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
- The new Windows Service Control Manager
- Hardware Health Monitoring of Dell and HP Blade Chassis
- Native Windows Volume Mount Point monitoring
- Enhanced Real-Time Process Explorer
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
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.
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.
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.