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Network World just published a podcast that Jimmy Ray Pursor (geek guru over at Cisco) and I did a few days ago on the Engineer's Toolset, Orion, NetFlow, and IP SLA. Give it a listen.

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Josh Stephens

Happy Halloween!!!

Posted by Josh Stephens Oct 31, 2008

Be careful out there tonight!!!


Since we recently released a new free tool for monitoring ESX server health and performance and since Orion NPM now does a great job of natively monitoring ESX servers, a lot of people are asking how to configure SNMP on their ESX servers so that they can be monitored. Seems like a pretty logical question, so here's how you do it.

To enable SNMP on ESX Server version 3.5:

1. Login as root
2. Edit the snmpd.conf file and add "rocommunity xxxx" where xxxx is your read-only community string). The file is usually located in /etc/snmpd.
3. While you're editing the snmpd.conf file, also add "dlmod SNMPESX /usr/lib/vmware/snmp/"
4. Restart the SNMP daemon - /etc/init.d/snmpd restart

In some cases, you may also need to edit the firewall settings on the ESX server to allow the SNMP traffic through. To do this:

Login as root and issue the following commands:
2. esxcfg-firewall -e snmpd
3. chkconfig snmpd on
4. service snmpd start

Of course, the exact commands, paths, and etc may vary based upon your particilar implementation but you should be able to get there from here. Special thanks to Nikki who showed me these commands yesterday.

For more information, visit the VM Ware page on how to configure SNMP on the ESX Server.

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Among those of us that implement and maintain network management systems the topic of root cause analysis is one of much angst and frustration. Of course we'd all like our monitoring systems to be smart enough to correlate hundreds of seemingly unrelated events into some sort of epiphany of what's "really wrong" but as many of us have found out, that's a pretty lofty goal.

Back when I ran a consulting company I loved root cause analysis/event correlation projects. Who wouldn't? It's a great way to generate tons of revenue and keep your engineers highly engaged without ever really delivering anything useful to the customer. Most times, these projects don't end until the customer either runs out of money or your contact there gets fired for funding a project that never went anywhere. Perfect, right?

I've had the priviledge of working in and visiting some of the largest NOCs in the world, and in almost all of them there sits a system that is supposed to correlate network events into meaningful information about where the problems exist - and then there's another product or even in some cases a home-grown ping tool that actually monitors the network...

Root cause analysis is a good thing. The concept of correlating events to get a better understanding of the big picture is also a good thing. Where people tend to go wrong is that they don't head down this road with clear, achiveable milestones in mind and end up basically driving around forever. Failing to define what is "good enough" is a good way to ensure that you'll never end a project like this.

So, how do you get what you really need in terms of suppressing alerts, defining dependancies, and correlating events without getting lost on the road to the Holy Grail of root cause analysis? Well, next week I'll tell you but right now I'm heading out to Northern Illinois for an early goose hunt with Captain Bob from Migratory Outfitters. If you've got suggestions/comments post them here and I'll include them in the list. Until next week...

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Nowadays it seems that we're all using virtual server technologies and in my opinion, it's some pretty darn good stuff. We use virtual servers for everything from mission critical enterprise applications to software development platforms to lab and QA systems and the list doesn't stop there. Did I already say that this is some good stuff?

The problem is, up until now there really haven't been any good tools for monitoring these virtual server environments and too many of the network management vendors out there are either charging extra for these features or ignoring the trend altogether. Well, I'm proud to say that we took a different approach here at SolarWinds.

Today we announced two important things. First, we've announced a new free tool for monitoring VM Ware ESX Servers and the virtual machines hosted on them. Second, we announced a new version of Orion that natively identifies and monitors VM Ware ESX Servers and their VMs. This isn't an add-on - it's a "free" feature included in the base Orion NPM product. All exisitng Orion customers with active software maintenance will receive these new features for free and can login to the SolarWinds customer portal to download the new release now.

I've had the opportunity to play with the the new release of Orion and the new free tool and they're cool. If you haven't had a chance to check them out, I highly recomend it. Obviously, if you own Orion you can just upgrade to 9.1 to get these new features. Otherwise, you can download the free tool from SolarWinds.Com or you can login to the Orion Online Demo Server to play with a copy of Orion installed here at SolarWinds.

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Today we're joining many others in a blog & social networking movement to raise awareness of poverty within our communities. It's too easy sometimes to let the drone of the cooling fans, the subtle gray of the subfloors, and the fluorescent lighting of our natural environments lull us into a state of unawareness. We forget that there exists a world outside of our geekdom, almost like a parallel dimension, where people have very real fears and needs that can't be expressed in binary. A place where obtaining the things we take for granted like food, clothing, and shelter are the primary objectives of any given day...

So, now that we've reminded ourselves that this other dimension exists and that within it there are people that need help, can we help? The short answer is an emphatic YES. There are many ways that we can help. A good first step is to assess which of these three things you can most easily give - time, money, or expertise. Once you've done that, look for opportunities that leverage your strengths - and be just a little bit selfish. Find something that you know that you'll enjoy doing. This might seem backwards, but if you can find a way to help that makes you feel good you're much more likely to continue helping long term.

Keeping all that in mind, in typical Head Geek fashion here's quick "Top 5 Ways for Geeks to Help with Poverty in the Community"

5. When you buy things, buy some for someone who can't. This is the easiest time for me to give. Whether I'm going through the grocery store and filling my cart with items for my own family and items to donate or going through the McDonald's drive thru and buying an extra value meal for the guy standing on the corner with a sign, this is an easy thing to do and you don't really notice the extra expense. Most grocery stores and even some department stores have a way that you can donate the items right there at the checkout stand.

4. Volunteer some time. Even if it isn't much, it's a good idea to get out from behind the keyboard and get some perspective every once and a while. Trust me, it makes life behind the keyboard a little more livable.

3. Don't just throw away that stuff you don't need anymore. Outgrown last years pants? Upgraded to a larger monitor or faster CPU? Well, don't just junk that stuff. Donate it - there's someone out there that really needs it. Here in Austin you can leverage this site to help.

2. Don't underestimate your potential. Do you realize how many elderly people there are out there that don't have access to the internet because the picked up a virus or some spyware and their computer hasn't been turned on since? Sometimes things that are super simple for us can have a dramatic impact on other people's lives.

1. Encourage your company to give back. People listen to us - we're the smart ones. Be a leader within this effort.

If you you have other ideas for ways that we can give back to the community and help to solve the poverty crisis that our country is in, please comment or post to me directly and I'll add it to the list for you.

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Our buddy RedPineApple wrote a new post on making virtual teams more effective and the more I thought about it the more I liked the topic and the content. I know that many of us struggle with making our virtual teams more effective and there are some great hints and tricks here...

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One of the things that I mention in most of the webcasts that I do is the value of doing baseline assessments. I was chatting with Nikki Jennings the other day (Nikki is one of our senior sales engineers here at SolarWinds) and she said that she always recommends that her customers do a baseline and many times helps them outline the steps needed to do it. So, with that in mind, here are some quick tips on conducting network baseline assessments.

More data is better. If you can collect data for 60 days vs. 30 days - do it. There is really no "minimum requirement" for how long you collect data, but just remember that the more data you have the more accurate your baseline will be. Anything beyond 90 days is overkill unless you're trying to assess seasonality and IMO that's a different kind of assessment.

Document the network. You really need to have a good understanding of the topology of the network and the relative application data paths to be able to understand the data that you get from the assessment. If you don't have a good network discovery and mapping tool download LANsurveyor.

Collect data from everything. Routers, switches, firewalls, servers, load balancers - if you have it, include it in your assessment. This is a piece of cake if you have Orion and use the Universal Device Poller (UnDP).

If you don't understand the data - get some help. Too many times as engineers we tend to isolate ourselves vs. asking for help when we need it. Remember, this is what community sites like those available at Thwack, Network World, and Cisco are for...


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