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Geek Speak

266 Posts authored by: Josh Stephens

If you've been watching the technology related news lately you've probably learned three things. First, IANA officially issued the last two /8 IPv4 address blocks and exhausted the IPv4 allocations a couple of months ago. Second, Nortel today announced that as part of its bankruptcy filings it is selling it's public IPv4 address space to Microsoft for $7.5M or roughly $11.25 per IP address. Third, SolarWinds recently announced a new IP Address Management application to help with IPv4 to IPv6 migration issues as well as to help make sure that you're making the most out of your existing address space.

On IANA issuing the last of their public addresses, this obviously caused quite a splash around the industry. I'm optimistic that the energy generated by this event will help drive some much needed momentum in the community around IPv6. No, it's not time to panic and no, you don't need to start converting all of your users to IPv6 today but you do need to learn IPv6 and start thinking about how and when it'll affect your organization and how you're going to make that transition as smooth as possible.

On the Microsoft and Nortel news, there are obviously a lot of open questions around transactions like this and how they'll be viewed by ARIN but I think the important thing to notice here is that someone was willing to pay $7.5 million dollars for something that is effectively free. Not only that, but this was by a technology company - one that I'm hoping will be help lead the charge toward IPv6.

On the SolarWinds IP Address Manager, this is something that I've wanted to bring to market here for very long time. Most of the solutions in this space are hard to use and really expensive and this has forced many organizations to either use spreadsheets or to create their own systems for tracking IPs. The SolarWinds solution is easy to install, setup, and use and will easily pay for itself with the time it can save your team. And hey, if IP addresses are worth $11.25 each isn't it worth fifty cents or so per IP to manage them?


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SNMP. The Simple Network Management Protocol. Effectively, the most common protocol or method used today to monitor health, performance, and availability of devices within your IT infrastructure. And yet, when you install a Windows operating system, SNMP is disabled by default. This means that once you decide to monitor all of your Windows Servers you'll have to install, configure, and enable SNMP on each one of them.

There are several different methods for enabling SNMP on your servers. The most common method is to RDP to each of your servers, go into the Control Panel, and install, configure, and then enable the protocol. If you only have one server to do this on it's not all that bad and you might learn a thing or two from the experience if you've never configured SNMP before. If you're in the middle of rolling out a monitoring project and you have several servers to configure - or even hundreds - you're going to want an easier method.

So, since we provide system and application management solutions here at SolarWinds and our customers are often faced with this challenge we decided to give a little something back to the community and create a free tool to solve this problem. The SNMP Enabler for Windows is a new free tool that helps you install, configure, and enable SNMP on your Windows systems.

As always, you can download this new free tool from SolarWinds.com...


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If you've been a network administrator or IT manager for very long, then you've ran your share of cables and had to trace your way though plenty of "patchy" wiring jobs. There's a reason that they say that the first three rules of network troubleshooting are "check the cable, check the cable, check cable" and you know what? Having a scary wiring closet can make those jobs, well, interesting to say the least.

So, here at SolarWinds we've sponsored a contest to select the best "Clean, Creative, and Catastrophic" wiring closets out there. The contest was so popular, that numerous photos were posted to our Facebook page and Cisco even honored us by copying our contest (hey, they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?). I was given the honor of judging the contest and being the geeky, analytical person that I am, I devised a 10 point grading scale for each category and then used a separate five point scale to choose between the leaders in each category (I'm nothing if not thorough). In some cases, we had to enlarge the photos several times over and be pretty picky (the marketing folks that helped with this all think I'm crazy) but this was a close, close contest and wiring is serious business.

In each category, things were so close that I decided to pick my very own "honorable mentions". These folks came in as close seconds and deserve to be recognized.

In the category of Cleanest Cabling Closet, the "King of Cleanest  Cabling" is David Young from Kantar IT Partnership. This is some of the cleanest cabling that I've ever seen. Symmetrical, tight, easy to trace - I love it. Points were deducted for the mess at the bottom-left of the photo and for the odd green cable hanging down from the top-left but points were added for matching tie-wraps, cable management tray use, and the light at the top-center. No idea what it does, but it sure looks cool. I can just imagine it flashing and a horn sounding when collisions reach a certain level or etc...

An honorable mention for this category  goes to Jeppie Sumpter and the team at Western Kentucky University. Very impressive folks. Love the way that you used the overhead racks to run the cables, the use of multi-colored wiring, and etc.

In the category of Most Creative Wiring Closet, the "Most Most Creative Cabler" and winner for this category is Nathan Smith from St. Mary's Medical Center. To really appreciate this cabling job you have to watch Nathan's video. All I can say is "cool dude!".

An honorable mention for this category goes to Mitch Dickey from Frederick County Public Schools in Virginia. The more I looked at it, the more I liked this photo. So many different types of cabling all living together in harmony. It's a thing of beauty...

In the category of Most Catastrophic Wiring Closet and the "Complete Cabling Catastrophe" prize goes to Luis Guevera from Chicago. I'm not sure, but if you look really hard towards the back of the rack in the dark, I think I see the skeleton of the last person that tried to trace a cable in that wiring closet!!! I'm not even certain a "Texas sized" redneck like me would even fit behind that rack to trace a cable. It's giving me nightmares just thinking about it, especially with the fact that my back would be right up against the electrical supply boxes!!!

An honorable mention for this category goes to Daniel Parmelee from the Chicago Tribune. Daniel, buddy, I know that they eat a lot of spaghetti in Chicago but really? Do you use this wiring closet as a part of the initiation for newbie network admins that you hire? I can just imagine, "Hey, it's your first day and welcome aboard. Now, our CEO is having some LAN performance issues. Can you trace down his patch cable and replace it? Be sure not to jostle the other cables as they're kinda finicky..."

Each of the winners will receive a SolarWinds "Geek Kit" with the honorable mentions receiving SolarWinds shirts. Congratulations folks!!! Small pictures below - full size images available in all their glory for your unadulterated viewing pleasure on our Facebook page...

 

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King of Cleanest Cabling - David Young


Cleanest Cabling Honorable Mention - Jeppie Sumpter


Most Creative Cabler - Nathan Smith

 

Creative Cabler Honorable Mention - Mitch Dickey

Complete Cabling Catastrophe - Luis Guevera


Complete Cabling Catastrophe Honorable Mention - Daniel Parmelee

Well, it's that time of year again - awards season! The Grammy Awards were a huge success and both Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift rocked the house. This year's Academy Awards show reminded us that not everyone is cutout to host The Oscars. American Idol is down to the top 12 and I, for one, am pleased that we traded in Simon Cowell for the unbelievably awesome Steven Tyler. Last but not least - SolarWinds is up for awards by both Network Computing and by Storage Magazine!!!

This year the SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) has been nominated to the Network Computing Awards as the "Network Management Product of the Year". Cast your votes here to help push Orion to the top of the list!

Additionally, you can help nominate SolarWinds and SolarWinds Storage Profiler for Storage Magazine's awards. Categories of note include Product of the Year, Best Value for the Money, and for The One to Watch Award.

Voting ends soon so be sure to go here to vote for the Networking Computing Awards and click here to help nominate SolarWinds for the Storage Magazine Awards. Make your voice heard. Vote now and vote often :)


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A week or so ago I took a short vacation down to Belize. I'd had the trip planned for months and had everything all lined up - flights, hotels, car service to and from the airport - you name it I planned it. I'm sort of a psycho that way. Everything went fantastically - for all of about 90 minutes after we left my house...

You see, to get from Austin Texas to Belize City, Belize you fly from Austin to Houston (about 40 minutes) and then from Houston to Belize (about 2 hours). When we got to Houston we were informed that the airline had oversold the flight and that they weren't able to assign us seats yet. At first they said to just have a seat and not to worry and we'd get a seat assignment in a few minutes. However, as it turns out, we never did get those seat assignments and a series of events unfolded that put us in Atlanta for 2 days with a completely different airline without even a change of clothes and starting our Belize vacation about 2 1/2 days after we'd planned to.

During those 2 1/2 days and this entire set of events what really struck home with me was the impact that each individual customer service person we worked with along the had on our overall experience. The situation in of itself was pretty bad, but a few customer service people with a bad attitudes made things significantly worse. Likewise, there were 4 people along the way whose positive attitudes, empathy, and genuine desires to help made the situation not seem to bad after all and enabled me to retain some of my otherwise rapidly dwindling sanity.

In today's business environment none of us can afford to forget the value of a loyal customer. I tend to be a pretty positive person and I didn't blog, tweet, or add any Facebook posts on the negative attitudes I encountered but I did tweet and post on Facebook about several of the people along the way who did everything that they could to turn the situation around and hope that their bosses took notice and rewarded those folks.

As IT professionals it's all too easy to get wrapped up in the bits and bytes of what we do and forget that at the end of they day it's a very specialized kind of customer service that we provide. Whether you're a network engineer on the infrastructure team, a virtualization specialist building out a private cloud in the data center, or a system administrator migrating your users to Exchange 2010 - your users are your customers and as much as we all like to joke about our end users, we wouldn't have jobs without them.

So, as one IT person to another, as a guy who helped start a company where providing exemplary customer service is a big part of what separates us from the wannabes and posers out there trying to duplicate what we've created - take care of your customers. Because if you don't, somebody else will...


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If you’ve been managing networks for very long at all you’ve come to the realization that effective management of your IP address space is a key part of managing your network. Dealing with IP address conflict issues, DHCP scopes that have run out of space – and heaven forbid readdressing projects – can eat up a significant amount of your already limited time.

One of the first large-scale IP address management projects I worked on was for a large service provider here in the US. They’d recently purchased and deployed an IP address management solution from one of the framework players and they were having problems keep it running and especially in training their teams to use it. My project was to learn the product inside and out, rewrite all of their operational procedures around IP address management to leverage best practices with the tool, create a user manual for the application specific to their environment, processes, and people, and then to train their teams. It was a long project but in the end they were able to adopt the tool and their teams became quite good at leveraging it.

With regards to IP address management, most organizations underinvest when it comes to allocating time for IP address planning and in acquiring tools for IP address management. Had this company spent more time planning, their IP address schemas wouldn’t have been so complicated. They did deploy an IP address management tool but it came too late to be an aid in planning and at that time the tools available for this were all very expensive and complicated.

Next week we’re going to host a free webcast on IP address management best practices. Toward the end of the event we’ll also be demonstrating the latest version of the SolarWinds IP Address Manager which is an easy to use and affordable IP address management solution.

We’re offering the event three times next week so just choose the one at the date and time that works best for you and I hope to speak with you then.

March 10th, 1100 SGT (Singapore) - http://bit.ly/ff3omj   
March 10th, 1100 CST (Austin TX) - http://bit.ly/hbAVjQ   
March 11th, 1400 GMT (Cork Ireland) - http://bit.ly/f0bfhp

 

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As many of you know, the process of mapping out all of the connections to your Ethernet switches is a tedious and time consuming project. Sure, if you have  a newbie network administrator on your team it’s a great way to break them in but otherwise it might just fit into the category of “cruel and unusual punishment”. Using telnet or SSH to pull the CAM or MAC tables from your switches, doing the same for the ARP tables on your routers, somehow matching them up and then trying to add DNS information, duplex settings, and etc can take forever and by the time you get it finished things are likely to have changed.  To add insult to injury, you probably won’t take the time to do this until you’re troubleshooting an issue and so you’ll be rushed and probably only partially complete the job.

 

To help make this easier and because we know that budgets are tight out there, we’ve updated the SolarWinds Switch Port Mapper and made it available as a low-cost, standalone tool for everyone out there. There’s a free evaluation version that you can try out and then you can purchase the licensed version online. The first time you use it it’ll more than pay for itself – trust me.

 

Additionally, to help kick off this new product we’re sponsoring a photo and video cabling contest through March 9. “What’s Hiding in Your Closet” is contest for those of you that have the best Clean and Creative cabling jobs and those of us (like me) that have the most Catastrophic looking wiring closets in the world. We’ll post the submissions on SolarWinds’ Facebook page, and announce the winner in each category on March 16. For more details regarding the contest instructions, and terms and conditions, please visit SolarWinds’ Facebook page.

 

Whether you decided to enter the contest or not, download the Switch Port Mapper and try it out. I think you’ve be impressed with how easily it maps out your LAN infrastructure and the details that it provides on a port by port basis.

 

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Last week I was over in London at Cisco Live (Cisco Networkers for any old timers like me out there) speaking and meeting community members at the SolarWinds booth. It was a great event by all accounts and especially timely with the IPv4 address depletion which occurred last week.

 

One of the most common things I was asked about was configuration management. How to backup the configurations from all of your network infrastructure devices (routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, VPN concentrators, and the like), how to validate that the configurations comply with all of your standards and any mandated policies that apply to you, how to detect configuration changes in real-time, and most of all – how to push configuration changes out to your devices.

 

Configuration management certainly isn’t a new field but for many of us the tools that have been available to help with these tasks have lacked a lot in terms of usability and device support – especially in heterogeneous environments. This has forced many of us to create our own scripts for pushing out changes or backing up configs or to leverage free tools and open source tools to help close the gap.

 

This Thursday at 1100 CST we’re hosting a webcast to talk about the top 5 configuration management tasks and how to actually accomplish them using the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager. This free training will be helpful to anyone in a network administrator role – regardless of whether or not you use SolarWinds applications.

 

Some of what we’ll discuss will include:

 

- Backing up the configurations of all of your routers, switches, and firewalls   
- Setting up automated configuration management jobs    
- Configuring and using real-time config change detection    
- Managing configurations against policies for compliance

 

You can go here to sign up for the event and I’m looking forward to collaborating with you.

 

  
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It's been a great few days here in London at Cisco Live. Cisco Networkers has always been one of my favorite shows to attend and to be invited to speak at the event again this year was a real honor. It's been wonderful connecting with customers and partners that I've known for many years and meeting new folks that are interested in learning more about SolarWinds. For those of you that I've had the pleasure of meeting these last few days, I hope to see you again soon - either at Cisco Live in the US or sometime at our home offices in Austin Texas.

The theme for SolarWinds this year was the expansion of our focus and our offerings from network management to include all areas of IT infrastructure management - network management, system and application management, storage resource management, and virtual infrastructure management. The theme fit well with what we heard from people at the show - that more and more the silos are dissolving and traditional roles like network engineer, system administrator, SAN manager, or virtualization administrator are being replaced by roles like infrastructure manager, infrastructure engineers, and infrastructure specialists. The days of only needing to understand one of these 4 core infrastructure areas are gone, along with the viability of management tools that fail to provide visibility into each of these areas.

Here at the show there was a lot of buzz around IP based video, Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), VCE, and of course with the recent news lots of talk about IPv6. Obviously, these are all areas of focus for SolarWinds as well. I was invited to speak at a VCE event a few weeks ago and it's just another great example of the need for IT practitioners to broaden their skillset. There's some fantastic new technology out there to be explored and leveraged and it's going to take a new breed of IT infrastructure specialist to effectively deploy and manage it. Step up, and the rewards will be plentiful. Don't, and well, this industry may just leave you behind...

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This week I'm at Cisco Live in London and I've been amazed at the number of people that have stopped by the SolarWinds booth to inquire about configuration management. It seems that a lot of folks out there are still manually backing up their router, switch, firewall, VPN concentrator, and load balancer configurations and rolling out changes by hand. There's a better way folks, and that better way just got even cooler.

Today we officially released version 6.1 of the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager. This new version has all the great features we've been shipping for years like real-time change detection, automated config backups, scheduled and ad hoc configuration changes or config pushes and more but this new release also has some great new features. Most notably, we've significantly enhanced the compliance reporting features within the Network Configuration Manager. These features are instrumental in validating your configurations against policies and regulations like Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), HIPAA, and PCI. Additionally, we've made some new compliance reports available for commonly requested compliance management requirements like DISA STIGS.

We've also added full IPv6 support in this latest release, as many of us are preparing to rollout IPv6 in our environments with the shortage of IPv4 addresses that are now available.

Like all of the products from SolarWinds, you can download a free copy of the Network Configuration Manager to try out for 30 days from SolarWinds.com and have it up and running in under an hour.

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Josh Stephens

Managing VM Sprawl

Posted by Josh Stephens Jan 28, 2011

As many of you know, we recently acquired Hyper9 to greatly enhance our capabilities in managing virtual infrastructures. Visit the Hyper9 community blog here to read an article I recently wrote on Managing VM Sprawl.

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As you may have heard by now, SolarWinds acquired Hyper9 and we have a new set of geeks and technologies to help us take this thing to 11. And let me tell you – this is a cool bunch of folks and an awesome set of products…

If you’re like most of us, virtualization technology is impacting almost every aspect of your IT infrastructure. It changes the way we think about servers, databases, storage, networking – pretty much all of it. At SolarWinds, we’ve been adding virtualization monitoring features to our products over the past year or so and this acquisition just took our capabilities in this area up several notches.

Not only is the technology spectacular, but the people are fantastic. One of the folks you’ll be hearing from soon is David Marshall, author of vmblog.com and a member of the Hyper9 -- now SolarWinds -- team. Let me tell you, we are going to have some fun figuring out how we can help our combined communities even more with free education, webcasts, blog posts and more on all of our technology areas like networking, system administration, storage, and of course – virtualization. He is sharing his perspective over at the Hyper9 site, check it out.

To kick this thing off right, we’re hosting a webcast on Wednesday, January 26th at 11:00 a.m. CST where we’ll do a deep dive on the Hyper9 product suite and explain how you can use these products to take the management of your virtualization infrastructure to the next level.  Register here.

I hope to see you on the webcast and until then…

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For the last several weeks I’ve been going rogue - sneaking around trying to get the word out about our big move into the systems and application performance management space. I’ve tried hiding out in my truck, going downtown in disguise, and even donning full camouflage and hiding out in the woods but it seems like I always got caught. Well, the wait is officially over. SolarWinds Application Performance Monitor is now officially available.

For about as long as we’ve offered Orion Network Performance Monitor, we’ve been asked by system administrators and application support folks to launch a similar systems and application performance management product. Sure, there are a lot of other products in this space but they tend to fall into one of two camps -- the “cheap and easy but don’t scale to my needs and skimp on the features I need” or the “includes most every feature I want and claims high scalability but I can’t actually make it work and it’s so expensive I’m embarrassed to talk to my boss about it.”. 

SolarWinds Application Performance Monitor was built specifically to address these shortfalls. Super easy to install and configure, full-featured, highly-scalable, and a price point that you’re proud to talk about with your boss.

I’ve been testing the new Application Performance Monitor for several weeks now and I’m impressed. But hey, I work here and you probably figure I’m just a little biased.  So, I get it if you don’t want to take my word for it. With that in mind, we made the preview available to a group of systems administrators and general geeks like you and me and captured their APM experience and feedback here. Check it out.

Long story short – there’s a new choice for systems and application management. The best part? Like everything from SolarWinds you can download it and check it out for free and have it up and running in under an hour…

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A little while back I wrote a blog post entitled “Hunger Sucks” that we used to help drive awareness to the Capital Area Food Bank’s (CAFB) “Turn Hungry Holidays into Happy Holidays” food and fundraising campaign. It was a call to arms to fellow geeks out there to step up and help fight hunger here in Austin and within the greater metropolitan area. You stepped up big time. Here are some of the results.

You see, for the past three years SolarWinds has been supporting the CAFB through holiday food and fundraising drives. This year, we wanted to take it a step farther by underwriting the area-wide campaign and challenging other Austin technology companies to help as well. With the help of other technologists in the area and fellow tech company Microsoft, we raised a total of over $17,000 AND 2,300 pounds of food AND there were over 225 participants!!! As my buddy Justin Endres here at SolarWinds would say – OUTSTANDING!!!

I’ve gotta tell you, I was impressed by the way that everyone stepped up. The CAFB has been great to work with; we’re looking forward to our next event with them sometime soon. They’ve asked us to volunteer at the Austin Reggae Festival in ApriI. I just might be too redneck for reggae, but heck, to help fight hunger, maybe even I could channel my inner Rastafarian. Sing it with me… “Don't worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Thanks again for your contributions and for those of you that didn’t get a chance to help – there’s still time. You can go online to the CAFB now and donate directly to help end hunger.

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About this time of year, while the New Year's Resolutions are fresh on our minds, people usually start trying to do some of the things that they put off in the previous year. Maybe it's that extra 20 pounds around your mid-section that you'd planned to get rid of, maybe you're building a plan to pay off some credit card debt and old student loans, or maybe you've finally decided to try and lock down your management protocols...

In the case of the management protocols, I can help. Check out this post for some tips on securing SNMP. Most of these tips can be applied to any management protocol.

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