We’re seeing a lot of customers lately running Dell PowerConnect switches who want analyze their traffic using Orion NTA. As most of you know, Orion NTA can already handle sFlow, J-Flow, NetFlow, and IPFIX, so it’s not a problem of product support, but rather device configuration. Fortunately, one of our rock star testers (Andrew Court) was able to run through the sFlow configuration instructions in our lab (thanks Jason!) and our friend in Dell Solutions Support Team EMEA (Lam Vuong) hooked us up with troubleshooting steps and final engineering verification. Finally, Doug from our doc team worked his KB magic. I wanted to call these folks out since this was truly a team effort. If this works for you, please thank the folks that actually made it all happen!
You can download the Dell PowerConnect sFlow configuration instructions here.
At one time or another, many of you reading this blog have probably been asked to participate in a survey, beta, RC, or some other type of customer feedback vehicle with SolarWinds. In this blog, I want to show you how we use that feedback, and what a real difference it makes in the product. A while back, I posted some mockups of some What we're working on... the live edition: NCM Improved Policy Reports. A few of you commented, but in all reality, it's really hard to know if something is going to work for you, until you actually work with it. That's why we do user testing. Mock ups can reveal glaring issues, but it's the user testing that really gives us real insight into what's working and what's not.
Screenshot #1 - Main Compliance Page
In NCM 6.0 - the integration module (the tab on NPM) only allows you to view reports. However, functionality we're working on now will allow users to manage reports (rules, policies, the reports themselves) directly from the module. We originally put the "manage" button in the top right of the screen (shown). However, we had a few users miss it in that location, so we just decided to put it both places - see the red boxes below. While this is a simple change - we expect it to save a lot of users a lot of frustration in the future.
Screenshot #2 - Creating Rules
Next - the create a rule page. This one had a *lot* of feedback. Here's what we started with:
The goal here is to make it easy for users to add criteria for rules and to specify if the criteria should apply to the entire config or to each config block, as specified in the "config block start" and "config block end" fields. Let me just summarize by saying: the above layout did not work out at all. Even though it was completely clear to us what went where on the page, when we asked users to create a rule, with no guidance, the interface left a lot to be desired. One of the main problems was that to users, the flow seemed to be out of logical sequence.
So, we put our heads together, and worked through the flow a bit more. Here's where we are now.
What happened here? It's really different isn't it? Let me walk you through what we did - and why. I'll be brief.
1. We named the steps - this adds some context around what you are doing in each section of the page.
2. We added shading to delineate the functionality that is different between "regular" and "advanced" mode.
3. We moved the rule criteria creation area *above* the section where you'll specify where to apply those criteria. This flow makes a lot more sense.
4. We added some more descriptive text. You'll notice that we concentrated this around the area where you define the config block start and end, as that's where users were having the most trouble. We're still working out some of the final text as you can tell from the filler text in the mockup.
So there you go - it's gotten a lot better! Product development for every Orion product works this way - and thanks everyone. From this community, to beta forums, to user testing, and lots of other customer interaction points in between - you all are helping us improve the products every day.
Please join us on October 13th at 11:00 AM (US CST) for an exclusive training session on Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM).
During this 120 minute training session we’ll cover:
- Optimizing hardware configurations for Orion
- Understanding Orion’s architecture
- Installation, discovery, and base configuration
- Leveraging the information that Orion provides
Register Here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/508749456
This class is most beneficial to current users of Orion NPM and will be hosted by Product Managers Brandon Shopp and Mav Turner. Seating is limited, so be sure to register and show up early to ensure a seat.
If you have any questions regarding the training or suggestions for things you’d like to see covered please e-mail us at email@example.com.
Will the training be recorded?
Yes, all of our training sessions are recorded and posted to SolarWinds.com for on-demand playback. We’ll e-mail a link to everyone that registers.
How much is the training?
It’s free to all SolarWinds customers with active maintenance agreements.
Can I forward this to my coworkers?
Yes, forward it on to as many as you’d like, provided your company is active on its maintenance agreement.
If I can’t make this class, will there be others in the future?
Yes, we’ll be sending out announcements for future sessions as they’re scheduled. We’re hoping to invite customers with active maintenance to 3 free trainings a quarter.
We are thinking about technology. More specifically, we are thinking about the technology that you, our users, have deployed and need to manage. We've put together a quick, 5-question survey asking about things like load-balancing and virtual desktops. If you have 2 or 3 minutes, please take the survey. If there's technology that you want to talk with us about that's not in the survey, just post comments to this blog. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Here at the SolarWinds Austin office, we had new guy start in our IT department this week. He’s new to Orion and was taking advantage of his ready access to the product team to get up to speed. One of his first questions was how to run a report that’s limited to business hours. His first attempts at an interface traffic report were fine on the "last few hours” scale, but when he did 24 hours or last 7 days, the average traffic rate dropped because of the relatively light traffic during the middle of the night.
We helped him out, but it reminded me that this particular use case is really common, and to be perfectly honest, the feature is not very well exposed, so some users take a long time to realize that Orion can handle this scenario. Just to prod anyone who hasn’t discovered the feature, a quick primer:
Let’s say you want to limit a report to Monday through Friday during business hours (let’s say 9:00 am to 5:00 pm). To find the feature, you need to open Report Writer (which you’ll find on the Orion Server).
I’m going to use the Average and Peak Traffic – Last 7 Days report.
By default, this report will look at 24 hours of data for the last 7 days. To limit the report to business hours, you need to use the Filter Results tab. Just add a condition, choose Date/Time, and then select “Hour of Day”.
You’ll need to specify the starting time in one condition and the end time in another. For 9-5, you’d specify greater than or equal to 9 and less than or equal to 17, since it needs 24 hour format. This filter will limit the data to business hours.
Limiting data by time of day is not available for most reports. It’s present for availability reports, traffic reports (except for 95th percentile), and historical volume usage reports. In most other reports, it didn’t make much sense. If there are reports where you think business hour limitations would be valuable but we haven’t enabled it, please let us know.
Brandon's A little bit of new and old about the history of computing brought back fond memories of my Apple II+ with 2 floppy drives and the 8088 I have that still boots and runs WordPerfect 4.2. But I started thinking about the evolution of storage arrays and how we monitor them. A lot of you are trying Storage Manager, and you are running into SMI-S Providers for the first time. SMI-S? Provider? What is all this nonsense? Back in the early 1990's, the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) put together the Common Information Model (CIM) to describe managed elements in a computing environment. In 2000, a specification for storage devices based on CIM was created and SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative - Specification) were born.
Why am I beating you with acronyms? Is this important? Yes, because most array vendors prefer to provide information about their arrays via this method, as it allows them to hide most changes to the underlying architecture from reporting and monitoring tools, which is a good thing for all of us. The idea was to provide end-users with a unified way of reporting and managing all storage devices, like SNMP for networking... but more on that later.
A "provider" is simply the software that provides the information about the array to other applications. Each provider is built by the OEM of the Array, and they determine what data it will provide (asset, storage, allocation, mapping and performance data and more). The OEM vendor generally can deliver the provider to the user in three ways:
So depending on your vendor, you may have some work to do before Storage Manager can discover and monitor arrays. Our awesome SMI-S configuration document covers the installation, configuration and troubleshooting of the SMI-S providers that we support - including download links, but here is a quick summary of the steps you need to take to configure the provider and array in Storage Manager.
Separate software installation:
Integrated into the vendor management software:
Embedded into the array:
Next, add the array in Storage Manager
Configure Storage Manager to monitor the array in one of two ways:
This looks like a lot of work, but it is really easy - it should take about 5 minutes the first time you configure a provider and Storage Manager. Next time we will take a deeper look at file analysis.
Note: Here is a quick list of arrays we support and the kind of provider they have:
Separate software installation:
Integrated into the vendor management software:
Embedded in the array (the provider is part of the array software):
No Provider, Storage Manager uses a different methodology:
PS: SMI-S is alive and well, with new extensions to the specifications coming out every couple of years to match pace with new technology. However, since this is only a specification on how to describe the storage device, vendors have been free to embrace and extend the specification, leading to some fragmentation of the availability of data for all arrays. Is this a problem? For Storage Manager, no, it handles the differences, normalizing the data where it can, but extending to support the important data the vendor has included.
I am going to go in a bit of a different direction with this post, however, I am hoping you will enjoy it to learn about some new, terrific tech bloggers and see some cool pictures if computer history. Besides going to shows like Cisco Live or VMWorld, I don’t get much opportunity to travel somewhere to meet face to face with other network engineers. I talk with many of your on the phone and we converse via thwack, however, I was given the opportunity to come and present to a great set of industry tech bloggers here in San Jose and talk to them about SolarWinds and networking in general.
The event is called Tech Field Day and consists of a bunch of companies like us coming to talk with these guys and gals and both educating them further on what you do, but also get their raw, open and honest feedback. Some of the guys and gals you may already know from reading their blogs or subscribing to their twitter feed.
Ivan gives a great write up of his initial impressions of the event in general, but here is what he had to say about us:
Solarwinds did a great job adapting to our knowledge level (quote from their head geek: “It’s so nice to finally get such an audience”). It looks like they’re slowly evolving their element manager product into the right directions (configuration management and auditing, automated provisioning, large-scale deployments, distributed system ...).
You can also watch a video from our Head Geek Josh talking about the event and his thoughts here.
I had some terrific conversations with Terry and Ivan regarding virtual switches and the challenges these pose to network engineers. It resides on an ESX server and is setup and installed automatically by the ESX install. How does the network engineer gain visibility into this switch? Whose problem is it now?
I was able to further validate some of our thoughts here at SolarWinds regarding some ideas we have, but also got some new ones.
Plus I was able to be graced by greatness. Without naming names, I met the guy who came up with up arrow key in Cisco IOS. I think we all owe him a great deal of gratitude. I am sure most know what this does, but just in case, by pressing the up arrow on your keyboard in your telnet/ssh session it will recall your last sets of commands so you don’t have to retype them again. A true time saver!!
At the end of the day we went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and got to see some old school computer and networking history, including the Babbage Engine, which they even fired up and showed us how it worked. For those not familiar with this awesome machine, you can read more here and see a picture of it below.
It may be hard to see the vendor icon on this next picture, but for those who have seen the original Cisco logo, this is one of the first Cisco boxes, the AGS Router
Some of you folks who have been in the networking game for awhile may recognize this next picture. This is an Ethernet cable with two Isolan transceivers.
This picture may not look all that impressive at first glance, but look at my shadow in the platter to help give you a better indicator of the size of it. There are actually two hard drive platters here to help give you an understanding of how far we have come. The large one is 1974 10MB ILLIAC IV platter and in the middle is a 1GB IBM microdrive. To give you a better mental visual of the difference from the two, the 1GB IBM microdrive is smaller by a factor of roughly 40,000.
I wanted to share this experience with everyone cause pretty awesome to how far we have come technologically. It is easy to forget about the origins of computing and networking and take for granted wireless networks and USB drives with gig’s of data etc.
WAN Acceleration products are becoming more pervasive. For companies with more than a handful of remote sites, the technology will grow into a must have. But what are your options for monitoring them? Sure, the vendor supplied management consoles provide information and even alerting capabilities, but that undermines the advantages of a centralized management console for your network. Why not put the information where the rest of your network and application information is?
Some Orion users I talked to have already added their Cisco WAAS and Riverbed Steelhead appliances as nodes into NPM – why not? Right? But most want to know more than CPU, Memory, and Interface utilization. For example, if you want to monitor compression ratio and TCP connections.
We’ve created some content to help you with just that!
You can do this by creating customer pollers for specific SNMP values with this information. If you aren’t already familiar with our custom SNMP pollers (Universal Device Pollers / UnDPs), watch this video, Universal Device Pollers. Essentially, you can poll any SNMP value from any device in SNMP. As one of the sales guys says, if you have a toaster oven that supports SNMP we can monitor it :-)
Here is an example report created for Riverbed devices: WAN Optimization Reports for Orion.
As many Orion IPAM customers know, the product doesn’t currently support detailed tracking on IPs, like when a status was changed, and by who. This is a feature for which we get many, many requests. Although this is a high priority for us to implement in IPAM (see IPAM’s ‘What We’re Working On’ If you're curious as to what we're working on for Orion IPAM...), you have another option for reporting on this data in the product today!
Let’s say you want to see the history of changes on a specific IP. Since these changes generate an Orion event, you can create a report based on messages sent to the event log that contain the IP in question. Here’s how you do it…
Open Report Writer, and create a new report.
Select ‘IPAM Events Log’ for the new report type. Next you’ll want to name the report.
In this report, we’re looking at the historical changes on 10.199.15.1. Now, let’s select the fields we want to use in the report.
The field we want in the report is a an event message. I also added 'Event Time' and 'Username' so we know who made the change and when it was made. Next, we want to appropriately filter the messages in the report to only include those related to 10.199.15.1. Click on the ‘Filter Results’ tab.
Note the filters we’ve applied in the screenshot. We only want to show the messages that contain '10.199.15.1,' and I've specified 'Status' to help filter out many erroneous events we don't care about for this particular report. Now, let’s take a look at the report.
We’ve effectively generated a report that shows us any changes that have been made to the status of 10.199.15.1!
Orion NPM offers some really nifty monitoring and configuration capabilities for Cisco EnergyWise. For the configuration piece, you must have NCM and what I'm going to show you relies on the integration between them. In case you aren't familiar with EnergyWise, here's a blurb from our documentation:
EnergyWise is a Cisco technology developed to help you cut enterprise energy costs, address environmental concerns, and adhere to government directives around green technologies. By deploying EnergyWise capable devices and by enabling their energy-saving features, you can run business-critical systems in a fully powered state while allowing less critical devices on Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports to power down or drop into standby during off-peak hours.
It's good stuff, and with Orion, it's easy to use as well. First - the monitoring. Orion NPM offers a really nice view of your EnergyWise-enabled devices - and in case you haven't seen it - here's what it looks like. To add this tab, simply customize your menu in the "Settings" section. For more about how to do that (and an overview of what is about to get pretty long-winded) - Cisco EnergyWise – What is it and how does Orion NPM help me?. For more about all the resources available - see Chapter 8 in the NPM Admin Guide. Do be sure and give that chapter a quick overview, as there are a number of additional EnergyWise resources available that do not appear on the EnergyWise tab by default. Be sure and customize your view just the way you want it.
Ok - you say - monitoring is great - but what can Orion do to help me configure all my EnergyWise devices? In other words - how do I get here? Hang tight - I'll walk you through it.
First - click on Manage Nodes and choose "Group By" and "EnergyWise." You'll see the nodes sorted by "EnergyWise Capable," "Enabled," and "Not Supported." Here, I chose one that was "Capable" and then chose "Manage EnergyWise" under "More Actions."
Next, you will see this screen:
Here you can make all your required configuration changes - and NPM generates and NCM then applies a script to the selected node(s) and interface(s). Once you apply the changes - you can double check that they were applied by going to NCM (Configs tab), clicking "Manage Configurations" and then View By: "Transfer Status." Select the device you applied the EnergyWise changes to, and you check the results and even select to see the script that was run.
For detailed information about all the fields in the screenshot above - what they mean and what you might want to set them to in your environment - don't forget to check out Chapter 8 in the NPM Admin Guide.
To go one step further and set policies, you'll choose an interface and then edit the interface itself in "Manage EnergyWise."
Just check whichever box you'd like to enter a value for - and enter what you need. When you check "Recurrence Policy" you get the screen below.
With recurrence polices - you can easily define how resources should be allocated. You'll notice that my node already has one policy defined (it's the line beginning Level 7...) - any additional policies you define will also appear in the list, so you can manage them as needed.
Remember - you'll need both NPM and NCM to manage the configurations in this way - so if you don't see the manage option and you only have NPM... you know what the problem is.
Try it out - it's easy to use - and powerful too.
That was an old Austin Powers reference for those who missed it ;-) So, what do I mean by this? Well, a question we get asked all the time by customers is “How do I get the pretty charts I see on my Orion website into a report that I can send to my boss on a regular basis to make him/her happy?”. Seems like a reasonable request, right? But, before I dive into this topic, you’ll need to ask yourself what types of reports does your boss care about seeing? Does she want the charts as well as the detailed data behind the charts? Or, would she be perfectly happy with the Orion website pages she’s seen while looking over your shoulder?
Let’s start with the latter use-case since it’s the simplest and requires only a few steps in Orion Report Scheduler.
How to send an existing Orion website page as a scheduled HTML email to your boss:
To begin, you’ll need to open the Report Scheduler app on your Orion server (Start > All Programs > SolarWinds Orion > Alerting, Reporting, and Mapping > Orion Report Scheduler). Click the Add+ button to create a new report job. You’ll see the following screen where you’ll want to fill in the job name and click Continue.
On the next screen, you’ll see a prompt to add a link to a Web Report or Page in Orion.
Rather than try to find this URL manually, simply click on the ‘…’ button and you’ll see a browser pop up where you can navigate to the Orion website page you want. In this example, I’d like to send the “Top 10 List” page so I’ve logged in and navigated to that page below.
When you click the “Use Current URL” button, this will automatically populate the previous screen as you can see below. Notice that I’ve also checked the “Retrieve a Printable Version of this Page” option. This will remove the banner and the menu bar from the page. BTW, if you’re like me and you can’t stand to wait, try adding “&printable=true” to the URL in Orion to see what the page will look like when it’s sent.
When I click “Continue”, you’ll see I can set up my schedule. In this case, I’m going to send it every morning at 8am. You can also schedule it to be sent weekly, monthly, or just this once.
Finally, you’ll need to enter the email address of the folks you want to send it to. If you want the email to actually go anywhere ;-), make sure to also fill out field on the “Email From” and “SMTP Server” tabs.
Click “Continue” one more time, enter the Windows credentials you want this job to run under (use a service account whose password doesn’t change often), and then you’re done! You should see your new job listed in the Report Scheduler window. If you want to run it now to test, simply right-click and select “Run Selected Job Now”. Just be aware that if it works, your boss will be getting the email each time you run the job!
NOTE: Some of you may have issues with your email server gobbling graphics in HTML pages. If you can’t work around this, fear not because we’ve got a solution in the works. As noted on So what’s on tap next for Orion NPM, we’re working on enhancing Report Scheduler to allow you to send Orion pages and reports as PDF email attachments in addition to HTML.
Ok, but what about first use-case? That is, the management team that wants their charts and their detailed table-based data too? Well, you have a couple of options in Orion to address that need. It’s a little more involved so I’ll talk you through that in part 2 of this series.
In the meantime, have a great weekend and please let me know in your comments if there’s anything else you’d like covered in part 2!
Science and engineering types like to know things. Knowing feels good, even when it lacks practical application. It feels even better when it is practical. With this axiom in mind, this post will explain Orion APM’s Application Discovery process.
In the discovery wizard, you select a group of servers first:
Next, you select a set of application templates.
With the servers and application templates chosen, you provide a set of credentials that should work on the target servers. I guess you could try credentials that you don’t expect to work, but that seems pointless. Still, to each his own.
APM takes these three sets of data and conducts its discovery. It considers each server in turn. It will take the first server, the first set of credentials and the first application template and test the template against this server to see if there is a match. What determines whether there is a match? Under Advanced Scan Settings, there are four settings
Minimal Match = at least 1 component in the template works on the target node
Partial Match = at least 35 percent of the components in the templates work on the target node
Strong Match = at least 65 percent of the components in the templates work on the target node
Exact Match = all of the components in the templates work on the target node
To be complete, we compute percentage as (number of successful components)/(total number of components), where success is a component in the Up, Warning, or Critical states.
Here’s the full discovery process as a flowchart:
So what can you do with this info? One takeaway is that the discovery process is serial. If you pick a large number of servers, a larger number of application templates, and a lot of different credentials, the process will take unnecessarily long. Use Domain Admin credentials, or similarly broad credentials, if you have them. Furthermore, break your servers into groups such as Windows, Linux, Unix. Break them down further if you have have naming schemes that tell you which servers are running apps such as Exchange. There are different Exchange templates for different roles, and the discovery process will automatically sort that out.
That’s a fairly complete explanation of how the application discovery process works, but please post questions if there’s more you want to know.