Here at SolarWinds, we like to offer options to our customers. A good example of that is the multiple choices we offer for device tracking. We have the Switch Port Mapper which helps with troubleshooting and runs against a single switch. In Network Configuration Manager we implemented some basic device tracking. In User Device Tracker, a new product we are building, we really focus on solving the problems associated with tracking users by offering a dedicated product for device tracking.

For a quick overview of the problems these various solutions solve, refer to this chart. For more details, read on.

Use CaseSPMNCMUDT
Find what port a computer is connected to/XX
Continuous scanning of all network devices XX
Find where a  computer was connected historically  X
Receive an alert when a computer connects to the network  X
Find ports where users have plugged in a hub or AP  X
See a report of how many ports are used on a switch  X
See historical information about port utilization on a switch  X
See a total view of port utilization for your entire environment  X

 

Most long time customers should be familiar with our Switch Port Mapper tool. It was one of our most popular tools in the Engineer’s Toolset. It was so popular, that we wanted to make it more available to our customers so now you can just buy Switch Port Mapper and don’t need the full Toolset! The Switch Port Mapper tool is exactly that, a tool. It is focused on troubleshooting and providing detailed information about a specific switch. You can launch it and run against a single switch to see what is connected to the device and retrieve basic configuration information about the ports (VLAN, Duplex, Speed, etc.). This tool is really helpful for seasoned network administrators as well as newbies who you don’t want to give CLI access to. You can just give them the read only string to a switch and they can get more information that could help in troubleshooting why a device is having drops, can’t connect to the right resource, or just finding what physical port it is connected to (while you’re at it, have your newbie admin clean up your closet, it’s a right of passage and will make everyone’s life better Smile ).

You can buy Switch Port Mapper here, or download a free evaluation of Engineer’s Toolset which includes Switch Port Mapper here.

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In our discussions with customer about Network Configuration Change Management, they often requested the ability to search and find what port a device is connected to on the network. Because of this, we added basic tracking capabilities into SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (NCM). The main use cases for NCM include: backing up and restoring device configurations, configuration compliance, bulk configuration changes, and inventory information. Because of the demand for device tracking, we added limited support for this directly into NCM. You can search for a MAC Address, IP Address, Hostname, and Port Description. The search results will include a report that includes information about where the end host is actively connected. To respond quickly to our customer’s requests, we leveraged certain functionality in NPM, therefore, the NCM User Tracking feature requires both NCM and NPM. For more information on how to use NCM's user tracking, see Leveraging NCM’s “Find Connected Port for End Host” feature.

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For users who need advanced device tracking information as part of a dedicated product, we are building the SolarWinds User Device Tracker (UDT). UDT will be able to find currently connected devices and will store historical information so you can find where something has been connected in the past. Also, we are working on providing alerting and reporting around this data, but that’s not all. Based on how we do data collection, we can provide really good data for network capacity analysis and planning. These are just some of the features we are currently working on for the first release. We plan to continue building out great functionality on top of this base going forward.

 

Here is a look at searching for devices and the results page.

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Also, if you want to use the normal drill drown approach to see what is connected to a specific port, simply use the All UDT Nodes resource on the UDT home page to find the switch and port you are interested in.

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When you click a port, you will get more specific information about what is connected to it.

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One of the cool new features is the Watch List. You can add a computer to the Watch List and easily see where the device is connected. This is helpful if you lost a device or have a specific device that causes problems (virus, zombie, high traffic) and you want to know where it is connected so you can quickly find it and take it off the network.

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Capacity analysis will help you better understand how you are utilizing your environment. Need to add some users to a floor but you don’t really know if you have port capacity? Simply look at and see how many ports are being used. If you need to understand a high level view of your entire network, use the resources on the main UDT page and you can see how many total ports are being used as well as quickly highlighting the top used switches.

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There is much more to come for UDT. After we get out the first release, we will look at the following: more integration with other SolarWinds products (for example: NTA and IPAM), providing Active Directory integration for User information, more wireless information to better identify which AP a user is connected to, device fingerprinting (based on OUI), more reporting and alerting, data center specific information, and advanced endpoint information (think IP phones). I can’t say that we will definitely add these features or when, but these are the types of enhancements we are looking at to solve more of your problems in this area.

In summary, Switch Port Mapper is a quick troubleshooting tool that helps you understand what is connected to a single switch. Network Configuration Manager is a configuration change management solution which includes basic Device Tracking. User Device Tracker is a product focused on providing full features of user and device tracking as well as network capacity analysis.

Hopefully this article helps you understand the difference between the Switch Port Mapper, NCM User Tracking feature, and the User Device Tracker product. We are still working on UDT but we have a Beta available that should help whet your appetite until we can finish it and get it released. If you are interested, take this survey and I will send you the Beta.