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Server & Application Monitor 5.5 Release Candidate has been available for a few weeks, and now RC3 is available for download through the customer portal for all existing SAM product owners under active maintenance. Throughout the beta process I've written about several new features that expand SAM's capabilities beyond simply monitoring applications. Another example of this, is newly added support for monitoring network interface performance of Windows servers via WMI. Once an exclusive feature of Network Performance Monitor, known primarily for monitoring switches, routers, firewalls, network load balancers, and other network gear, NPM has been the industry’s de facto standard in network performance monitoring for a generation of network engineers the world over. Now SAM 5.5 gains some of this NPM goodness by providing users visibility into their Windows servers network performance, and allowing them to diagnose and troubleshoot server network issues that commonly result in latency, packet loss, and overall poor application performance.

 

When you add a Windows Node to SAM via WMI, or List Resources on an existing WMI managed node, a listing of network interfaces installed in the server is presented. Select the interfaces on the server you want to monitor and you're done. It's just that simple, with no need to enable or configure SNMP.

List Resources WMI Interfaces.png

  • The listing of interfaces you see in SAM mirror those shown in the Windows Network Control Panel of the server being monitored.

Windows Network Interfaces.png

  • Once monitored, a listing of these interfaces and their current utilization is shown on the Node Details view of the managed Windows host in SAM.

Current Percent Utilization.png

Interface Details.png

 

Clicking on any interface in this resource takes you to the Interface Details view, where general information about the selected network interface, such as MAC address, interface type, and link speed can be found. In this view you'll also notice a plethora of network interface performance information. Interface utilization, Min/Max/Average bits per-second, packets per-second, as well as errors and discards, both current and historical, are all available to help aid in diagnosing Windows server and application performance issues.

Min/Max/Average bps In/OutPercent UtilizationTotal Bytes TransferedErrors and Discards
MinMaxAvgBps.png

Percent Utilization.png

Total Bytes Transfered.png

Errors and Discards.png

 

The best news of all is that network interface monitoring for Windows machines via WMI is essentially free, as it's included as part of the node license. Now what does that mean exactly? If you're already managing a windows host via WMI with SAM, then monitoring its network interfaces does not consume any additional licenses. What does that mean for those running both SAM and NPM on the same server? Well it means you can continue to monitor your Windows network interfaces via SNMP, or opt to monitor them via WMI. The choice is yours. Windows interfaces monitored via SNMP will continue to count against your NPM licensed interfaces, while those monitored via WMI will not. If you're an existing NPM product owner nearing your interface license limit and you don't yet own SAM, this is a great way to reclaim some of those interface licenses while adding tremendous value to your organization.


The best kind of properties are custom

 

A few months ago NPM 10.4 introduced us to a radically overhauled Custom Property Editor, that made a complete web transformation from its previous Win32 underpinnings. With the release of SAM 5.5, what was once the exclusive domain of nodes, volumes, and interfaces, has now been expanded to include applications at the request of many in the community.

Application Custom Properties.png

Application Template Editing Custom Properties.png

As one might expect, these application custom properties can be used in the Advanced Alert Manager, Report Writer, Groups, filters etc, the same as other custom property types are used throughout the product.

 

Once the custom properties have been defined you can designate values to your assigned applications through the Custom Property Editor found under Settings. Similar to other custom property types, this is normally the easiest way to modify custom property values for applications en masse. Alternatively, you can edit specific applications and define their individual custom properties using the application editor as pictured on the left.

 

These are two more great new features you can begin using today by downloading Server & Application Monitor 5.5 RC3 from your customer portal. The Release Candidate can be used to upgrade your existing SAM installation, but also includes a temporary 30 day license if you'd prefer to play with these new features in a lab environment.

Over the years we've heard a great deal of feedback from our customers on how we can improve our licensing system.  Let me clarify what I mean by licensing system.  Currently, when you buy a license from SolarWinds for any product you are given an activation key in your SolarWinds customer portal.  You must then copy this key and paste it into the License Manager application to register your license and activate the product so that it's no longer in evaluation mode.  This same process is also required whenever you upgrade to a new major version or renew your maintenance.  For long-time SolarWinds customers this process has become old-hat, but there is definitely some room for improvement.

 

The most obvious question is, why do we do it this way?  I won't go into all of the gory details, but there is a method to our madness.  More importantly, we are currently working on updating our licensing system to make this experience much better.  Once we've updated the licensing system with these new changes the user experience with activating licenses should improve in the following ways:

  • You will no longer be required to apply a new activation key with version upgrades, minor OR major.
  • You will no longer be required to apply a new activation key when you renew maintenance.

 

Each product will need to adopt the new licensing system to take advantage of these changes.  You should see the products start to adopt the new licensing system soon; DameWare will be the first.  We'd love to hear your feedback and any other pain points you may have with our licensing system.

 

In addition to the aforementioned changes, we're also working on the ability to activate your license through an authenticated proxy.

 

Disclaimer:  Comments given in this forum should not be interpreted as a commitment that SolarWinds will deliver any specific feature in any particular time frame. All discussions of future plans or product roadmaps are based on the product teams intentions, but those plans can change at any time.

We have completed the bulk of the development effort and are now focused on testing the latest release of User Device Tracker (UDT). UDT 3.0 is going to reach Beta status soon. This is your chance to install the latest version and provide feedback on the new features and fixes. Providing feedback during the beta is the best way to ensure that your feedback will be incorporated in to the release. To participate, simply fill out this survey and you will be sent the download links for the Beta. Remember, Betas cannot be installed in production and you cannot upgrade the Beta to any other future versions.

 

The following enhancement have been added to UDT:

  • White List to identify safe and rogue devices on your network
  • Trap notifications to update connection information in "real time"
  • Tracking users in watch list
  • Wizard to help UDT users configuring appropriate logging level on Windows servers to collect login information
  • Alert on endpoint port change
  • Port Shutdown
  • Admin status for ports
  • Wireless endpoints report
  • VRF polling
  • Support for UDT ports in Groups

 

White List

You can define the set of rules that UDT uses to determine if a network device belongs on your white list. If so, the device appears in UDT resources as a safe device.

 

Whitelist-Include.PNG

 

You can add

  • Individual devices based on IP address, MAC address, or hostname
  • IP address ranges
  • MAC address ranges
  • Subnets
  • Custom patterns

 

Whitelist-Add.PNG

 

If there are devices connected to your network that are not on the white list, they will appear in a new 'Rogue Devices' resource and alerts will be generated:

 

Rogue-Devices.PNG           Rougue-Alert.PNG

 

You can also define the set of rules that determine if a network device should be ignored by UDT. If so, UDT discards all related data. This is handy e.g. for HSRP and VRRP MAC addresses.

 

Whitelist-Ignore.PNG

 

Updating Connection Information in "Real Time"

Many network devices suppport sending trap notifications when an endpoint connects or disconnects. UDT is able to process these notifications now to update the endpoint connection information immediately (and not wait for the next poll).

 

Users Can Be Tracked in Watch List

VRF-User-Watchlist.PNG

 

Wizard to Help with Domain Controller Configuration

Configuring your Domain Controllers properly, so that UDT is able to collect login information, is not an easy task and users find it difficult. That's why we have prepared a set of tests that help you diagnose whether UDT can access the information in the Domain Controller.

First you need to test the credentials; if there are errors, UDT helps you fix them.

 

AddAD-Test.PNG             AddAD-Help-Me-Fix.PNG

 

Alert on Endpoint Port Change

When the port to which an endpoint is connected changes, an alert is generated:

 

Alert-Rogue-Moved.PNG

 

Port Shutdown

If the device is configured with read-write SNMP credentials (and supports this operation), you can easily shut down a port. This functionality is also available via the API/SDK.

 

ShutDown-Port.PNG            ShutDown-Port2.PNG

 

Admin Status for Ports

UDT now distinguishes between ports that are administratively down (icon with red cross) and operationally down:

 

Port-Status.PNG

 

Wireless Endpoints Report

There is a new report for wireless endpoints now:

 

Wireless-Report.PNG

 

VRF Polling

If a network device is configured with VRFs, UDT will display the information:

 

VRF.png

Virtualization Manager is built on search - all the widgets, alerts, charts, etc. are simply queries that bubble up the most important data to your fingertips.  This allows us to quickly alert you about potential problems, including configuration recommendations for over and under allocation of resources (like CPU, memory, storage, etc.).  Many users have asked about how these recommendations are calculated, and the answer is - its all in the queries!  And even better - you can easily copy and edit the alert queries to build your own.

I was recently working with a customer on the alert recommendations for the default alert "VM Memory Overallocated".  The queries for this alert are based on average memory usage over a week, and the customer was concerned (and rightfully so) that if he followed our recommendations, he might induce swapping during memory peaks. So I took a deeper look to see what we could do.  

 

Make a copy of the current alert

First, I took the current alert and made a copy to work with:

  • From the Administrator Dashboard, scroll down in the All Alerts widgets and click "VM Memory Allocated".
  • At the bottom right of the screen, click "Configure".
  • At the bottom right of the screen, click "Save As", enter a new name and click "Save".  I changed mine to "VM Memory Peak Overallocated".
  • You should see the new name at the top and now click "Configure" at the bottom right again.

VManAlertSaveAs.png

 

Change the scope

I decided to change the scope, editing the last item to evaluate the weekly peak instead of the average and increased it from 30% to 50%.  I wanted to make sure I captured any VMs whose peak memory utilization was under 50% of the allocated.  Here is the query in full (bolded is the part I changed):

     vm.powerstate:poweredOn AND vm.memory:[2048 TO *]  AND vm.memloadPeak.week:([* TO 50])

 

So this establishes the scope as all VMs with at least 2GB of RAM whose peak memory usage did not go above 50% for the entire week.

VManScope.png

Change the recommendation

Now that we have the scope of the query set to the VMs we are interested in, we next tackle the recommendation.  In this case, I am going to take the peak utilization and multiply it by the VM Memory to get a peak utilization.  I will multiply that by 1.25 to add some buffer, and then do some fancy xpath functions to make recommendations in multiples of 256KB.

     concat ('Reduce ', /virtualMachine/memory, ' MB to ', (ceiling(/virtualMachine/memoryPeakUtilization/week * /virtualMachine/memory * 1.25 div 100 div 256))*256, ' MB')

 

Just to break that down:

  • Multiply weekly memory peak * VM memory * 1.25 (buffer) div 100 (because the peak is given as a percent)
    /virtualMachine/memoryPeakUtilization/week * /virtualMachine/memory * 1.25 div 100
  • Build a multiple of 256KB by dividing by 256, rounding up to the nearest integer, and then multiplying by 256.
    (ceiling(... div 256)) * 256

 

VManAlertNotification.png

 

Save and view the results

Once you click "Save" it will return you to the alerts view and immediately show you all VM's that match this condition. In this case, we now have 31 VM's that meet the criteria and now have memory recommendations for them.

VManAlertSummary.png

 

Validation

To validate the recommendation, click on the scroll icon for one of the VM's in the list.  This will take you to the detail view of the item. Switch to the XML by clicking the very small icon next to the name, this will allow you to see the latest instances of all the data.

VManVMxmlSwitch.png

Once you have the XML View open, you can look for the corresponding metrics (via the search bar at the top) to validate the suggestion:

  • memory: 2048
  • memoryPeakUtilization: Week 19.99

Calculation:  2048*19.99*1.25/100=511 so rounding up to the nearest multiple of 256 is 512MB, which matches the recommendation in the image above.

So in this case, we could reduce memory on this VM down to 512MB and have a 25% buffer over the historical peak value.

 

Additional alert features

Some of the features of alerts we skipped over:

  • Condition needs to be sustained for a certain amount of time.
  • Notification via email - we can send these alerts to multiple users
  • Execute an external action - for example, capture the currently monitored processes on the VM
  • SNMP traps and overrides.

For more information on alerting, please see our help documentation.

 

Alert Ideas (and more)

The default alerts packaged into Virtualization Manager are based on lots of customer feedback, but they are by no means a one size fits all!  We highly recommend you customize the alerts (and dashboards and widgets) to fit your environment.  For example, the choices I made on the building the above alert (ex: weekly peak 50% of total or the 1.25 buffer) should be customized to fit how you want to run your environment. Some more ways you can leverage the search:

  • You could also take the searches and functions and rework the "Top-N: VM Memory Overallocated" widget on the Sprawl Dashboard.
  • If you wanted to alert when a drive goes under 700MB, you can take "Guest Storage Space Alert", copy and change it to:
    • Scope: vm.powerstate:poweredOn AND vm.vol.freeSpace:[0 TO 734003200]
    • Alert: string-join(for $fullVolume in /virtualMachine/diskVolume[freeSpace<=(700*1024*1024)] return concat($fullVolume/mountPoint, ' (' , floor($fullVolume/freeSpace div 1024 div 1024), 'MB)'), ', ')

The possibilities are truly limitless with the search and xpath capabilities.

 

Other thoughts and references

Here are a few other thoughts to consider when building alerts, as well as some additional references:

  • Check out our help for Search in our documentation.
  • Here is a list of all properties and metrics that Virtualization Manager collects.
  • Performance and configuration data are collected on different intervals, so if you are mixing them in formulas, just be aware that the times will not necessarily align.
  • Rollup for peaks and averages are calculated a couple of times a day and restart at the beginning of their time period (day, week, month).  See this KB article for more information on data collection and rollup.
  • xPath functions are fun - see this excellent general xPath tutorial.

The release candidate (RC) for Web Performance Monitor 2.0.1 is officially here.  All WPM customers on active maintenance should have the RC waiting for them in their SolarWinds customer portal.  We'd love for you to try it out and post any feedback you have on the WPM RC forums here.

 

Participation in this program requires completion of this brief survey about your environment and experience with Orion:

 

WPM 2.0.1 Release Candidate Participation Survey

 

Thanks in advance for your time!

 

It's already been a few months since we changed the name from SEUM to WPM and we're happy that it has been well received thus far.

 

This service release contains a number of improvements in usability and performance. First, as we added support for Windows 2012, SQL 2012 as well as Windows 8 to WPM. We also improved the WPM Player and Job Scheduler, which are now more intelligent and jobs are scheduled in smaller buckets, more evenly distributing resource usage.

 

We also added the ability to add descriptions of transactions to the Transaction Details resource.

User-defined descriptions of transactions in the Transaction Details resource

This will help to you easily identify your transactions especially when you're managing a large number of them.

 

Another improvement is related to the mobility of recordings which are using certificate authentication. Now, if your certificate is exportable we are able to save it within the recording and thus play it from any location.

 

Another great feature to help you set up and troubleshoot your domain name account settings is the WPM Domain Accounts Configuration Tool. This tool has been created to aid in setting up domain accounts for the WPM player which verifies domain settings, the validity of an account in a given domain, and avoid any typos or mistakes in credentials.

Domain configuration tool

 

Another useful feature is the ability to automatically update the recorder. With new versions of WPM, new recorders are distributed. Instead of having to manually upgrade, you are now prompted to confirm automatic upgrade of the recorder as soon as it connects to a newer version of WPM.

 

Next we added a new Amazon EC2 region in Sydney, thus widening your options for location-centric monitoring. This new region is also available in previous versions of WPM which support Amazon EC2!

 

Amazon EC2 Sydney region available in drop-down menu

 

In addition to the aforementioned improvements this service release includes a number of other bug fixes and usability improvements.  Again, any customers on active maintenance should already have the RC in their customer portals.  Go download it and check it out; it's fully supported and we'd love to hear your feedback.  You can find the WPM 2.0 RC forum on thwack here.

If you've been chomping at the bit to upgrade to SAM 5.5 now is your chance to get the goods before everyone else. Simply sign-up here to download the SAM 5.5 Release Candidate.

 

If you've been following the Product Blog closely the past few months you'll no doubt be familiar with several of the major new features we've been working on for our next release of Server & Application Monitor. In my previous posts I showcased features such as: T

 

 

One area however, that's seen continual improvement with each successive release but doesn't get the same level attention as many of the top billed new features are usability enhancements.

 

At SolarWinds usability and user experience aren't merely philosophies, but rather they're a way of life. It's about ensuring that what you need, is where you need it, when you need it. Many of you have no doubt worked with some of SolarWinds usability experts in the past. Reviewing early prototypes, mockups, or talking through concepts, helping us to flesh out design flaws before even a single line of code is written. For those of you who may not have taken part in SolarWinds usability studies in the past, don't let these opportunities pass you by. We take your feedback very seriously, and it's instrumental in shaping the future of our products. Below are just a few examples where your feedback has had direct influence on this release of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor.

 

Point - Click - Remediate

 

Management Resource Node Details.png

More than a few of you have realized the value of the Real-Time Process Explorer, introduced in SAM 5.0, but found it far too buried on the Application Detail view. Being on the application details view also meant that using this awesome feature was limited to those machines which already had application templates assigned to them. This made using the Real-Time Process Explorer to monitor new processes under certain circumstances difficult or impossible.

 

With that feedback in hand our usability experts set out to do what they do best. The result of that labor as you will see In the SAM 5.5 Release Candidate is a new Management resource on your Node Details view. Many of these management functions you're already familiar with, as they were previously located on the Node Details resource. This new dedicated Management resource however, has been extended to provide quick access to SAM management functions like the Real-Time Process Explorer, as well as the new Windows Service Control Manager, and server Reboot action.

 

These buttons appear dynamically in the Management resource on the Node Details view where applicable, depending upon device type. Windows hosts display all three management functions, the Real-Time Process Explorer appears for Linux/Unix hosts running NET-SNMP, and all three are hidden from view for other devices such as Cisco routers and HP switches. By virtue of making the software smarter, and options more accessible, it's inherently easier and more intuitive to use.

 

Quick Link Service Control Manager

 

When we set out to design the Windows Service Control Manager for SAM 5.5, the concept was fairly straightforward; provide a method for remediating common application issues.A listing of all services available on the managed node is presented when the Service Control Manager is opened, allowing for those services to be stopped, started, or restarted, depending on their current state. This same interface would also serve as a quick access method for creating new Windows Service component monitors in SAM. What became apparent after our user research is this introduced an unnecessary additional step for those services already monitored by SAM. In other words, if I'm already monitoring said service, then why do I need to open the Windows Service Control Manager to alter the service state? That was an excellent point and one we chose to remedy by adding the service remediation actions to the Component Details resource as pictured below for any Windows service currently monitored by SAM. This subtle change reduces mean time to resolution when application issues occur, by ensuring that what you need is readily at hand.

Stop-Restart Monitored Service.pngStart Monitored Service.png

 

Bringing Order to The Chaos

 

Structure and organization are cornerstones of managing anything of substantial size and importance, and applications and the templates that monitor them are no exception. The SAM 5.2 release saw a radical overhaul of the template editor, which itself was a direct result of many hours spent talking to users like yourself. One item however, that didn't make the cut for that release was reordering components within an application or template. Why, you might ask, would I want to reorder components? Templates and applications are dynamic in that users update them periodically as their monitoring requirements change. Unfortunately until now, whenever a new component monitor was added to an application template, or assigned application, this component was tacked-on to the bottom of the list with no ability to change its order. What we found in our usability research was that users wanted the ability to organize their component monitors in order of importance and impact on the monitored application. This would bubble critical issues up to the top of the page, and leave lesser important or less likely causes to the bottom. By implementing this feature in SAM 5.5 we further speedup the mean time to resolution by reducing time spent page scrolling, and allowing users to order components according to impact and priority. Another win for you, and the SolarWinds User Experience Team.

 

Reorder Component Monitors.png

 

These are just a few examples of some of the new usability enhancements included in this release, purpose built to make your job a little easier, and there's still plenty more features I haven't had a chance to blog about yet. Such as...

 

  • Windows Network Interface Monitoring via WMI
  • Exchange Web Service User Experience Monitor
  • RPC Fetching Method option for the Windows Event Log Monitor
  • Application Custom Properties
  • Private Key Authentication for Linux/Unix/Nagios Script Monitors
  • Independent Email Send/Receive Credentials for POP3/IMAP4/MAPI User Experience Monitors

 

to name only a few. If you'd like to kick the tires on some of the new features and usability enhancements included in the SAM 5.5 Release Candidate sign-up here. Release Candidates are fully supported and can be used to upgrade your existing installation of SAM. The download also includes a 30 day evaluation license key if you're not yet ready to upgrade. Either way, we'd love your feedback.

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