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denny.lecompte

Certifiable!

Posted by denny.lecompte May 27, 2010

If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly an Orion user or a potential Orion user.  But are you a SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP)?  Probably not.  At least not yet. Should you be?  I think you should.  Here’s why: 

Engineers can be a cynical lot, so some of you are probably thinking we created the SCP program to make money.  Hardly.  It’s $150 for you to take the exam, and by the time we’ve paid for the overhead involved in administering the test, we don’t really make anything.  If we want to make money, we sell software.  No one gets rich giving exams.

Our real goal with SCP was to create some recognition for our customers.  Our customers manage networks, and they make the investment in Orion because they want to be good at managing networks.  What’s the use of deploying a bunch of hardware if there’s no one with the skill to keep it running well?  We observed that there are certifications to demonstrate that someone understands the network hardware and IOS, but before SCP there was no program to demonstrate that someone was a top-notch network manager.  That’s the problem we were trying to solve.  We created SCP to provide some external validation for our customers’ skills.  It’s not exactly altruistic—external validation of your skills also highlights the value of our products.  Hopefully, it’s a formula that serves all of us.  With these goals in mind, we created a test that highlights both network management knowledge and Orion product knowledge. 

The next question we usually get is whether SCP really proves anything.  Well, SCP isn’t simple to pass.  It certainly wasn’t simple to create.  We (the PMs, the Head Geek, some veteran Support folks, and a few other network-y folks) spent weeks working with testing professionals to ensure that random jokers can’t just walk in and pass the test.  It requires study and concerted effort.  To pass it, you really need to know a lot about managing a network, and you need to know quite a bit about using Orion to do so.  But that effort will prove to your current boss and, just as importantly, to your next boss that you know what you’re doing. 

If you’re not sure you have the skills the pass, then maybe signing up for the SCP is just the motivation you need to get down to your fighting weight, if you know what I mean.  After you pass the exam, you’ll have SCP certification, but you’ll also know Orion that much better and you’ll probably learn something new about how to troubleshoot a network problem.

That’s the story behind the SCP.  If you want to prove what a bad-#$* engineer you are, the only alternative I can think of is to get a big tattoo of the SolarWinds logo somewhere that current and potential bosses can’t possibly miss.  SCP’s a little more conventional, though, and less likely to draw fire from your spouse or partner. 

 

SCP home page

thwack forum dedicated to SCP

Preparation Guide for the SCP exam

Register for the SCP exam

denny.lecompte

Cloudy Days

Posted by denny.lecompte May 26, 2010

Cloud computing has become an inescapable topic of conversation.  It’s certainly true for us when we talk to analysts and journalists.  Even though our products specifically target well-worn grooves in the IT landscape, we’re continually probed about our approach to cloud computing.  We do have a perspective on cloud, by the way.  We’ve given it a lot of thought and we believe there’s something real behind the hype, but our observation is that the media seem to be following the usual course of overestimating the short-term impacts and underestimating the long-term impacts. 

 

We (across many parts of SolarWinds) talk to customers a lot, and our collective impression, so far, is that the hyperkinetic discussions about cloud remain mostly that—talk.  It’s not something that a typical Orion customer is wrestling with on a daily or weekly basis.  But maybe we’re wrong and there’s a lot going on, even though you all aren’t talking to us about it.  So we’re asking because we’re curious.  What’s up with you and cloud?  What does it mean to you?  Are you thinking about cloud projects?  Do you have cloud projects in progress?  Are you already so cloud-centric that you’re actually thinking about the next shiny thing and can’t believe how last-week we are?  Is your management asking you about cloud computing?

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

bshopp

VMWare monitoring for all

Posted by bshopp May 25, 2010

Since GA a couple weeks ago on NPM 10.0, there have been a few threads on thwack asking various questions about VMWare support, so I wanted to review the features and talk about those questions.

Question: So what exactly is different from our support from 9.5 vs. 10.0?   
Answer: We are not pulling any new data that we did not pull in 9.5.  What has changed is the methods in which we gather this data.  Instead of just relying only on SNMP, we are now also leveraging the VMWare API to gather some data.  See the below matrix for what we gather and how we gather it across the different versions and editions of VMWare.

In 9.5 we only supported ESX 3.5 formally.  Now that we are going through the API for some data we also now support vSphere 4 and can gather some information from ESXi.

3.5

3i

4

4i

Discover as ESX

API

API

API

API

Poll Volumes

SNMP

N/A

SNMP

N/A

Poll Interfaces

SNMP

N/A

SNMP

Partial SNMP (missing traffic)

Poll CPU

SNMP

N/A

SNMP

SNMP

Poll Memory

SNMP

N/A

SNMP

SNMP

Total Memory/CPU and Network Traffic Utilization

API

API

API

API

Guest VM List

API

API

API

API

Question: How do I setup SNMP across the various editions?   
Answer: Take a look at the doc we created configuration_of_SNMP_on_vmware_esx_3.5_and_4.0.pdf.  This walks you through with screenshots on how to set this up.

Question: How do I setup API Access on the various editions and what level of permissions does this user need?   
Answer: Take a look at the doc we created how_to_create_credentials_for_vmware_api_on_vmware_esx_3.5_and_4.0.pdf.  This walks you through with screenshots on how to set this up.  As for the user permission required for the API account, you only need RO access.

Question: Are you going through my vSphere server to gather this data through the API?   
Answer: No, we are not currently going directly through vSphere.  We are going to each ESX server individually.

Question: How do I troubleshoot if I can connect via the API?   
Answer: See if you can open a browser and connect to the IP Address of the ESX box and login with the account you are using in Orion.

Question: So I don’t want to setup SNMP on my ESX servers, do I need to have both SNMP and API for this to work?   
Answer: No, you don’t need to use both, just be aware based on the above chart you will only get certain info if you choose to only monitor via SNMP or API and not both.

Question: So I don’t have SNMP currently setup on my ESX servers, can you figure out which ones are ESX boxes?   
Answer: Yes, if you setup a discovery profile in Network Sonar you can choose to Poll for ESX.  We will the analyze the discovery results to determine which IP’s we discovered which support the VMWare API (see the first screenshot below).  Even if you don’t have the credentials we will notify you that we found some ESX servers (see the second screenshot below).

image

image

Question: So what happens if I vMotion a guest from one ESX to another, do I need to go into Orion and update it manually?   
Answer: No, during the next polling cycle we will automatically detect this and make the appropriate changes within Orion to continue to monitor it as long as the two ESX servers are managed in Orion.  If only one is, you will just see it disappear and no longer being monitored.

That pretty much covers what I wanted to talk about today.  I would recommend also checking out these posts Denny and Chris did previously about other things you can do with VMWare and Orion Look Mom, I’m Virtual! and A Series of Unfortunate Events: Using Orion’s Syslog Server to Monitor VMware Events

I always like to end with some sweet screenshots, so check out below which I took from our online demo here

image

image

So you have probably heard of Profiler, Solarwinds' storage and virtual infrastructure product, but as an Orion customer, you might ask what can I do with Profiler?
 
Let's drill down on a specific common storage use case - monitoring and reporting on VMware  DataStores.  DataStores are the hub of storage, providing capacity to the virtual infrastructure (VM, snapshots, logs, etc.).  Running out of space on your DataStore is a bad thing, and there are two ways Provider can help you avoid it.

First, good old fashioned alerting.  Just navigate to the Rules Page, press Add New Rule and choose Threshold Rules. From there, change your drop down to match these below, then you can select a condition to alert on (% Usage, Free GB or Used GB).  Note you can select "Any" DataStore, or pick specific ones of interest.

When the threshold is crossed, Profiler can send a trap, execute a script, or send you an email… we can even alert you through Orion, but that is another post. 
 
Second, you can use the reporting engine to forecast when you are going to run out of storage in the future.  Profiler calculates the growth rate of each DataStore and forecasts when the next thresholds will be passed, allowing you to address problems before they happen.

We can see both these DataStores will be out of storage this soon... better go talk to our admins before bad things happen :).

One more thing you can do with DataStores is End-to-End mapping, where Profiler maps the DataStore to its source LUN on the array.  More on how to use End-to-End reports next time.

Orion v10 is now officially GA and we’ve got a lot of great feedback from the community about the the new network topology features.   More specifically, the new ConnectNow feature in Network Atlas, which allows you to automatically draw direct network connections between nodes in maps.   If you haven’t discovered this feature yet, it’s worth checking out a video run-through of ConnectNow by our very own Head Geek, Josh Stephens.

Ok, so we promised you something to tinker with, and if isn’t ConnectNow, what is it?  Well, based on how excited folks got about the topology features in v10, we’ve decided to provide a hands-on sneak preview of some really cool network topology resources we’ve got cooking in dev!   

Mandatory disclaimer:  These resources are NOT supported by SolarWinds and should be considered “SolarWinds Labs” prototypes.  We’re also not guaranteeing a particular release in which they’ll be included.   However, we’d love to get your feedback early so we can consider incorporating any ideas you have ;-)

Here’s how to get started…

Install the resources on your Orion server

1. Make sure your Orion server is upgraded to NPM v10.0 or greater.   The resources won’t work with earlier versions.

2. Make sure you’ve run a scheduled network discovery after your upgrade to Orion NPM 10.0.  This will ensure that network topology data is available in the Orion database for use by ConnectNow and the prototype topology resources.

3. Download the network topology resource zip file from the Orion 10 Topology Resources and save it to your Orion server

4. Unzip the folder contents to your Orion website directory.  By default this is C:\InetPub\SolarWinds\

5. Unzip folder contents to any additional Orion websites you have in your environment.   

Add the resources to your Orion views

1. Navigate to a Node Details View and select Customize Page button.  You’ll find the new resources under the Summary Reports heading.

The new resources are called:

  • Core Network Topology
  • NPM Network Topology

Each may be added to either summary or detail views. 

2. Go ahead and add the NPM Network Topology resource to your view.  Notice that the resource is filtered by that Node, so that only the discovered topology connections between that node and other nodes are displayed.   Note, similar to ConnectNow, you may not see connections listed for a node if it’s not included in your scheduled discovery or it doesn’t support the BRIDGE MIB required to retrieve topology information.

image

Start tinkering and posting feedback

We hope you find the new resources valuable and we’re really looking forward to your feedback.  As noted above, you can’t call support but we’d love it if you could post any comments, questions, etc. to Feedback on prototype network topology resources

 



In the nature of all the sneak-peak goodness we’ve been blogging about for Orion 10 (things like Down! Down, I say!, Sometimes it’s just the little things…., Community Karma – New alert variables for view drill-downs in Orion 10.0!, and Keepin’ it Real – Retaining the Source IP), I wanted to give you a sneak peak at two extremely cool features in the upcoming release of the Engineer’s Toolset 10.6.  Now, let’s talk browsers.  Since we first released the Orion-Toolset integration, it has relied on ActiveX and has therefore been limited to Internet Explorer.  The Toolset integration with Orion now works with Firefox!  Check out the screenshot, and, NO, this is not a result of some creative Photoshop’ing.

Firefox Toolset Integration 3.

Once you’ve upgraded to 10.6, there is one trick to get this working.  We’ve included an integration utility you’ll need to copy over to and run on your Orion server (see screenshot below).  If you don’t see the Toolset right-click menus in Firefox after running the utility, just restart IIS and you should be good to go.

Firefox Toolset Integration Utility.

In addition to Firefox support, we’ve also added the ability to import devices into the Workspace Studio from a number of different sources, including your Orion NPM database.  You can now also import devices from Toolset NPM, the Classic Toolset Network Sonar, the Classic Toolset Credentials Manager, or any SQL or Access Database.  From the Workspace Studio select the Device menu >> Import Devices.

WS Device Import Options.

If you want to import your Orion NPM devices, select SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Monitor Database, and enter your credentials and connection information for your Orion database.

WS Device Import Credentials.

Next, you’ll assign columns you want to import.

 WS Device Import Assign Columns.

Then, select the rows for the devices you want to import from Orion.

WS Device Import Select Rows.

Last, you can avoid adding any duplicates you may have already added to Workspace Studio.

WS Device Import Import Options.

That’s it!  Now your Orion devices are available in Workspace Studio.

WS Device Import Import Devices Added.

If you're an Orion customer and you haven't tried the Engineer's Toolset, you can learn more about it here.

One of the super snazzy new features you'll find in NCM 6 is Config Change Templates. The concept is something like the Config Generator Free Tool, but much more powerful - and integrated right into NCM so you can not only generate the CLI - you can push it right out to the devices in one easy flow. We envision this having lots of applications on the power-user side of the spectrum, in that you can create some really powerful templates, save them, share them, and re-apply them at will. We also see new users finding this feature very useful, as the wizard-like interface takes a lot of the complexity out of creating basic config change scripts. 

How does it work? Well, let me show you.  NCM 6.0 comes out of the box with a few config change templates, along with a base template to get your started if you'd like to write your own. 

 

1. To get started - choose a template, and click "Define Variables and Run." That will start the wizard: 

 

2. Next, you'll be asked which nodes to apply the changes to. Just check them off, and choose "Next." 

3. Then, you'll be asked to define the variables. Depending on the config change template, the variables might be drop downs as above, or they might be text fields. Click next, and the CLI will generate. 

4. Once the scripts are done, click on the + sign to preview the CLI in-line, or click the link to preview it in a new window. If everything looks good, click "Execute" to run the script against the selected nodes.  

 

5. To import shared templates from Thwack - click the tab and you can preview what is available directly from within NCM. Check the boxes next to any of them you'd like to import, click import, and they are yours!

 

Again, we see lots of applications for all experience levels of users. Users without advanced scripting or CLI knowledge can leverage prepackaged and shared config change yemplates to execute config changes by simply filling out a few simple variables. At the same time, advanced users can create advanced Config Change Templates that allow retrieval of inventory data and use of logic (e.g. if/then/else) and variables to make decisions.  You can also quickly define the user interface used for variable definition during config change template execution (more on that in a future post). 

We're not far away from GA with NCM 6.0 - stay tuned - we're excited to get everyone's feedback on the new release. 

My Trapped! …but not in a bad way, and I still seem to have traps on the brain.  So here’s another trap-related feature introduced in NPM 10.  The problem we were trying to solve with this feature is how to mark an interface as down as quickly as possible. 

 

By default, NPM checks the status of interfaces every 120 seconds.  The way NPM determines interface status is different than How Does Orion Mark a Node as Down?.  For interfaces, we check that status with an SNMP query of the appropriate MIB on the node.  If the MIB says it’s down, we mark it down.  If the MIB says it’s up, we mark it up.  If the whole node is down or otherwise unavailable, then the query fails and we mark the interfaces on that node as unknown.  Consequently, if an interface goes down, the delay to marking it down would be, on average, about a minute.  Now, in most cases that is more than soon enough.  Still, there are times when you want the interface marked down immediately.  We introduced a relatively simple way to accomplish this goal.

 

The key scenario where two-minute polling isn’t good enough is when an interface is “flapping”; that is, it’s alternating rapidly between up and down.  So it’s possible for it to go down and back up again between two polls.  That’s where the new feature comes in:  When an interface goes down, the node hosting that interface can send an SNMP trap indicating the change in status.  In NPM 9.x (or even 8.x), you can create a trap rule that sends an email that tells you the interface is down, but the status of the interface will remain up (i.e., a happy green dot) until the change in status is detected on the next poll. For those times when you just can’t wait, we added a new alert action.  So in addition to the email, you can now directly change the status of the interface to down. 

 

Note that this will only work with nodes that send the standard MIB-2 LinkDown trap (1.3.6.1.2.1.11.0.2), which should be true of all MIB-2 compliant devices.  And when you set up an alert, you’ll need to create a rule that matches on the string “linkdown” in the Trap Details tab (see the blog called “Trapped! …but not in a bad way…” for how to do this).  Once you create the rule, simply add the new alert action.  It’s the last one of the list.  Go to the Alert Actions tab and click “Add Action”.  Scroll to the bottom of the list and select “Change the status of an interface”.

 

image

 

 

 

Click “OK” and you’ll be asked to choose what status you want to set.  Most of the time it’ll be “down”, but feel free to go crazy with it. 

 

image

 

image

 

And that’s it.  What happens in the bowels of Orion is that the alert action will update the status field in the database for the target interface.  On the next regularly scheduled poll of that interface, the status will be updated.  If the interface is truly down, then it will still be down when the SNMP poll checks.  Of course, it’s possible that the interface just went down for an instant, triggered the trap, and then came back up.  In that case, the status will go back to up.  Regardless, you’ll have had a very quick notification of status change.

Sometimes it’s just the little things that get me excited about a new release.  Orion NPM 10.0 is loaded full of great new features, but one little gem which you may not notice right away makes us happy.  I have already had a few users find this and either post on Great ATLAS Icons - finally.... or email about how awesome this was.

 

Many of you who have been with SolarWinds for some time know the old icons in Map Maker and Network Atlas and let’s just say there was room for improvement. :)

 

With 10.0, we overhauled the icons and you can now find tons of great networking icons to use in your network maps, see below

 

image

 

So in the past you had to create custom icons and import then.  You can still do this with 10, we have just hopefully made that something you need to do less frequently now.  You can now go into the image library and select from over 100 different network-related icons to use.

 

image

 

A special thank you to Cisco for creating and posting these icons for use.

You probably have heard by now, but SolarWinds has a new product that gives you insight into your storage, virtualization infrastructure and backups, all from a single pane of glass – Profiler. But as an Orion customer, you might ask what can I do with Profiler? 

Focusing on storage, here are a number of ways Profiler can help you understand and optimize your environment:

  • One view for all your storage:  Look across all your storage and know how it configured, where it is allocated and how much is used. 



  • End-to-End Mapping:  Tired of keeping your LUN to server spreadsheet up to date in a virtual world?  We do that automatically for iSCSI, FC and NFS connectivity – all in a single report! 



  • Reclaim storage: Find unallocated LUNs on your arrays and unformatted or underused storage on your servers.  



  • Find files:  Profiler can categorize your storage by type, age and ownership and then show you the details of the files - find all those MP3 stashes eating up your space!



  • Forecast the future: Look at growth rates at all levels of your storage (Array, Datastore, File System) so you can understand how much storage your are going to need in the year (or two or three). 
  • Tier your storage: Review the performance of your arrays and LUNs, so you know what kind of storage you need to meet your needs.  iSCSI vs. FC vs. NFS? Fast Disk vs. slow disk?  All the data you need is in Profiler.

    So now you know some of the things you can do with Profiler right out of the box, future posts will drill down into grouping, reporting and  alerting, and give you a preview of things to come.

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