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Here it is, December once again and we find ourselves in the office working as usual. Not an uncommon occurrence if you're a network administrator, network engineer, system administrator, consultant, DBA, Storage Administrator, VMWare Administrator, Web Developer, Systems Engineer, Applications Developer - well, basically anyone in any area of IT with the words "Manager, Administrator, Engineer, or Developer" in your title.

But hey, it could be worse. After all, we sort of hold the proverbial keys to the kingdom here. We can unlock the ACLs and firewall rules to allow our favorite streaming media through and we can even tweak our QoS settings to ensure that our online gaming traffic stays prioritized to help guarantee our victory against hordes of out of school teenagers while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Why shouldn't we have a little fun every now and then and honestly, does anyone else even have a clue about what we do anyways?

Good points Josh. So why did you pause your gaming to write this blog post? Good question. It appears that there are actually a few people out there that plan to be productive this holiday season and a few of those have looked to me for advice on the best things to focus on while working thru the holidays. So, with those folks in mind and with typical geek flare, here are the my Top 5 Things to Focus on While Working thru the Holidays...

Head Geek's Top 5 Things to Focus on While Working thru the Holidays

#5 - Resource recovery. Regardless of your IT speciality there are things you can do right now to recover wasted resources. If you're on the network side you should review your QoS settings to see if you can make any tweaks to save bandwidth (likewise with your traffic filters) and also review your bandidth usage trends to see if there are places where you''re oversubscribed. If you're a systems administrator, I'll bet you dollars to donuts that there are VMs out there that haven't been used in months and can be deleted.Is your focus on storage - how about deleting and/or archiving unnecessary data? Heck, even asking your users to clean up their mailboxes could make a signficant performance improvment on your Exchange Server and we all know they aren't really working anyways...

#4 - Fitness. Whoa, where are you going? Come back here a second. Listen, we can all do some things to get a little more in shape and speaking for myself, I could benefit from some activities that involve moving more than only my fingers (I recently transitioned from a mouse to a trackball so I don't even have to move my arms anymore). Start now - the gyms will be crazy crowded come January. Better yet, there are some great yoga exercises you can do at your desk that are guaranteed to make you feel better and compiled by one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Phizer.

#3 - Get certified. Been thinking about finishing your CCNA or MCSE? How about the SCP? Now is the time. Did you know that you can learn everything you need to know to pass the SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP) exam from the SolarWinds.Com website and that right now you can even get a voucher to take the exam for free? Yep, sho nuff. It's a limited offer but there are still vouchers available. Ping Thomas Hoyle our Certification Manager if you want to know more about it.

#2 - Restock your toolbox. I have a 16 year old son and ever since he turned about 13 I keep finding tools in the oddest places (the refrigerator, in between the seats of his car, in the dogfood container in the garage, etc). I think he's lost more of my tools in the last 3 years than the total number of homework assignments he's completed in that same timespan. 2010 is going to bring you all kinds of new projects and technology. Take stock of the tools you have and start replenishing that toolbox. A good place to start? Workspace Studio within the SolarWinds Toolset.

#1 - Update your resume. No, I'm not saying you should go out and start looking for a new job. I am saying that you've accomplished some amazing things in 2009. Document them. Put them on paper. Those accomplishments will be ancient history to you in 3 months but someday you'll wish you'd written them down - trust me on that.


Flame on...
Josh
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A few months ago here at SolarWinds we released a new add-on module to Orion called the Orion IP SLA Manager. The IP SLA manager leverages Cisco IP SLA and other protocols to measure and report on network performance from different perspectives across the network and to provide VoIP device and quality of service management. This new module has a very flexible licensing structure and is not tied to the version of Orion NPM (SLX, SL2000, SL500, SL250, SL100) that you own but instead is based on the number of IP SLA devices that you're going to run IP SLA operations from.

While this sounds well and good and makes a lot of sense to geeks like me that have been intimately involved with IP SLA for years, if you're just now learning about IP SLA you may be wondering a) just what the heck is IP SLA? and b) how do I estimate the number of IP SLA devices I'll be using?

What is Cisco IP SLA
Cisco IP SLA is a groovy feature within Cisco IOS that allows you to configure your Cisco IOS devices to run tests from their location on the network. These tests are called operations and can be as simple as having a router ping the other routers in your network or more complex like having the router measure VoIP quality between it and another IP SLA capable device. The results of these tests are stored in memory on the router. You can either access the results from the CLI or, preferrably, have a network management application like the Orion IP SLA Manager retrieve and consolidate these results into easy to use dashboards, charts, reports, and alerts.

If you'd like to learn more about IP SLA I'd suggest watching this short video tech talk on IP SLA or this longer recorded webcast deep dive Cisco IP SLA.

How do I estimate the number of IP SLA devices I'll use?
Estimating the number of IP SLA devices that you'll use is easy. Basically, any place on the network that you want to understand network performance from will be a place where you'll want to enable IP SLA. If you're an all Cisco shop, I'd just estimate the total number of Cisco devices and divide by 2. If you've got a mix of Cisco gear and other stuff as well, I'd increase the number to about 80% of the Cisco devices you've got. The great thing is that the better IP SLA tools like the Orion IP SLA Manager configure and manage the operations for you, so rolling it out even to hundreds of devices is painless.

As an example, let's assume that you're an all Cisco shop. At every juntion point on the network where you'd like to measure network performance from you'll want to enable IP SLA. So, for every location on your WAN you'll want to have an IP SLA enabled device. Additionally, anywhere that performance may vary greatly you'll want to measure from. Some folks measure from one device per location and one device per subnet or VLAN. This way, if you have performance variation in your data center or is someone mucks up an ACL that's only affecting traffic within the site you'll know about it.

Let me know if you'd like to hear more about this or if you have questions about deploying IP SLA in your environment.

Flame on...
Josh
Follow me on Twitter

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