We've all heard companies claim that they build "community driven" products or that their features are "customer driven". But how often is it actually true? If it were true, wouldn't every seat have a little more leg room and be a little wider on commercial flights? Wouldn't every car have 2 cup holders for every passenger? Wouldn't you get a thank you card every year from the IRS? And if it were true, wouldn't Mountain Dew come in 40 oz cans instead of those tiny 12 oz ones?

As a consumer of many types of products - technology being a primary one for me - I've often been disappointed by companies that claim to take direction for product enhancements from their customers. Instead, I usually find that they take the majority of their direction from their sales teams or from the analyst community. Not that there's anything wrong with taking some of your direction from those areas, but you've gotta put the customer first. This is especially important when you're selling products to the people that will actually use them.

This may seem like common sense, but sadly it is not. Think about it - how much of the technology that you use every day did you actually pick for yourself? Are your vendors designing products for you or for whomever they're convincing to sign the checks? For me, it sort of reminds me of when I was shopping with my son for his first car. The things that were important to me were completely different from what he cared about. I was buying the car even though he was going to be driving it, so we ended up with something that wasn't optimized for the actual user of the product and we ended up replacing it within a year.

Luckily, SolarWinds takes a completely different approach. First off, we sell our products to the people who actually use them. We design every aspect of our products with that fact in mind. Yes, your CIO may sign the check but we're depending on you, the user, to sell the solution to her. Our job is to make sure that you love using it so much that it's an easy decision.

This difference allows us to take the majority of our direction from our community - our customers - i.e. you - the user. Case in point, Orion NPM (Network Performance Monitor) version 10.1 shipped out yesterday. It's an awesome release - quite possibly the best one ever, and it's stuffed with features that have been requested by our community. From active directory integration to alert dependencies to dynamic service groups to enhanced virtual infrastructure support to built-in VSAN and fiber channel monitoring to, well, you get the point - 10.1 is awesome.

If you're an existing customer with active maintenance, upgrading to 10.1 is not only easy but free. If you don't have Orion NPM yet, you can download a free copy from SolarWinds.com to try it out for free.

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As many of you probably know, today is Veteran's Day here in the United States. It's been an especially good week for me as yesterday was also the 235th birthday of the United States Marine Corps and I got to have lunch that day with two friends that had the distinct honor of serving as US Marines. Coincidentally, it was during a customer training session and even though it wasn't specifically designed for our federal government customers we happened to have representatives from every branch there in the meeting - some active duty, some veterans, and some serving as civil servants. The fact that this meeting happened the day before Veteran's Day really got me to thinking about a few things...

First, I want to stop and thank all of the veterans and active duty servicemen and women for doing their part in establishing and protecting the freedoms that we enjoy and sadly, often take for granted. That said, I don't want to limit this statement to those who have served or are serving in the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Be it the Coast Guard, the State Troopers, your local police or sherrif's department, firemen, the game warden out in the field, or countless others - these are people that put their lives on the line to ensure our safety and freedoms every day and they deserve our gratitude and respect.

For those of you that don't know me well, I am an extremely passionate patriot. I was blessed with the opportunity to serve as an active duty member of the United States Air Force and I owe much of my success to the lessons and opportunities that I was afforded there. Not everyone lives in a country where you have the opportunity to volunteer and serve and I am thankful to have had these opportunities and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, tomorrow, without hesitation.

Maybe that's a part of what being a veteran is all about? Being willing to put your own personal needs aside for a greater cause? Having the desire to do the honorable thing and the will to see it through... The greatest compliment I've ever received was from a dear friend, who when speaking about me to one of her friends described me as the "most honorable man she knows". Yet, my honor, my contribution, and my service all pale in comparision to what many have given and are giving today.

To my friends that never came back from Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, and now Afganistan - thank you and I hope to see you again someday. You paid the ultimate price and I am thankful to live with the freedoms that you helped provide.

And to all who have served and are serving, from SolarWinds, from me, and from my family - a heartfelt thank you. And from me, thank you to a country that allowed me to do so.

Josh Stephens
Head Geek

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