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Geek Speak

5 Posts authored by: craig schnarrs


Like everyone else, I am very busy at my job, and I tend to be a jack of all trades. I find myself running from fire to fire, getting things under control. I wish I had time to be more proactive and do everything according to the text book.  But, the reality of a short staffed global manufacturing company doesn’t always allow for such luxuries. 


Sometimes things are insanely busy and I don’t know how I get through the day, every once in a while there is a lull in the action and it’s during these times I try to focus on making my network management station better and catch up with a lot of proactive maintenance. I know that in the long run, every hour I spend on the NMS, will be multiplied my times over in stress savings and performance improvements


These lulls don’t happen very often and when they do, I don’t have months to learn an overly complex, high priced NMS, that requires a degree in computer programming in order to get the simplest tasks done.  I know what I need to get done.  I just need to translate that into a task in the NMS.


That’s why I really like the Solarwinds suite of network management products, they are cost effective, easy to use, easy to install, and very easy to run and maintain and if I ever have an issue , I can just go jump on over to the thwack community and find what I’m looking for quickly and efficiently.  There are so many great products from Solarwinds.


They are a company that truly gets it, they understand that I don’t have a lot of time, to spend on learning SQL programming or Oracle databases, or PERL reports.  I just want to monitor my network, with a user friendly graphical user interface.  A few clicks here and there and I am literally up and running. 


Network management is not the main part of my job, in fact it’s a rather small part. I need to run and protect the business and keep the lights on and the machines running. There is such a huge return on investment, with Orion, it has saved my bacon many times, while nothing is perfect , I have to say that I am very happy and sleep better at night knowing I got someone watching my back. I hate being woken up by the pager at 3am, but  that happens a lot less nowadays. I know now what the problem is and get to work on fixing it, instead of fumbling around wondering what happened, and having people asking me for status every 5 minutes.


How are you using your NMS, is it your full time job? I think most people are like me, they have a lot of other things to get done.  I am so thankful the product is so easy to use, it really makes my job that much better.


It’s hard to fix something if you don’t know what is broken. And my NMS is my eye in the sky. Those help desk tickets won’t stop coming in. The phone doesn’t stop ringing, but hey I got this. How bout you?

I work at a global automotive manufacturer and they have offices all over the globe, and one of the ways we use our network management for is capacity planning. For example, if I have a plant in Bejing China, I can set an alert to let me know when a circuit is going over a predefined threshold and when it does, I can start the process of ordering a new circuit. As you might imagine, the logistics of ordering a circuit in China is full of all kind of red tape and is going to take a while to get into place. I can use all the head start that I can get and Orion gives me the lead time I need to get things done.

 

Another thing I really like NMS for is to be able to monitor manufacturing plants all over the globe, where their main job is to build cars and not information technology.  Where any outage can cost, thousands to millions of dollars, and the pressure is on.  Orion helps me do my job, so I can help the workers do their job.  This way we can deliver enterprise class IT support with a skeleton crew at the actual site.

 

Some Network management systems are hard to use and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you need a PHD to figure them out.  Orion is so easy to use and there is so much help from the online community, Just click here, input a bit of management information and you’re up and running.  It’s not all roses and chocolate, but you can be up and running in a few hours , or a few days. This is in contrast to a few months or years with other overly complicated network management systems, that require plenty of well paid consultants eating up the projects budget.

 

One particular incident, I can recall recently is our chassis switches switching blades turned out to have a manufacturing defect in them. This defect only manifested itself above a certain temperature. When the defect hit, the blade just shut down.  Production stopped, pagers went off and phones rang, everyone wanted to know when the network was going to be back up again, and why it went down. I got the blade RMA’ed to the manufacturer, and the problem was solved.

 

I then found out this was a widespread defect and the only way to tell if a blade was affected was to send in the serial number to the manufacturer. Network management to the rescue, I was able to gather all the serial numbers from all the blades on all the switches globally. Let me tell you hundreds of blades were part of this problem and they are now being scheduled to be replaced instead of waiting for them to fail. NMS saved my hide this time, a massive failure like that would not have been fun. Orion has paid for itself so many times over, it’s just a no brainer, a necessary tool of the trade.

 

To Summarize, Network management Is good for Capacity planning, monitoring sites without a full IT staff, network inventory , so you know how your network is put together. And finally Orion is just so easy to use. Just set it up and let it do its job. I couldn’t imagine how I would do my job without it and stay sane.

 

It’s so much better to be proactive , then reactive, while nothing is perfect, NMS can make your job a lot easier and maybe even a bit of fun.  It’s the shock absorbers , that help you avoid the pot holes of an IT career, so relax and enjoy, it’s going to be a smoother ride from here on out.

Network management is good, but there are some benefits that are not so apparent at first. It gives you the proof you need when that person calls the help desk and says “the network is slow..” at this point you have to clarify the issue with the user and find out exactly what the problem is. Once you have obtained the details, you can then check your NMS, to find out if there is an issue, one of three things is going to happen, you find a problem and you can correct it, or you don’t find a problem and prove the user is incorrect.

 

The thing you wont have is “ I don’t know if there is a problem“ and that is the one that will drive you crazy. Because the user is sure there is a problem and unless you can offer authoritative proof the finger pointing cycle will begin, and this is a place no one wants to be. You know there is not a problem with the network, but the user needs proof, Solarwinds Orion is what gives you this proof, that can be taken to the client and say, its not my opinion,  that the network is not slow , here are  the facts.. circuit xyz has a utilization of 20% and is nowhere near being saturated.

 

I had a user call into the help desk and claim the network was slow, he placed a ticket that his mission critical system was slow and this was causing a production problem. The help desk created a high priority ticket and sent it over to my team. I looked at the ticket and checked my Orion server , for the problem area that was reported I saw no issues,  I created a report to backup my findings. I called the user and explained that based on the facts I have obtained , there was no problem.

 

The user told me , that there was indeed a problem , he had just moved from building 3  to building 1 and when he was in building one he ran a speedtest from speed test.net and it was five times faster in his old building. He even showed me some print screens of his findings.

 

In reality , there was no problem, but if I didn’t have the facts to back me up, the finger pointing would start and it would just spiral out of control and at that point nobody would be happy . like they always say “the truth shall set you free”  and it sure did in this case.  

 

Orion, has saved so much time and frustration, and I sleep better at night knowing that yes there will still be network problems, but I will be able to answer that question, Is there a problem? If yes, then I fix it , if not I can prove it. but I never have to deal with I don’t know, and that my friends is a wonderful thing. Bye, bye  finger pointing hello productive day. How much is your time worth?

Network management is good, but there are some benefits that are not so apparent at first. It gives you the proof you need when that person calls the help desk and says “the network is slow..” at this point you have to clarify the issue with the user and find out exactly what the problem is. Once you have obtained the details, you can then check your NMS, to find out if there is an issue, one of three things is going to happen, you find a problem and you can correct it, or you don’t find a problem and prove the user is incorrect.

 

The thing you wont have is “ I don’t know if there is a problem“ and that is the one that will drive you crazy. Because the user is sure there is a problem and unless you can offer authoritative proof the finger pointing cycle will begin, and this is a place no one wants to be. You know there is not a problem with the network, but the user needs proof, Solarwinds Orion is what gives you this proof, that can be taken to the client and say, its not my opinion,  that the network is not slow , here are  the facts.. circuit xyz has a utilization of 20% and is nowhere near being saturated.

 

I had a user call into the help desk and claim the network was slow, he placed a ticket that his mission critical system was slow and this was causing a production problem. The help desk created a high priority ticket and sent it over to my team. I looked at the ticket and checked my Orion server , for the problem area that was reported I saw no issues,  I created a report to backup my findings. I called the user and explained that based on the facts I have obtained , there was no problem.

 

The user told me , that there was indeed a problem , he had just moved from building 3  to building 1 and when he was in building one he ran a speedtest from speed test.net and it was five times faster in his old building. He even showed me some print screens of his findings.

 

In reality , there was no problem, but if I didn’t have the facts to back me up, the finger pointing would start and it would just spiral out of control and at that point nobody would be happy . like they always say “the truth shall set you free”  and it sure did in this case.  

 

Orion, has saved so much time and frustration, and I sleep better at night knowing that yes there will still be network problems, but I will be able to answer that question, Is there a problem? If yes, then I fix it , if not I can prove it. but I never have to deal with I don’t know, and that my friends is a wonderful thing. Bye, bye  finger pointing hello productive day. How much is your time worth?

It's amazing,


I used to think, my network was running pretty well, a few hiccups now and then, but by and large, I got by and thought everything was business as usual, the boss would ask me: "Craig how is the network today?" and I would say "it's fine boss". Flash ahead to fiscal year's end, and there is some money left in the budget and I am given fifteen minutes to decide what tools to buy otherwise the money doesn't get spent. Most people wouldn't be prepared for this, but I was ready. I pulled out my wish list and said I want SolarWinds Orion NPM. After a few frantic calls to the vendor of choice, it was all set. I'm thinking, this is great that I got this, but I probably won't use it that much, because we have no problems.. and it's going to take forever to install, and the learning curve will be immense. In reality, the software was really easy and intuitive to install; point here, click here, answer a few questions and it was done.But, why was there so much red everywhere? This must be a software bug, because my network has no problems..  I spent the rest of the day tweaking and twiddling about, and I have to say, it was like turning the light on in a dark room. I was able to solve a lot of long standing problems, some of them that I didn't even know I had.

 

There was the switch with a bad blade that always had problems intermittently, but never failed, so no alarm was tripped. After being alerted to this, I had the blade replaced and things began to run clean. Sometimes the network was slow but I never could attribute it to any single cause, it usually coincided with a home game at the local ballpark. Turns out a lot of non-work related web streaming was going on, and some other folks were enjoying Netflix.

There was the router that went down even though it had redundant power supplies, but no one ever saw when the first one went down, but people sure noticed went the second one failed.. I setup an alert to monitor this and several other things. The major cost of IT where I work is no so much the hardware or software, it's the cost of actually scheduling time with union, paying for the lift truck, just the logistics were mind boggling and intensive and nobody wanted downtime. I am now able to easily automate and monitor my network, and do a lot more proactive monitoring and forecasting. I am just as busy as I was before, the difference is now I have a better view of what is going on with the network and I can act proactively instead of reactively. I have a lot less stress. I have lost fifty pounds and I have a corner office.. lol.. just kidding.. but I do get to sleep through the weekends without the pager going off at 3am and I still go to the same amount of meetings, but now they are more about future planning instead of postmortems.

 

What about you guys? Can anyone share a general process of things you might monitor and proactively forecast? Any tips and tricks pertaining to procedure are greatly appreciated!

I am now a believer in network performance management. It has really paid for itself many times over.

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