the smallest cycle of a CPU. While used to creating solutions on a much larger scale, ipMonitor let us showcase how that knowledge and expertise translated to much more modest system requirements.

 

ipMonitor is designed to perform best in its correct context. For smaller environments with modest needs, when more feature-rich monitoring tools aren’t viable, it can be a game-changer. That Ferrari bicycle was an amazing piece of engineering—until I needed to bring home four bags of groceries or get to the other side of town. Likewise, ipMonitor is an amazing piece of engineering, but, as I said, in its correct context.

 

When you need "bigger" capabilities, like network path monitoring; insight into complex devices like load balancers, Cisco Nexus®, or stacked switches; application monitors that run scripted actions in the language of your choice; monitoring for containers and cloud; and so on, that's where the line is drawn between ipMonitor and solutions like NPM and SAM. It's not that we've deliberately limited ipMonitor, any more than Ferrari "limited" their bicycle so that it didn't have cruise control or ABS breaking. Of course, this isn't an either-or proposition. No matter your monitoring needs, we've got a solution that fits your situation.

 

So, consider this your invitation to take ipMonitor for a spin. Even if you own our larger, luxury models, sometimes it's nice to get out and monitor with nothing but the feel of the SolarWinds in your hair.

Hello fellow data geeks! My name is Joshua Biggley and I am an Enterprise Monitoring Engineer for a Fortune 15 company. I’m also fortunate enough to be a remote worker on part of an amazing team. One of my favourite career achievements was to be named Canada’s only SolarWinds THWACK Community MVP in 2014.

 

I joined the THWACK Community in 2008, shortly after moving to beautiful Prince Edward Island on the East Coast of Canada. I’ve attended THWACKcamp for at least one session since its inception 7 years ago, but have been a regularly attendee for the past 4 years.  Humble brag moment -- I had the opportunity to join Leon Adato (@adatole) and Kate Asaff (@kasaff) for THWACKcamp 2016 in presenting the session Troubleshooting with SolarWinds - The Case of the Elusive Root Cause. Leon has been a friend and (short-lived) colleague since 2014 and Kate has quite literally saved my bacon in one of my biggest challenges as a Monitoring Engineer. Sharing the THWACKcamp stage with these two superheros was beyond awesome!  Last year, I was humbled to have my team and I win the Carmen Sandiego Award at THWACKcamp 2017. Our team is entirely remote engineers and having our work recognized for both the high-performance technical and inter-team collaboration we embrace was a highlight of my year.  Will 2018 be able to top it?

 

I think these two sessions will give 2017 a run for its money, even if I don’t win another THWACK award!

 

Day 2

Oct 18 @ 10AM CT

What Does It Take to Become a Practice Leader?

 

Too many organizations view monitoring, alerting, and event management as a necessary evil. It is often relegated to the “All other duties as assigned by your supervisor” category. As organizations mature, finding monitoring engineers becomes a challenge. It’s not just about someone who knows how to use the SolarWinds products you own (you are using SolarWinds products, aren’t you?) but finding someone who can explain why monitoring, alerting, and event management are so important. They need to explain to their peers, their management, and the business why monitoring needs to be a practice not an afterthought. They need to be a data geek. They need to be a storyteller.

 

Patrick Hubbard, Phoummala Schmitt, and Theresa MIller bring decades of experience and, more important, are recognized leaders in the industry. Discovering how they went from junior analyst to practice leaders will help me understand explain to others how to make that journey. As a practice leader in my full-time job as well as freelance work, being able to help others understand that they can be leaders is crucial to the health of monitoring as a practice. My colleagues and I have worked very hard to elevate monitoring to the respect it deserves. In 2019, we will be starting an internal Community of Excellence that focusing on monitoring, alerting, and event management plus my very favourite new focus -- observability!

 

Day 1

Oct 17 @ 12PM CT

Observability: Just A Fancy Word for Monitoring? A Journey From What to Why

 

Observability and high-cardinality data are sultry words to any data geek. Observability was introduced in the 1960s as part paper written by Rudolf E Kálmán entitled “On the General Theory of Control Systems”. If the status of a system can be known simply by examining the outputs of that system, the system is considered observable. In recent years, the idea of observability has been embraced by systems engineers as applications have moved from bare-metal to virtualized to containerized to serverless. Instead of monitoring the things that allow your system to do what it does, we’re now measuring how the system does what it does without much concern for why.

 

Of all of the sessions as THWACKcamp 2018, this is the one I would want every engineer, every application developer, every CTO --- OK, pretty much everyone who is involved in building, supporting, and managing any critical application anywhere -- to watch. Application Performance Management is coming to every organization. If you deliver any services through an application, APM provides the insight and observability is the methodology for measuring those insights.

 

Do I sound a little passionate about observability?  What?!? Only a little?!? Observability is my new passion. I recently wrote a white paper that defined an APM strategy and the foundation was observability. This idea of observability is probably the most important shift in our industry in 20 years. Unnecessary hyperbole? Maybe, but I think there are seminal moments in every industry and this focus on observability is going to be one of them. I’m Canadian, would I steer you wrong?

 

Dashboards are important. Your NOC is an essential avenue for collecting and relaying information about your network, and combined with a finely crafted set of alerts there’s nothing that can get past you. Not only are dashboards effective, but they just look so stinkin’ awesome when done properly. In this post I’m going to focus on my ‘Dashboard Philosophy,’ which is all about efficiency, information, and design. A dashboard should display the most data possible in the space that you have, it should include pertinent information that summarizes your environment, and it should look good doing it. Let’s talk about what the SolarWinds® Orion® Platform brings to the table to help make our dashboards the best they can be.

 

  1. NOC Views

Using the NOC view feature is a must. These space-saving views allow you to combine multiple sub-views that can be set on a rotation. Creating one is easy: simply add a new summary view, edit it, then enable left navigation and the NOC view feature. Here you can enter an interval for how often the NOC view rotates between individual sub-views. If you aren’t using NOC views, you’re wasting valuable space on your dashboards! Enter NOC mode, full-screen your browser window, and bask in the glory of a massive canvas to display all your fancy metrics and charts. Rob Boss would be proud.

 

     2. Network Atlas

Admit it, you both love and hate Network Atlas. It’s an incredibly useful tool that requires a bit of extra patience, but the results can be amazing once you get the hang of it. As Henry David Thoreau probably once said, “SolarWinds Network Atlas is but a canvas for your imagination…” or something like that. Check out this amazing example from THWACK® user spzander:

 

 

Hungry for more? Here is some of my favorite THWACK content for tuning your Network Atlas skills and getting the creative juices flowing:

 

10 Hidden Gems in Orion Network Atlas

Using Custom Properties to send messages to your NOC using Network Atlas

The “Show us your Network Atlas Maps” thread

 

     3. PerfStack

With the release of NPM 12.1 came a game-changing new feature… PerfStack. This new charting tool allows you to quickly and easily create attractive charts that contain the data you need while optimizing page space. PerfStack is what makes you, the monitoring professional, shine when an application owner is looking for a way to view monitoring data for their systems. Check out the original release notes for PerfStack here. Since its first iteration, the SolarWinds team has been putting a lot of work into this tool. With PerfStack 2.0, they have added support for many major Orion modules including VMAN, SAM, VNQM, NCM, and DPA, along with a pile of new features such as fast polling, syslog/trap support, quick links, and full screen mode (which makes a great dashboard). As of this post, the next iteration of PerfStack is available in the latest NPM 12.3 Release Candidate and includes… drumroll please… A PERFSTACK WIDGET FOR YOUR DASHBOARDS!

 

 

Here we have a node detail view… WITH PERFSTACK! You can do the same thing with any view type in Orion, including Summary Views (which means dashboards). For dashboard nerds such as myself, this is truly a good day. Sign up for the NPM RC program for more details and awesome sneak peeks at what SolarWinds is doing to improve tools like PerfStack.

 

     4. AppStack

This is really one of the most efficient ways to display a mass amount of information in such a small space. AppStack is a one-size-fits-all tool that will satisfy your devs, their managers, and your director. An efficient dashboard should have MAXIMUM information in MINIMUM space, and AppStack is the answer. Whether you only have SAM or you’re running multiple products on the Orion platform the AppStack widget gives you a flexible, filterable, and fun-tastic (I couldn’t think of another word that started with ‘f’) resource to add to your dashboards and NOC views. There’s not much more to say. It’s the perfect widget for my Dashboard Philosophy.

 

     5. SWQL and Other Advanced Methods

Are you a dev nerd? Do you like to yell at code until it bends to your will? Are you ready to bring your SolarWinds deployment to an unreasonably awesome level? With a little bit of fidgeting and some help from THWACK, you can create your own charts, tables, dashboards, maps, and much more. Check out this post from THWACK MVP CourtesyIT, which has a master list of all the amazing ideas and customizations that have been posted in the community. Be sure to check out the section from THWACK MVP wluther:  he’s got some great content specifically tailored to dashboards. One thing to always keep in mind when using more advanced methods… SolarWinds support may not be able to assist you with the bending of spacetime. Fidget at your own risk!

 

In my opinion, one of the most powerful tools for creating custom resources is SWQL, the SolarWinds Query Language. With it, data is your slave. THWACK MVP mesverrum makes it easy in this post, where he provides an awesome example of how to create your own custom SWQL tables.

 

     Results

Let’s put all this together and create a shiny new dashboard that follows the idea of efficiency, information, and design. We need something that doesn’t waste space, contains useful data, and looks awesome. Something like this:

 

 

First thing’s first… we’re using the NOC view, indicated by the black bar at the top with the circles in the upper-right corner that represent the various sub-views in rotation. We have a map from Network Atlas (upper left), a PerfStack project added as a widget (lower left), AppStack (lower right), and a custom SWQL table that displays outage information (check out mesverrum's post about it here).

 

And there we have it! Five useful tools that you can use to make your dashboards amazing. Be sure to post your creations in the community. Here are some threads for NOC views and Network Atlas maps. Now go forth and dashboard!

Let’s be honest, all of us need an SSH client from time to time. And when that SSH client is needed, most of us just use the standard PuTTY tool without question. Does this mean that PuTTY is a really good tool? Sure, it is… but could it be even better? We believe so. And we decided to prove it.

 

After months of development, we’re happy to introduce you to SolarWinds® Solar-PuTTY, an enhanced version of the most popular SSH client on the internet. We like PuTTY for its reliability and speed. And when you have to change anything on the server remotely, it’s still a decent choice… until you need to manage saved sessions, or if you’d like to connect to more servers at one time, or if you want to use the same script 100 times.

 

In all these scenarios, PuTTY has its limits. And at SolarWinds, we don’t like limits. So, we went beyond them and pushed PuTTY to the next level.

 

So, what are the key benefits of using Solar-PuTTY as your SSH client?

  • A new, fresh, browser-like interface—it’s easy to navigate, and everything is available in just a few clicks
  • Manage multiple sessions from a single console with a tabbed interface—you don’t have to run countless instances of the tool when you need work on more machines at the same time. All sessions are available in a single console with info about the name and status
  • Save your sessions, credentials, or private keys for easy login—you can access any saved session from the homepage with a single click. Usernames, passwords, and private keys can be stored and linked to one or multiple sessions when it’s needed
  • Filter saved sessions based on IP address, hostname, login, or tags—start typing into a search bar, and Solar-PuTTY will apply the filter in real time.
  • Automate all scripts you’re using when a connection is established—is there a set of commands you need to use right after initializing a telnet connection? When you need just a minute to do it one time, it sounds like no big deal… but what about a situation where you need to do it 100 times per a day? Save the script once and let Solar-PuTTY do it automatically
  • Auto-reconnect to a timed-out session—what if something goes wrong? Solar-PuTTY gives you details about what happened and the option to reconnect to the server with a single click. You don’t have to set up everything from scratch
  • Last but not least, Solar-PuTTY is available for free

 

As you can see, Solar-PuTTY keeps all the strengths of the original open source tool and adds the most-demanded features to bring you the best possible experience with SSH clients on the market. It’s time to say goodbye to Excel® spreadsheets and start managing your remote sessions in a more professional way.

What are you waiting for? Click the link below to download your Solar-PuTTY free tool by SolarWinds. No installation needed.

Solar-PuTTY Software – Download Free SSH Client

You’ve been asking and we’ve been listening.  We are excited to announce that the newest member of the SolarWinds product family, Log Manager for Orion, is now available for trial.  Built on the Orion Platform, Log Manager provides unified infrastructure performance and log data in a single console. No need to hop back and forth between your infrastructure and log monitoring tools.

 

Through platform integration with Network Performance Monitor, Server & Application Monitor, and other Orion based products, Log Manager closes the gap between performance and log data.  With Log Manager you get:

 

  • Log aggregation
  • Filtering by Log Type, Level, Node name, IP Address, and more
  • Keyword, IP address, and Event ID search
  • Interactive log charting
  • Color-coded event tagging

 

To learn more about Log Manager, visit the Log Manager Thwack Forum or to try for yourself in your environment, download a free trial.

Let’s face it. Traceroute is not what it used to be.

 

Van Jacobson and Steve Deering created the original “Traceroute” in 1987. They discovered it by editing the IPv4 packet header’s TTL field, so that they could derive a path from the packets being taken from each network hop. Network professionals quickly realized how valuable this tool was in terms of solving daily network issues. However, in recent years, Traceroute has not scaled to adapt to modern technologies, and has lost most of its useful functionality.

 

We note the following issues: When probing the network, the ICMP and UDP packets are blocked. The paths that the tool indicates, often don’t exist. And, ridiculously enough, there is no history function available. Even Ping has that! The list of issues is so vast that we’ve actually been able to find scholarly journal articles on the subject.

 

What’s the good news? The good news is that SolarWinds fixed Traceroute, and is offering it for free!

 

SolarWinds® Traceroute NG is a standalone free tool that effectively offers path analysis visibility via a CLI. By all standards, it’s a new, improved, and fully functional version of the older Traceroute generation tool. Yielding results in mere seconds, it provides an accurate single path from source to destination, and notifies users when the path is changed.

 

This new and improved version of Traceroute delivers the following information:

  • Number of hops
  • IP addresses
  • Fully qualified domain names (FQDNs)
  • Packet loss measured as a percentage
  • Current latency and average latency (ms)
  • Continuous probing that yields an iteration number for the user
  • Probe type used (if TCP, it also shows the port probed)
  • Issues (change in path, inability to reach destination)

 

SolarWinds Traceroute NG is able to get through firewalls, supports IPv6 networks, and can create a txt logfile containing the path number, probing time from source to destination, number of hops, IP addresses, FQDN, packet loss percentage, and average latency. It’s also able to copy data from the screen via the clipboard (copy/paste functionality), switch the probe type between ICMP and TCP using the switch command, and enable logging using the logging command, all while you’re probing simultaneously.

 

To sum it all up, Traceroute NG by SolarWinds brings back the power of the old Traceroute with new functionalities and capabilities that are adapted to modern technologies, so that you may once again reign supreme over the paths of your network, and never be lost when probing your long journey across the vast world wide web.

 

We hope you will enjoy this powerful new free tool. Click on the link below to download your Traceroute NG free tool by SolarWinds.

 

Traceroute NG Software - Download Free Traceroute Tool | SolarWinds

 

To find out more about what you can do with SolarWinds Traceroute NG, be sure to have a look at this article: Troubleshoot your network with a new free tool – Traceroute NG


 

Are IP requests for virtual machines overwhelming your current IP address management practices?  You are not alone. In a June 2016 survey of IP Address Manager customers[1], 46% of respondents stated that virtual machines were creating challenges for managing IP addresses for their company.

 

Independent author Brien Posey explores this topic in the whitepaper “Overcoming IP Address Management Challenges in VMware Environments.” A challenge with virtual environments is that their dynamic nature can quickly lead to depleted address pools if IP addresses are not quickly de-provisioned. Utilizing DHCP services is a less than ideal solution, as IPs can be tied up by lease expiration dates. Using manual processes for provisioning IP addresses is another option, but this can be slow, error-prone, and limit the dynamic scaling of virtual environments. DNS records obviously must also be updated in tandem.

 

A solution to overcoming these IP address management challenges is fully automating the process of provisioning IP addresses and updating DNS records. VMware developed vRealize® Automation (vRA) to automate tasks in virtual environments. However, as Brien discusses, vRA was not designed to be a comprehensive IP address management solution, thus the need for third-party solutions to fill this gap. SolarWinds® IP Address Manager (IPAM) helps overcome this limitation by providing a plug-in for VMware® vRealize Orchestrator (vRO). The plug-in provides actions and workflows critical for managing IP addresses and DNS records. These actions and workflows integrate with vRA and enable the creation of blueprints to automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of VMs.

 

To learn more about this topic, please read Brien Posey’s whitepaper, and attend the live webcast coming up February 21, where our very own IPAM Product Manager Connie Dowdle will take you through a demonstration of the plug-in and the latest and greatest that SolarWinds IPAM 4.6 has to offer.

 


IP Address Manager customer survey, June 2016, survey result


 

Reliable, recoverable backups have always been fundamental to a well-run data center. But the technology we use to accomplish that goal keeps reinventing itself. The old systems never quite go completely away, even as newer options come onto the scene. Too often, this results in a complicated mix of tools and media that can be a real headache to manage.

 

At one point, tape was the only storage medium, and the ubiquitous Iron Mountain® trucks hauled loads of tapes from place to place on a regular schedule. While those trucks haven’t gone away, today, they’re supplemented with disk and cloud storage.

 

Do you remember the simple days, when physical servers were the only thing needing protection? Traditional backup products were designed for this world, but increasing adoption of server virtualization led to new market leaders, like Veeam, with a virtual-first approach. Then laptops and an array of mobile devices needed protection.

 

Then came the cloud and SaaS applications. Every vendor sought to update their offerings to cover new use cases, new devices, and new storage options. Complexity multiplied, and prices went up and up.

 

Where does that leave you today?

 

In November, we surveyed the THWACK® community on server backup, and learned a lot. We heard from more than 500 of you that backup is too complicated, too time consuming, and too expensive.

 

Here are the top backup-related pain points our survey respondents listed:

 

We also learned, not surprisingly, that you’re using a diverse mix of products that represent every era of backup history. The largest section of the pie was “other”.

 

We believe there’s a better way. We decided to approach the problem with a few guiding principles:

 

  • Simplicity – One backup product for physical and virtual servers, for one price that includes software and storage. No add-ins or options, no hidden costs.
  • Ease of use – One web-based console to see all backup status at a glance, and drill down as needed.
  • Reliability – Easy to deploy, clean, efficient dashboard. Our customers tell us it “just works.”
  • Powerful technology under the hood – Innovative features working in the background to make backups and restores fast and efficient.

 

The result of this approach is SolarWinds® Backup, a cloud-first backup service designed for IT pros who are tired of spending hours every week managing their backups. While it’s a new offering from SolarWinds, the product has been in use for years among the MSP community, and is already trusted by thousands of organizations. Here’s what a few of them have to say:

 

- Justin Cremer, IT Professional, Libra IT

 

- John Treanor, IT Professional, Satellyte Technology

 

More customer comments and insights can be found on TechValidate®.

 

To learn more about SolarWinds Backup and begin your free trial, check out the Product Blog post. Find out how simple backups can be.

 

Update – February 7, 2018:

Cisco® updated their vulnerability advisory on Monday, February 5, 2018 after identifying “additional attack vectors and features that are affected.” What does this mean? If you patched last week, you may need to patch again. Be sure to read the advisory notice carefully to find out if your environment is at risk.

-------------------------------------

 

(Originally posted Wednesday, January 31, 2018):

 

What is it?

Earlier this week, Cisco revealed that there is a security vulnerability in the Cisco® ASAs, exposing these firewalls to remote attackers. Of course, now we all know about it, as does anyone who may want to exploit this opening. The good news: Cisco has released a critical update to address the issue. The bad news? There is no other workaround, so affected devices must be updated to be secured, and now you’re in a race against anyone who may be trying to take advantage. It’s worth noting that some FirePower devices are affected also, so read the Cisco post in detail to help ensure that you know where your vulnerabilities may lie.

 

What can you do?

Fortunately, if you have SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor (NPM), our own KMSigma has created a report so you can quickly see if you have vulnerable devices. (For a refresher on implementing user-created reports, see How to export and import reports in the Orion® web console.)

 

Once you’ve identified affected devices, you can use Network Configuration Manager (NCM) to easily schedule, patch, and monitor your ASA devices using the firmware upgrade process. Are you running multi-context ASAs? No problem. The firmware upgrade path supports both single- and multi-context upgrades.

In this industry, it doesn’t take long to realize that discovering vulnerabilities of this nature—and subsequently addressing them—is a standard part of the job description. Having the right tools available can make a notable difference in how long your network is exposed and how much effort is required to remediate issues.

 

Tell us:

Were your devices affected? Have you already updated, and if so, did you use NPM and NCM to do so? Use the comments to tell us how it went. Were you affected but don’t have NPM or NCM? Download free 30-day trials of Network Performance Monitor and Network Configuration Manager today and see how they can help.

 

Learn more about Network Insight for Cisco ASA:

Did you know that SolarWinds added a new Network Insight feature for Cisco ASA in the NPM 12.2 and NCM 7.7 releases? Learn about all the functionality included in Network Insight for Cisco ASA.

Keeping a network up and running is a full-time job, sometimes a full-time job for several team members! But it doesn’t have to feel like a fire drill every day. Managing a network shouldn’t be entirely reactive. There are steps you can take and processes you can put in place to help reduce some of the top causes of network outages and minimize any downtime.

 

1. The Problem: Human Element

The dreaded “fat finger.” You’ve heard the stories. You may have done it yourself, or been the one working frantically late into the night or over a weekend to try to recover from someone else’s mistake. If you’re really unlucky (like some poor employee at Amazon® last spring), the repercussions can be massive. No one needs that kind of stress.


The Protection:
First, make sure only the appropriate people have access to make changes. Have an approval system built in. And, since even the best of us can make mistakes, ensure you have a system that allows you to roll back changes just in case.

 

2. The Problem: Security Breaches

Network security is becoming more and more critical every day. People trying to break the system get better, and privacy needs for users gets higher. There are many critical elements to trying to keep your network secure, and it’s important not to miss any. It doesn’t do any good to deadbolt your door when your window is wide open.

The Protection:

Protect your devices from unauthorized changes. Monitor configurations so you can be alerted to any changes, see exactly what was changed, and know what login ID was used to make the change. Also, you should be regularly auditing your device configurations for vulnerabilities. Whether you have custom policies defined for your organization or need to comply with HIPAA, DISA STIG, SOX, or other industry standards, continuously monitoring your devices to help ensure your network stays compliant is one way to help.

 

3. The Problem: Lack of Routine Maintenance

Over time, networks can become messy and disorganized if there aren’t standards in place, increasing both the risk of errors and the time needed to resolve them.

 

The Protection:

Network standardization simplifies and focuses your infrastructure, allowing you to become more disciplined with routines and expectations. Naming conventions, standard MOTD banners, and interface names are just a few things you can do to help troubleshoot and keep a balance within your team and devices, allowing for better management and less human error.

 

4. The Problem: Hardware Failures

It’s not if hardware will fail, but when. Are you ready to make a speedy recovery? When a device unexpectedly goes down, it can have a big impact, depending on which device it is and what redundancies you have in place.

 

The Protection:

Ensure that you can quickly recover devices or bring a replacement online by having device configurations automatically backed up so you can quickly bring new devices online.

 

5. The Problem: Firmware Issues / Faults in the Devices

When you support hundreds of devices, required firmware updates can be tedious, and executing commands over and over increases the risk of error.

 

The Protection:

With network automation, you can easily manage rapid change across complex networks. Bulk deploy configurations to ensure accuracy and speed up deployment times.

 

Increase your uptime and reduce the challenges of keeping your network running smoothly so you can focus on other projects. With SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager, you can bulk deploy configuration changes or firmware updates, manage approvals, revert to previous configurations, audit for compliance, and run remediation scripts. Take action today to reduce these five causes of network outages.

We just can't have anything nice, now can we?  Oh, well. We knew there would be new vulnerabilities and ransomware attacks in 2018. However, this time hardware is the culprit, and patching is not going to be a cure-all for the situation. Consider yourself warned: expect more slowdowns in 2018.

 

Stop and think about this for a second: as the days progress, we are literally learning how much this new vulnerability impacts us. Anyone who says they have the full solution is not being honest with you or themselves. What I would like to do is help you to see how you can use the tools you likely already have to make you more aware of past, present, and future vulnerabilities and threats. That said, let's move on to the importance of using SolarWinds tools to do just that.

 

SolarWinds® Patch Manager will allow you to update your Windows® machines to their Microsoft® patches. If you are currently using this product, you should already be scheduling and looking for these. I discovered that there can be some issues with third-party Windows antivirus or you might get the BSOD. Read more here, because the awesome chart helps clarify these issues and how to prevent them from happening to you.

 

Further, Patch Manager will allow you to schedule and report on your Windows devices regarding updates. The reporting is key to showcase your compliance and, in this case, start your baseline. Plus, just because you update your devices does not mean you are 100% in the clear. Updating your third-party packages is an added bonus with Patch Manager, a fact that is often overlooked though desperately needed.     

 

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitoring (SAM) will help you validate your business, yourself, and your vendor support for any degradation that patching may have on your applications. This is something you will want to have in place as soon as possible. It allows you to see any anomalies that may present themselves to your applications after the patching is applied. And because SAM is multi-vendor, you’ll be able to address even broad-scale hardware issues. The avid SAM users among you will likely know even more tricks for using the software, and I encourage you to share your knowledge in the comments to help us all be more aware in terms of application-centric monitoring.

 

SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM) comes helps when there are firmware upgrades\updates that need to be applied to impacted network devices. It also helps you to roll these out. There is a compliance reporting function built into NCM that will assist with audits automatically. Remember, this incident is ongoing, which makes NCM’s ability to import very helpful. In fact, you can plug into firmware vulnerability warnings provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This puts you even further ahead of future vulnerabilities.

 

SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is all about the baseline. If you have ever been to one of our SWUGs, you have heard me preach endlessly about baselines and their extreme importance. However, I understand that sometimes you need black and white in front of you to truly understand this. The mindset I’m currently following regarding this vulnerability looks something like this:

 

  1. Patched and we have our checkbox
  2. Monitoring our application performances
  3. Ready for updates to needed network devices
  4. Monitoring the common vulnerabilities database
  5. Waiting for any anomaly that may present its ugly face (my favorite)

 

 

We can now show that we have implemented the patching to put a Band Aid® on the issues that could present themselves. However, as I’ve already mentioned, this is not a full fix. A hardware option would be the best solution, but is obviously not available to billions of devices at this time. YOU ARE THE THE FIRST RESPONDER!

 

Using NPM in combination with the other tools that I have outlined allows you to verify the patching and the results. Also, if there are ticks or drops or spikes that do NOT match your current baseline, you can share that solid reporting and documentation with your vendor to work out the possible issue, which makes you part of the solution. Is there anything better than working at the edge of technological advancements to create countermeasures to vulnerabilities? NO. The answer is a solid NO.

 

If you don’t already have it in place, set up threshold alerting and monitoring on critical devices that are housing your applications. That helps ensure that you are alerted to anything out of the ordinary, allowing you to get things back on track. It also shows your team and other departments that you are fully invested in the integrity of application uptime and performance. Also, if you have DevOps, you really need the documentation and baselines to prove that perhaps the performance issue is not the in-house application, but an actual patching issue. That, right there, can save a lot of unneeded cycles through rabbit holes.

 

Please let me know if you have additional ways to protect and help through these beginning stages of 2018 vulnerabilities. The ideas we share could literally help the many of you who act as a one-person army fighting your way to the top!

 

Thank you all for your eyes,

~Dez~

 

In case you’d like more information on any of the products mentioned above, check these out:

 

SolarWinds® Patch Manager

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor

SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager

 

Other resources:

 

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3245606/security/intel-x86-cpu-kernel-bug-faq-how-it-affects-pc-mac.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/business/computer-flaws.html

 

Check out our Security and Compliance LinkedIn® Showcase Page for ideas on how to socialize this content: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/solarwinds-security-and-compliance/

Follow our Federal LinkedIn page to stay current on federal events and announcements: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/4799311/

Looking back through previous content, I came across this post by Jerry Eshbaugh.

 

SQL Server Two Ways - SAM AppInsight for SQL and Database Performance Analyzer

 

I read through it again and realized it still resonates in a big way. I’d like to add this foreword and bring it up to speed given some recent changes. SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) wait-time statistics and resource metrics were recently added to the Performance Analysis view (lovingly known as PerfStack) in the Orion® Platform. I believe this addition gives IT professionals the end-to-end visibility they want. I know we all tend to exist in silos, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want greater upstream and downstream performance metrics.

 

Now you can easily see if your database performance is impacting application response time, and if storage latency is causing longer I/O related database activities. Also, you can view existing dependencies and what relates to what. These customizable dashboards are way cool!

 

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you have a couple of ways to do so:

  • If you own just DPA (without any Orion products), you can now download a standalone DPA Integration Module (DPAIM) from your customer portal as part of your existing license. That’s right! It’s free. You will be limited to DPA data only, as there are no other modules running to collect application, server, storage, and network data, etc.
  • If you already have another Orion product and are on the latest release, DPAIM may be installed (it comes with Server and Application Monitor for example), or you can install the DPAIM module from your customer portal on your Orion Platform.
  • If you aren’t ready to commit to a download, you can check out oriondemo.solarwinds.com and try out the Performance Analysis view. This might be a good start to play around with, but remember, it is demo data. Things may not line up exactly. Some of the data might be invented. The best way to get the most out of the PerfStack dashboard would be to look at your own data with it, which is infinitely more interesting!

 

Let us know what you think about it!

Jogging is my exercise. I use it to tune out noise, focus on a problem at hand, avoid interruptions, and stay healthy. Recently, I was cruising at a comfortable nine-minute pace when four elite runners passed me, and it felt like I was standing still. It got me thinking about the relationship between health and performance. I came to the conclusion that they are related, but more like distant cousins than siblings.

 

I can provide you data that indicates health status: blood pressure, resting heart rate, BMI, body fat percentage, current illnesses, etc. Given all that, tell me: can I run a four-minute mile? That question can’t be answered solely with the data I provided. That’s because I’m now talking about performance versus health.

 

We can also look at health metrics with databases: CPU utilization, I/O stats, memory pressure, etc. However, those also can’t answer the question of how your databases and queries are performing. I’d argue that both health AND performance monitoring and analysis are important. They can impact each other but answer different questions.

 

“What gets measured gets done.” I love this saying and believe that to be true. The tricky part is making sure we’re measuring the right thing to ensure we’re driving the behavior we want.

 

Health is a very mature topic and pretty much all database monitoring solutions offer visibility into it. Performance is another story. I love this definition of performance from Craig Mullins as it relates to databases: “the optimization of resource use to increase throughput and minimize contention, enabling the largest possible workload to be processed.”

 

Interestingly, I believe this definition would be widely accepted, yet approaches to achieving this with monitoring tools varies widely. While I agree with this definition, I’d add “in the shortest possible time” to the end of it. If you agree that you need to consider a time component in regards to database performance, now we’re talking about wait-time analysis. Here’s a white paper that goes into much more detail on this approach and why it is the correct way to think about database performance.

 

We can only get to the right answer regarding root cause if we’re collecting (measuring) the right data in the first place. Below is a chart with some thoughts on data collection requirements. Adapt as needed, but I hope it provides a workable framework.

 

Remember: don’t stop with asking “What can we do?” Take it to the next level and instead ask, “What should we do?”

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