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2 Posts authored by: Leon Adato Expert

Anyone who has worked in IT for more than 15 minutes – especially in decent-sized environments where there's a level of rigor and control – can tell you that upgrades are a pain in the TCP socket. Even when the upgrades themselves are easy, the process of getting them approved and completed in production is not. There's the testing (which must be done to satisfy the change control committee), the publishing of results, as well as crafting the deployment plan, validation plan, and backout plan should things go wrong. Then there’s the change control request meeting where you have to justify the upgrade to all stakeholders. And finally, the upgrade itself, often performed at a time window that would make vampires happy: 2 a.m. on a Sunday, with all work required to complete before 8 a.m. It's no wonder folks aren't eager to keep their software up to date.

 

The reality is that when I’m out at user groups (SWUGs) and working at conventions, I encounter customers who haven’t upgraded all the time. These folks are (somehow) living without the latest and greatest performance improvements, security updates, and let's not forget new features in our current stable of products. It's enough to make this old Geek weep in both pity and regret for those lost souls. And what's worse is that upgrading doesn’t cost a thing! That's right, moving to the latest version is 100%, true-blue, legal-even-let-me-say-this-eff-arr-ee-ee FREE.

 

As I was pondering this injustice, it occurred to me that, outside the gilded walls of SolarWinds HQ, it may not be as clear just how many updates we release each year, or what is contained in them. The fact is that our developers are some of the best in the world, and on top of it, our entire team keeps our fingers on the pulse of customer needs as we attend conventions, user groups (SWUGs), participate in UX sessions (you can join in here), and of course, via the "feature request" forum for each product on THWACK®. With all of that input, SolarWinds updates are rarely just a collection of bug fixes and security patches. Of course, every update DOES have those things, but there's almost always an extra nugget (or two, or more) of goodness to make it worth your while.

 

For example, on November 20, SolarWinds released new versions of Network Performance Monitor (NPM) , NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA), Network Configuration Manager (NCM), and IP Address Manager (IPAM). Along with performance improvements, security updates, and bug fixes, those versions also included:

  • Network Performance Monitor (NPM 12.4) – Support for monitoring Cisco ACI devices, as well as SAML 2.0 support.
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA 4.5) – Expanded alerting on a variety of NetFlow-specific conditions such as traffic increases, decreases, or disappearances.
  • Network Configuration Manager (NCM 7.9) – Compare one device’s configuration to other devices, as well as point-in-time configurations.
  • IP Address Manager (IPAM 4.8) – Integrated management of Infoblox devices for both DHCP and DNS.
  • AppMap: Context-aware automated mapping, which shows device relationships based on the data flowing across your network Support for monitoring Kubernetes, Docker, Docker Swarm, and Mesos containers
  • Virtualization Manager (VMAN 8.3)
  • Support for VMware vSANs
  • Support for monitoring Docker, Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Mesos containers
  • Support for custom properties applied to VMs, hosts, datastores, and clusters
  • Storage Resource Monitor (SRM 6.7)
  • Support for Huawei storage devices
  • Support for GPT disks
  • Hardware health information collected from EMC Isilon v8 and NetApp devices
  • Application Performance Monitor (APM 1.0), which can provide deeper insight through integration with Server & Application Monitor into your custom .NET applications on Microsoft IIS.

 

But those are just a few samples of what has come out recently. The truth is that SolarWinds updated 28 different products on 13 separate days.

 

Now maybe you might argue that this update or that feature isn't compelling for you. That's fair. But hopefully you can see how these updates would be important to more than a few folks. And if you look closely not just at what these updates contain, but at the progression of improvements over the years, you'll see a pattern emerge: a pattern of SolarWinds taking releasing a new technology or technique (such as NetPath network path analysis or PerfStack performance analysis dashboard) and then incrementally improving it over the course of subsequent months, and integrating it into other tools and modules (such as when NetPath was integrated into Pingdom® website performance monitoring; or the inclusion of database, container, and log data in PerfStack,).

 

This picture becomes even more clear if you take a moment to look at the "what we're working on now" section of each product forum on THWACK.com. This is where you can see the road ahead. When combined with the historic view I just offered, it becomes a powerful testimony to the SolarWinds commitment to continued improvement and excellence for every product we produce.

 

What's my point? Hopefully by now you can see the real value that these releases have for your company, or team, and your monitoring. Value that should make the relatively small discomfort of upgrading pale by comparison.

 

If you'd like to see a comprehensive list of exactly which features and improvements were released for each product, check out this document. You can also check out the detailed release notes for each product by visiting this page in our Customer Success Center.

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I can't believe I get to say that.

 

I have been using SolarWinds products since 2003, and a member of Thwack for almost as long. But until this week, I hadn't thought about how it would feel to write a blog post like this.

 

It's been an interesting journey to this point

I started out 25 years ago as a classroom trainer teaching WordPerfect 5.1 and DOS basics. After 5 years and more applications than I can count, I made the leap to desktop support, and then server admin. And then, during a project where we rolled out standard PC and server images to about 10,000 systems, I had the chance to work with an inventory and software distribution tool called “Tivoli”. As it turned out, Tivoli did other things too. Like monitoring and event correlation. I was hooked.

 

That was about 12 years ago. Since then, I've had a chance to work in small environments (dozens of systems) as well as large ones (10,000 devices in 150 locations) and even gargantuan ones (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). I've had the chance to work not just with Tivoli, but also NetIQ, Patrol, OpenView, Sitescope, Zenoss, Nagios, and a few others. I've had the chance to learn about monitoring AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, various flavors of Linux, routers, switches, load balancers, wireless devices, storage systems, UPS and environment controls, virtualization platforms, and every flavor of Windows except Microsoft Bob.

 

In all that time and all those tools, three things stood out about SolarWinds

First is how easy it is to accomplish so many things. It's not that you can't do certain things with other tools. Let's be honest: Given enough time and expertise, you can set up monitoring using nothing more than Perl, Cron, and a few well-designed shell scripts. But with SolarWinds you can do more in less time, and that translates to having more sophisticated solutions implemented in the time it takes just to get other tools  up and running.

 

Second, the level of development across the entire suite of SolarWinds tools is nothing short of astonishing. It's not an exaggeration to say that, if you have more than 2 products, you will probably upgrade something once every quarter. And even though each upgrade comes with the usual hassle of testing, coordinating change control windows, and late nights, it's hard to justify NOT doing it because each new version comes with features that are innovative, compelling, and just flat-out slick as snot.

 

But what really sticks with me is the dedication and insight of the folks who graciously share their expertise on these forums. Like I said, I've been using SolarWinds (and hanging out on Thwack) since 2003. I'm here to tell you that the forums for “the other guys” don't have this level of ongoing interest, communication, and engagement (both between users and with staff). They don't have “regular folks” who carve out time every week (sometimes every day) just to help other users with questions. They don't nominate MVP's. They certainly don't have a store where people spend hard-won points to get shot glasses, lab coats, and so-bright-you'll-never-misplace-it laptop sleeves.

 

So when the job posting came my way, I jumped at it. For me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

I now have a business card that reads "Leon Adato, SolarWinds Head Geek".  It's hard to imagine anything cooler than that.

Part of this job is to be a technical evangelist: I'm here to evangelize not just SolarWinds tools, but monitoring as a discipline of I.T. My take on that evangelism is that I want to see monitoring design become as consistent and repeatable as network designs. I plan to provide resources – documents, matrixes, case studies, sample RFP's business justifications, ROI models, and more – that help make the business case and overcome purchasing department interia. Most of all, being a technical evangelist means I'm here to show the importance and relevance of monitoring to the challenges companies face, and demonstrate how having a solution is more cost effective than doing nothing.

 

Another part of the job is to keep my "customer" hat firmly on my head. It means drawing on my experiences over 12 years setting up monitoring for dozens of enterprises and be the voice of the customer in roadmap discussions. To make sure “wouldn't this be a cool looking widget” doesn't trump “we needed this key feature yesterday” during design meetings.

 

But the best part of the job is that I get to be as excited as you are when monitoring saves the day (or the bottom line) for your organization.

 

My name is Leon Adato, and I'm a SolarWinds Head Geek.

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