If you’ve deployed VoIP at any level then it is quite likely that you have received complaints about poor call quality.  How exactly does one measure VoIP call quality and how does one go about troubleshooting the cause of the poor quality?

VoIP Metrics

Maintaining high quality VoIP calls can be difficult as VoIP is more sensitive to network delays and packet loss compared to any other network applications.  VoIP quality is measured based on the following metrics:

  • Network Jitter and Delay - excess jitter and delay result in calls breaking up and can be mitigated by the use of jitter buffers, however, too much jitter buffer can cause unacceptable voice delays
  • Packet Data Loss – packet loss can occur for a variety of reasons including link failure, high congestion levels, misrouted packets, buffer overflows and a number of other factors.  Packet loss can be controlled using packet loss concealment techniques within the playback codec.
  • Latency – measured in milliseconds (ms) results in voice delay and echo
  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS ) – indicates the percieved quality of the call and is expressed as a number in the range of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent)

Troubleshooting the Old Way

Historically, network or VoIP engineers have used a variety of tools to monitor and measure the call quality components including:

  • Passive network monitoring tools that monitor VoIP performance based on network performance statistics and estimate MOS score
  • Protocol analyzers - hardware or software tools that capture and analyze VoIP traffic packets and calculate jitter, and latency directly from the packet stream.
  • Dedicated VoIP tools - originally developed for the telecomm industry and are great for testing IP phone and gateway designs but not as good at solving deployment problems within the network.

Unfortunately, these tools will not provide a correlation between the specific call detail and the underlying network performance to identify the root cause of the poor quality.  Enter SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager.

Troubleshooting With SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager

SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager is an evolution of our IP SLA Manager and provides VoIP monitoring and troubleshooting alongside WAN performance monitoring.  VoIP & Network Quality Manager works by correlating the call detail record (CDR) with the IP SLA operation that corresponds to the network call path.  With VoIP & Network Quality Manager you can:

  • Get at-a-glance insight into VoIP sites, calls by region, failed calls, and more
  • Monitor site-to-site WAN performance using Cisco IP SLA technology
  • Search and retrieve call detail records by call origination & destination, region, call time, call status, or quality metrics
  • Correlate detailed call metrics with underlying network performance data for faster troubleshooting and root cause analysis

With VoIP & Network Quality Manager, you can troubleshoot poor VoIP calls in three easy steps:

  1. Retrieve the call detail record of the affected call using VoIP & Network Quality Manager’s call search
  2. View the IP SLA performance details for the corresponding call path
  3. Drill down for detailed performance statistics for each router in the call path

SolarWinds VoIP & Network Quality Manager will soon be available for download.  In the meantime, you can learn more here.

If you are new to SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor, or would like a refresher, we are holding a SAM Level 1 Customer (or Evaluator) training today: Getting Started with SolarWinds SAM.


This training will include:

  • The basics of application and server monitoring
  • Templates, monitored applications and applying monitoring technologies
  • Detailed hardware monitoring and real time process monitoring
  • Optimizing SAM, server monitor features

Register for this live event on Thursday, July 19th at 11:00 AM CDT

We hope you can make it. If not, go ahead and register and we'll send you a link to the recorded session to watch at your convenience.

In taking one last look at Scott Lowe’s competitive matrix for virtualization management, I started to wonder if a comparison of  VMware performance monitoring tools, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Microsoft System Center 2012 was really warranted. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that this is not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison since System Center 2012 is a behemoth, all-encompassing systems management solution, and Virtualization Manager is a tool targeted to do one thing, virtualization management, very well. However, since Microsoft is pushing so hard into the virtualization marketplace with the upcoming launch of Windows Server 2012 & Hyper-V 3.0, along with the already-released System Center 2012, I think it merits a quick analysis. We’ve also built a page with a feature-by-feature comparison of SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Microsoft System Center 2012.


We’ve all at least heard of System Center over the years even if we haven’t all used it. It manages Microsoft environments pretty well, but has a reputation of being a real beast to get running – meaning lots of consultants working hundreds of hours just to get it configured. System Center used to be broken in to a bunch of different modules (System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM),  System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), and the list goes on…), but with System Center 2012, Microsoft has bundled all of these into one, REALLY BIG package (with an equivalently-sized price tag). This doesn’t mean System Center 2012 is any easier to implement because it’s still basically the same modules – they’re just all licensed in at one price instead of paying separately for each module.


For those who would rather avoid having to hire Accenture to install and configure their VMware or Hyper-V virtualization monitoring solution, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, VMware monitoring provides a great alternative.


The following are the major differentiators, as far as I can see them, between SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Microsoft System Center 2012:


  • System Center 2012 does a lot of management of your non-virtualized environment – that’s part of the reason you’ll pay 3-10+ times the price for System Center 2012 that you pay for Virtualization Manager.
  • System Center 2012, like many of the other virtualization management offerings we’ve written about, was developed in multiple disparate modules with varying levels of functionality and reporting in each.
  • System Center 2012’s multiple modules make it more difficult to deploy than Virtualization Manager.
  • System Center 2012 says it can manage VMware environments, but very few companies are using it for this purpose today.
  • Using System Center 2012 primarily for virtualization management is extremely expensive when compared to Virtualization Manager.
  • SolarWinds Virtualization Manager provides a simple-to-deploy virtual appliance that lives up to its promise of a single-pane-of-glass management console with seamlessly integrated functionality. With the virtual appliance, you can be up and running in as little as 15 minutes!
  • Virtualization Manager’s TimeTravel feature gives you the ability to do a forensic analysis of what changed in your environment that caused a performance problem. System Center 2012 doesn’t give you this functionality in any of its modules.
  • SolarWinds Storage Manager enables integration between virtual resource management and physical storage management for full VM-to-spindle mapping for faster troubleshooting. Microsoft is sorely-lacking in storage management.


For the IT practitioner who wants excellent heterogeneous virtualization management at a fraction of the cost of System Center 2012, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, VMware monitoring software is a must see! You can even try a full-version trial for free for 30 days by downloading at www.solarwinds.com. Try it today!!



At SolarWinds, we have an expression about open source software… that is… it is free like a puppy, not free like a beer. When you stop and think about it, Nagios really has a lot in common with a puppy. While it costs you almost nothing at the outset, the ongoing relationship can be quite expensive. Nagios will chew up your time (instead of your furniture) and both the puppy and Nagios can cause some messy situations. Plus, both Nagios and the puppy cost a lot more than you expect.

Here are five ways Nagios costs you money:


1. Time. Nagios is known to be very time consuming, and time consuming for your expert technical staff. Newbies can’t deal with Nagios. It takes someone who really knows what they are doing. So that’s expensive time being devoted to the system, expert time that could be solving expert problems. On the other hand, SolarWinds customers typically spend 10% of one person's time maintaining their product. And SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM), your effective server monitoring tool, is super easy to use, so everyone in your department can be productive with the system—usually without ever cracking the manual.

2. Scalability. If you want to scale with Nagios, it can be done, but it’s not easy. Why get yourself into a situation where your monitoring system can’t grow as fast as your business?  That’s going to look like poor planning. Avoid.


3. Adding a a new app to Nagios is a pain. You’re going to have to find a script, or you’re going to have to write one yourself. Both routes will take time and a lot of effort. This is a real problem, because what you need to monitor is always going to change. Marketing is going to add a new app, Microsoft is going to launch a new version of Exchange, and so on. You can’t be sure that an open source product will keep up with the times. On the other hand, SAM, application monitor, comes with hundreds of application templates plus a simple wizard for creating your own application monitoring templates. If you still need more, the SolarWinds online community, thwack, offers a robust content exchange, with template import built right into SAM.

4. Nagios is DIY. When Nagios doesn’t keep up with your needs, you’re going to have to do it yourself. See point #3 above, you can’t rely on an open source solution to keep up with the times. SolarWinds SAM, on the other hand, has about two fully supported releases per year. Times are changing quickly. Be sure your monitoring solution can keep up.



5. You think the switching cost is too high, because you’ve put so much time and effort into getting your Nagios scripts just right. Guess what – you can have it all! You can run your Nagios scripts in SAM just as they are (no conversion required). All that work is totally transferable! You’ll have all the benefits of SAM, server performance monitoring tool and lose nothing from Nagio.


See a more detailed comparison between SolarWinds SAM and Nagios.

IPSLA/VoIP & Network Quality Manager 4.0 RC 1 is available! See a product blog post for more details: http://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/product-blog/blog/2012/07/13/ipsla-manager-voip-network-quality-manager-40-rc-1-available


RC 1 doesn't support Call Manager Express polling. This will be fixed soon.




I’ve been analyzing Scott Lowe’s competitive matrix for virtualization management in my last few blog posts, and, as always one thing is constant: CHANGE. I was all set to write about Quest vKernel and vFoglight as they are today, and all of a sudden, a deal was announced for Dell to acquire Quest. We knew things were going on when Quest announced plans for a management buyout a few months ago that would take them private. The acquisition by Dell was something that I, personally, didn’t expect. I think this late development just adds to the consternation that current Quest customers feel today.


Since the Quest vKernel and vFoglight offerings remain the same today, we’ve built a head-to-head comparison of SolarWinds Virtualization Manager vs. Quest vKernel & vFoglight for a detailed look at what each product offers. It’s probably worth noting that both vKernel and vFoglight were the results of two different Quest acquisitions (vKernel in 2011 and Vizioncore in 2008). The Dell acquisition of Quest means that these products will now be touched by a third set of managers’ hands. Many in the industry think that the vKernel acquisition was a significant vote of no confidence in the vFoglight platform from the Quest management team. However, because of some functionality missing from vFoglight, their hands were really tied. So, in vKernel, Quest acquired a product with a lot of overlap with vFoglight.


Generally, vKernel is a pretty good product that was built to address most of the same issues that SolarWinds Virtualization Manager addresses. Where Quest (or Dell) takes this platform from here is anyone’s guess.


vFoglight is a different story. There are several differences to note with this product versus the rest of the virtualization management market. First, it’s a physical installation for Windows (most virtualization management offerings today, including SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Quest vKernel, come as virtual appliances).


I’ll outline what I believe are the most important distinctions in VMware monitoring between SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Quest vKernel and vFoglight here:


  • Quest vKernel vOps Enterprise is really just a repackaging of vKernel vOps with vFoglight Pro. These two, separately-installed tools have a significant amount of overlap and very little, if any, integration between the two. So, those expecting to get an elegant, single-pane-of-glass solution will not find it with this product.
  • Quest vFoglight totally skips functionality like capacity optimization, VM sprawl control, and configuration management. In order to get capacity planning and chargeback/showback, users have to purchase Quest vFoglight Pro at a hefty premium.
  • Quest vFoglight Pro offers some physical layer management capabilities, but these have a reputation of being hard to implement.
  • SolarWinds Virtualization Manager provides a simple-to-deploy virtual appliance that lives up to its promise of a single-pane-of-glass management console with seamlessly integrated functionality.
  • Virtualization Manager’s TimeTravel feature gives you the ability to do a forensic analysis of what changed in your environment that caused a performance problem. Quest doesn’t give you this functionality in any of their virtualization management products.
  • SolarWinds Storage Manager, VMware monitor enables integration between virtual resource management and physical storage management for full VM-to-spindle mapping for faster troubleshooting.
  • VMware performance monitoring with SolarWinds Virtualization Manager has the advantage of a strong, stable roadmap. With the amount of overlap in the Quest portfolio, the odds are very high that management (whoever it is) will eventually rationalize that portfolio.  That could mean a huge waste in time and investment for customers that made the wrong bet on the products they implement.


At the end of the day, Virtualization Manager, the ideal VMware monitoring software is significantly less expensive than Quest solutions with similar feature sets and allows you to stay out of the coming acquisition ambiguity as Dell attempts to swallow Quest.

I recently saw the results of a survey published by Athena Security entitled “The Corporate Firewall-Playing With Fire” that stated that up to 95% of corporate firewalls may be vulnerable due to the difficulty of auditing them manually. It goes on to state that firewall audits require a review of the configuration rules that that determine the firewall’s behavior in context of the network.


Firewall management can be complicated by a number of factors: network complexity, multi-vendor heterogeneous environments, managing and maintaining the rule base, and understanding the impact of changes before the changes are made.  The reality, however, is that there’s really no reason that firewall auditing and configuration management has to be that difficult if one uses the appropriate automated tools.  Specifically, a combination of an automated firewall analytics and a network change and configuration management (NCCM) tool can greatly simplify this process. 


Firewall analytics tools will allow you to understand all components of the firewall configuration and provide assistance around profiling, search, rule/object cleanup, security audits, change impact, and historical tracking.  Configuration management tools will greatly simplify the firewall configuration process by providing change management, real-time alerts, policy violation detection and reporting, config backups, config comparisons, and activity tracking in a unified interface.

By incorporating these two tools, you can more effectively manage firewall configurations and the changes that are made to these firewall configurations.


SolarWinds has partnered with Athena to provide integration between SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager and Athena’s FirePAC firewall analytics tool.  To learn more about this integration, you can download this whitepaper:  Firewall Management with SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager & Athena FirePAC.


Upgrading to SCOM 2012? If you are, now might be the time to think about why you have SCOM in the first place. For a lot of companies, SCOM is one of those things that came along as part of a package deal. You didn’t really choose it, but it was either very inexpensive or free, and it works ok. Sure, it’s a bit difficult to use, and expensive to maintain, but there’s a lot of inertia with replacing something you have and you’ve come to terms with. You get comfortable with the technology and how it works. I use a Blackberry. I know how this story goes. There’s definitely better technology out there, but evolving just seems like such a pain.


Well, we both are going to have to move on. It looks like RIM is going to make me choose something else by ceasing to exist, and SCOM is going to force you into a pretty major migration with SCOM 2012. I’m taking this opportunity to look at what’s out there and maybe you should too. To help you make a quick comparison, we put together this handy SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor vs. Microsoft SCOM comparison page.


Here are the high points:

  • You have SCOM, but you might not have *chosen* it.
  • It’s expensive to maintain.
  • It’s not easy to use, but you’ve come to terms with it because it’s there.
  • With SCOM 2012, Microsoft is forcing users into a major migration, not just an easy upgrade.
  • So… if you’re going to have to switch, why not switch to something that’s not just powerful and extremely affordable, but also really simple to use (ahem, like SolarWinds Server & Application Performance Manager (SAM), your server performance monitoring tool).


So before you dig in deeper, take a look at SAM, an effective server monitoring tool (and hey – you can take a look at our competitors too, we’re not afraid). But definitely give SAM, application monitor a whirl and let us know what you think. Here are our Top Five Reasons to look at SAM over SCOM:

  1. Incredibly low total cost of ownership: Power + Performance + Price
  2. Agentless monitoring
  3. Functional dashboards & common-sense navigation
  4. Robust application coverage, including custom apps
  5. Frequent updates (and easy upgrades)


I will admit I’m not looking forward to setting down my Blackberry, but when I see all the things my colleagues can do on their phones and how fast and easy those “current technology” phones are to use… I do get a little wistful. We can make this change and it will be for the better.

We’ve been examining Scott Lowe’s competitive matrix for the virtualization management in a series of blog posts over the last week or so, and today it’s time to turn our attention toward Veeam. We’ve compiled a detailed feature comparison of SolarWinds Virtualization Manager vs. Veeam One based on Scott’s post if you’d like a head-to-head analysis. For what it’s worth, the folks I’ve talked with have given Veeam Backup & Replication good reviews. However, I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that I think SolarWinds has a superior virtualization management solution to that of Veeam.


Veeam is well known in the virtualization market for their virtualization backup product. They’ve gained a lot of traction and brand awareness by attending every virtualization event under the sun promoting what is probably a really good backup tool. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Veeam One is a late-comer to the virtualization management market because their focus has been on virtualization data protection.
  • Veeam One has similar functionality to other tools in this space like performance monitoring, capacity planning, and storage IO and network IO analysis.
  • Veeam One doesn’t provide API access to integrate their tool with your business processes.
  • SolarWinds has been focused on developing and honing the perfect virtualization management tool for quite a while. Veeam has been focused on backup and replication.
  • SolarWinds Virtualization Manager offers virtualization resource optimization. Veeam One doesn’t provide this key feature (See more on this and other capacity management below).
  • SolarWinds provides TimeTravel historical forensics. No one else in the market offers this functionality.
  • SolarWinds enables integration with a physical storage management tool. No one else has the robust analytics for virtualization storage that SolarWinds provides.


SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, VMware monitoring gives you a well-tested virtualization management platform that includes a comprehensive virtualization capacity management capability. I think it’s best to look at capacity management as a three-legged stool with capacity operations, capacity optimization, and capacity planning all covering different time horizons as you can see in the graphic below.

Capacity Management Graphic.PNG

Just as a three-legged stool doesn’t function well without all of its legs, if any of these three features is absent, you’re not able to efficiently manage virtualization capacity. VMs and the applications running on them change over time, and Veeam One omits a key tool – capacity optimization – that helps you deal with those changes in the most efficient and effective way possible. SolarWinds Virtualization Manager gives you a tool for capacity optimization that helps you determine the best initial placement of a new virtual machine and helps you optimize your virtual infrastructure as changes occur.


As with all of our other competitors, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager also has an advantage over Veeam One in our TimeTravel feature. Time Travel’s historical forensics expedite root cause analysis when you have a performance problem. This effectively lets you turn back the clock to determine what changed in your virtual environment that led to performance degradation.


It should also be noted that Veeam One requires a physical installation similar to systems management platforms of yesteryear. The virtual appliances offered by most virtualization management vendors today greatly simplify deployment, while I think a physical installation can be a relative pain. However, you can be the judge of that – just download a free 30-day trial of SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, VMware monitoring software and you’ll see how simple it is to install and start getting valuable data on your VMware or Hyper-V environment.

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