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The dev team here at SolarWinds has just finished a new tech preview of the SolarWinds Dashboard and as of yesterday it's available to the public for download. This is a cool new application and sort of a new concept in network monitoring and diagnostics. You can play with the Dashboard for the next couple of months for free and I highly suggest that you check it out.

As for me personally, I've been playing with alpha code for the dashboard for a few months now and I've sort of fallen in love with it. Part of why I like it is that there are tons of undocumented features that I've been discovering like being able to launch gadgets from the command-line and being able to drag and drop objects between gadgets. I keep it running pretty much all the time as I've built workspaces (tabs) for some of the key IT systems that keep causing me trouble.

As you're playing with the new Dashboard we'd love to have your feedback as we've got lots of other ideas for this and we're anxious to hear your thoughts and discuss ours with you.


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If you've never had to deal with networks with overlapping or duplicated IP ranges this you may also be the kind of person that's prone to winning at slot machines and always seems to be able to catch a cab in the rain - i.e. you're one lucky propeller head. Managing networks where the same address ranges appear in multiple places is a read pain. In enterprise networks this usually occurs when you go through M&A.

I used to run the technical side of M&A for a large company here in the US that, at the time, gobbled up companies the way that many of us will be gobbling up turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie next week and there are some great best practices for each. With regards to the Thanksgiving feast, keep these things in mind:

1. Wear something that stretches. Elastic is good - zippers are bad.
2. Pace yourself. This is especially important if your Thanksgiving involves multiple meals at multiple locations.
3. Skip the stuff that you don't especially like so that you can eat more of the stuff you love.
4. Remember that you can take a break between dinner and desert. I like to call it half time.
5. Have no remorse. Not on this day. No way no how.

Now, on the technical side of M&A there are also some great best practices. Probably the most important from a network engineering standpoint is that you need to plan on re-addressing the networks of the companies you're buying if they don't fit in with your existing addressing schemes and practices. Yes, this is a pain but it is a much smaller pain than trying to manage networks with overlapping address ranges.

In service provider networks, especially MSPs, this isn't so simple. You can't demand that your customers all re-address their networks just so that they'll be easier for you to manage. If your customers are small businesses, it's even worse. There's a pretty good chance that they're all using some parts of the 192.168.x.x network and you can figure they all started with 192.168.0.0/24 and 192.168.1.0/24.

If you find yourself in the situation of managing networks with duplicated IP address ranges and re-addressing isn't an option, there are some things that you can do to minimize the pain. First, be sure that you choose an NMS that has a solution for this type of thing. If you ask your network management vendor about overlapping IP address space and you get a blank stare that's a bad sign. Second, really think through your NAT. The more you can do one-to-one the easier your job will be (both now and if you ever decide to re-address). And third, be sure that your boss understands why this is a bad thing so that your hard work is appreciated and he'll be prepared when you need to spend some cash to work within this situation.


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This afternoon I'm heading out to Tucson to visit with Joel Snyder and geek out a little on network management best practices, SolarWinds software, and industry trends. While there, we're going to be installing Orion NPM and all of the Orion modules to monitor the lab at Opus One.

So, we're going to have about 4 hours to go from a vanilla Windows Server to a fully functioning and customized NMS. We'll be installing and setting up SQL, Orion, all of the modules, doing a discovery, building maps, alerts, customizing views - you get the picture.

My question for you is, if you only had 4 hours to build the "coolest" Orion system that you could build, what would you do? Sure, you can have it installed and up and running in under an hour - but you can also do some pretty cool customizations if you have a little bit of time. Maybe we should make it this a contest - build the coolest Orion in 4 hours... What do you think?


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For those of us that have been in this industry for a while we know that DNS can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. My first experience with DNS involved setting up DNS on an AT&T Unix server, reading and studying the O'Reily book DNS and Bind, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. DNS is one of those subjects that if you don't work with it ever day, refershing your mind on the subject when a need arises can be rough. Nevertheless, I really can't count the times that I've seen some really hairy network issues that could've been solved hours or even days earlier if we'd just checked DNS first.


This Wednesday, November 12th 2008, at 1:00 EST I'm a guest speaker on techtalk with DNSStuff.com on DNS. Hosting the session will be DNS Stuff CTO Paul Parisi and DNS expert and author Cricket Liu. Paul is a super sharp guy and Cricket quite literally wrote the book on DNS. You can sign up for the webcast here.


I'm really excited about this session as this is a subject that we can all stand to learn a little more about. Hope to see you then.



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Josh Stephens

Password Safe

Posted by Josh Stephens Nov 6, 2008

I've been using a pretty nifty open source tool for a while now and so I thought I'd share. The tool is called Password Safe and is a great little application for storing user accounts and passwords.

Yeah, I know, I know - you're not supposed to write these down anywhere but to be honest between Facebook, Yammer, Twitter, Thwack, SolarWinds, Cisco, NetworkWorld, 5 different banks, MySpace, MSN, and all of the other sites that I commonly login to and with the fact that I like to rotate passwords fairly often - well, it was more than I could keep up with.

I've been using it for going on a year now and have never had an issue. Great little app...


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For those of us that maintain device configurations that include Access Control Lists (ACLs), we know what a huge chore this can be and how bad things can go if you make even one simple mistake. I myself have had to put someone on a plane to fly out to a router that I locked myself out of with a bad ACL and have many times had to call someone that was physically located at one of my remote sites to power cycle a router and restore it to the saved config. Not the best way to spend a Saturday night, I assure you...

Fortunately, there are some really cool tools available to make this a little easier. The Engineer's Toolset that we offer here at SolarWinds includes a tool called the "Cisco Config Viewer". With the Config Viewer you can download and view the config from a Cisco router, switch, or firewall; edit the config; and then push the updated config back to the device. Since it does the config uploads via a TFTP copy vs. CLI you don't have to take out the old ACL in order to make the changes. This is a huge advantage over doing it the old fashioned way and, as always, you can download a fully functional copy of the Engineer's Toolset from the SolarWinds.Com website.

Cisco also has a tool called ASDM or the "Adaptive Security Device Manager". This tool simplifies the configuration tasks required for configuring Cisco PIX firewalls and ASAs. If you're not familiar with how these devices are supposed to be configured then this is a good choice to help you get started. You can also download ASDM directly from that same page.

Athena Security also has a new application called "Athena FirePAC". FirePAC is cool because it evaluates the ACLs on your Cisco PIX and ASA, Juniper NetScreen, and Checkpoint firewalls and tells you where you've left holes or where you've duplicated functionality. I had the opporutnity to meet with one of their founders and one of their main developersa a few weeks ago and get a detailed walk thru of the product. Definitely something you should check out. You can download a free evaluation version directly from their website.

Check out these tools and ping me back if you know of any other good tools for managing ACLs.


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I was chatting with a good friend and sometimes fitness/nutrition coach of mine this morning and she pretty much told me that I should quit drinking sodas as they're "bad for me". Maybe it's just because it's Monday and quite honestly I'm always cranky before 10:00 a.m. but man that really ticked me off. If you've ever wanted to know what really fuels this industry - I'm here to tell you - it's caffeine baby, all the way. Without caffeine we wouldn't even have an internet. Pay attention the next time you stay up all night online gaming or surfing porn - I guarantee you there will be a caffeinated beverage somewhere near you and let's face it - online gaming and porn are the two primary reasons why internet technology has evolved so let's give them the respect they deserve.

In my case, it's Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew was there for me during that first whiteboard discussion where John Spaulding explained subnetting to me and Mountain Dew was there the weekend we decided to convert the Air Force Base from NetWare NDS to Windows Domains. Mountain Dew was there for me as we started replacing X.25 with frame-relay and it's still there for me as we replace frame-relay with MPLS. Mountain Dew was my companion when I migrated DNS from that old AT&T 3B2 to a couple of Linux servers and it was there the day that I realized HP Open View was a complete waste of freaking time and got on with my life. Mountain Dew was there for me when we upgraded IOS and went from classful to classless addressing/routing and it's been there for me as I've plunged into the world of IPv6.

Sure, over the years I've switched over to Diet Mountain Dew as the hours on the keyboard have had their effects on my metabolism but luckily the caffeine is still there. Why is it that people that don't drink sodas keep trying to tell those of us that do that they're "bad for us"? Then, when I mention that it's diet, they're like "That's even worse!!!". How can that be worse? How can sodas be bad for you? Have you ever known someone that died from a Pepsi overdose? Let me tell you, when I die - bury me with a case of Diet Mountain Dew and let my gravestone read - "Died of something other than soda-pop poisoning - Get over it..."

So, with all this in mind, here is the Head Geek's Top 5 Proof Points that Drinking Sodas will NOT Kill You.

#5 - If you call the National Poison Control Center and tell them that you drank a soda they hang up on you.

#4 - There has never been an episode of Law & Order or CSI where the cause of death ended up being a caffeinated beverage. They've done every other possible scenario over the years so if this was possible they'd have covered it by now.

#3 - We all know that OJ kills. There's never been a headline accusing Mountain Dew of hacking people up and then escaping in a Bronco.

#2 - Buy Orion. Hey, SolarWinds pays me and pays for this blog. I had to put it in there somewhere. BTW, if it wasn't for Mountain Dew Orion would still be publishing its data to the web using an XML snapshot (anybody remember version 4.1?)...

#1 - Because you never feel quite so alive as when you have a full bottle of Mountain Dew (feel free to substitute your own favorite here) in your hand, a DS3 to yourself, and nobody watching what you're doing...


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