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If you've been a systems administrator for long you've probably dealt with application performance problems that turned out to be caused by disk Input/Output (I/O) performance. Not too many years ago this was why we replaced IDE drives with SCSI arrays when we were building application and/or database servers. Back then we all knew how to build servers by hand and we spent a lot of time under the hood tweatking our servers. Faster disks, more spindles, and wider controller channels were all tools that we'd use to pimp out our servers and get as a much performance as we could.

Nowadays things are a quite bit different. First off, most of our servers are virtual. Adding more CPU or memory is as simple as a few mouse clicks within our virtual system manager of choice. I can't remember the last time I physicall touched a server when trying to make it run faster. Not only are the servers virtual, but the disks aren't physically attached to the physical server. Instead, the disks are set in an array as a part of a Storage Area Network (SAN). You carve up your SAN into LUNs (Logical Unit Numbers) and then assign LUNS to your virtual host servers (VSphere servers from VMWare for instance). VSphere then carves up space on the LUN to the vritual servers that it maintains.

Sounds pretty cool, but what do you do when you're fighting an application performance problem that is related to disk I/O rates and/or latency? How do get you a clear, end-to-end picture of of the infrastructure that makes up the virtual application servers's computing environment and the performance of each component along the way?

In some cases you can get pieces of this information from the virtual system manager and/or the SAN vendor's management software, but to get a complete picture you need an application that's built around providing this functionality - regardless of the types of SANs or servers you're using. As you've probably guessed by now, we here at SolarWinds have such an application - the SolarWinds Profiler. Profiler gives you this end-to-end mapping from the phsical disks, the LUNs, through the network to the virtual server host, and all the way to the virtual server. By leveraging Orion with it you can get an even more complete picture by adding network performance and traffic analysis.

And yes, you can download this and try it for free from and have it up and running all by yourself in no time...

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Yesterday I was in Washington DC speaking about building frameworks for secure network management. It was a 4 hour session and we had experts from several different organizations and specialities including network design, network management, systems administration, and security. When I was preparing for the session I was worried that we wouldn't be able to fill all 4 hours but as usually occurs - we filled all the time and then some.

It's always intesting to me that security doesn't come up earlier in most network management discussions. I think this is because of the relationship between the security and network managment teams within many companies. Logically, they should be best buddies. You know, like the kind of pals that would give up the last bottle of Bud Light for one another or the kind of friends that would share a secret fishing hole or lend out their pickup trucks. Problem is, in many organizations they're nothing like that. Oftentimes these teams are adversaries reminiscent of the Greeks and Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which...

It's really a shame because this animosity has some very negative impacts on both areas. For the network management team, they're so afraid to bring up the subject of security that they sometimes ignore this aspect of their network management architecture and framework until late in the game. For example, out of the attendees in yesterday's seminar under 10% were using SNMPv3 as opposed to earlier versions even though their hardware and their network management applications supported it. About 50% were using telnet in place of SSH and several hadn't put in any acess lists or filters to limit management traffic.

It's a little scary when you think about it. With today's available technologies and products you can deploy a powerful, scalable, easy to use, and secure network management system. You just need to plan ahead, choose your products wisely, and know the right places to compromise.

If you missed the event in DC and you'd like to learn more about this ping me and we'll host a webcast on the same subject.

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