I interviewed Stefan Gustafsson who works at a large software development company.  He recently deployed Server & Application Monitor (SAM) v5.5 and within a minute SAM identified a failing power supply in his blade chassis that had six production blades.


JK:  What SolarWinds products do you use to monitor your environment?

SG:  We have a single instance of Network Performance Monitor (NPM), Server & Application Monitor, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer and Virtualization Manager and are looking at purchasing Web Performance Monitor and other SolarWinds products.  Our global (20 offices) monitoring solution covers 1,100 nodes with 17,000 component monitors spanning applications, servers and network environments in our production environment.


We started off with NPM and quite quickly realized we wanted more functionality for monitoring applications.  We did a trial of Server & Application Monitor 5.0 in July last year and started using it to monitor our Exchange and SQL environments.  Quite quickly we started using some of the advanced functionality for process monitoring and we are also using it to monitor various web components by means of WMI, SNMP or whatever is needed.


With the introduction of hardware monitoring in 5.2, we realized we were up against a bit of a challenge because almost none of our servers were running the vendor management tools and it took some scripting to install these vendor management tools to get hardware monitoring functioning.  Hardware monitoring opened our eyes to what was really going on in our environment.


We also monitor in-house and 3rd party applications by creating our own templates based on processes we discover in the Real Time Process Explorer.  We use all the built in application monitors  but use just as many custom monitors.  Sometimes we download from thwack and customize to our needs.


JK:  What did you do before you purchased Server & Application Monitor?

SG:  We used IBM Director, Dell Management Tools, and things like the hardware monitoring in VCenter, and remote management tools (DRAC/iLO/RAC) for each server and the audio-visuals in the datacenter –beeping of the datacenter and flashing of lights.


For node, site & process/protocol monitoring, we used OpenNMS which is not very user friendly.  We can do things now in NPM and SAM that would have taken 2 weeks in change controls and hacking XML files using NMS.  For instance, I needed to monitor some HP application sets and it took me 10 minutes to create a custom process monitor and set a custom owner property field so one guy gets the alert.  It would have taken me a week to do that in OpenNMS; nothing is straightforward in OpenNMS.


JK:  Before switching to SolarWinds, how long did it take to get all these tools up and running and troubleshoot problems with these disparate tools?

SG:  It easily took twice as long as it does now.  Adding things to monitoring systems, installing different bits and bolts, updating firmware every 5 minutes because something is not compatible, educating people – it took a lot of time with the old tools.


With SolarWinds' application and server monitoring software I’m quite quickly able to spot issues in our environment.  We find things 3 to 4 times a week that we investigate and prevent problems - so it’s very useful.  We are definitely stretching the boundaries of the product and are very keen to explore new features.  For example we deployed v5.5 a week before it made general release.  We’ve done a lot with hardware monitoring and I’ve started doing VM host performance monitoring  by querying VMware ESXi host stats that you can’t get out of SNMP.


Check out SAM's multi-vendor hardware support in this short video.

by Jennifer Kuvlesky