Since the release of Server & Application Monitor (SAM) 6.2, the team has been busily plugging away on a long list of new features and general product enhancements.  Chief among them are improvements to the aesthetics and overall design of the Orion web interface. While not the primary focus of this blog post, it is near impossible to post screenshots for some of what we've been working on without divulging some sneak peeks into the very early stages of this interface design refresh. A follow-up blog post is currently in the works that will go into detail and explain our multi-phased approach for delivering a fresh, clean, and modernized interface for all products that run atop the Orion platform. Suffice it to say, it is our aim to accelerate overall Orion web interface performance, dramatically improve usability for many of the most common tasks, as well as refine and enhance the product's visual appearance as part of this endeavor. Continue watching the Product Blog for more specifics surrounding the Orion UI redesign, as well as opportunities to provide feedback to members of our user experience team regarding these improvements. Your feedback might just earn you some much deserved Thwack points that can be redeemed for some cool SolarWinds SWAG!

 

With that prologue out of the way, it's time to run through a few notable new features we've been working on that are sure to put a smile on your face. As always, your feedback on features such as these is essential; and the absolute best time to provide that feedback is during betas. So if you're anything like me and would rather try out the new features yourself rather than simply read about them, then short circuit this post entirely and click the big red button below. Otherwise strap in, adorn your reading glasses (if you need them) and soak in the geek goodness below as I walk through some of the new features planned for this release and expose a few glimpses of the web interface redesign.

 

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Active Directory Discovery

One of the many aspects we wanted to focus our attention on improving within this release is how servers are discovered in SAM. Network subnets, IP address ranges, and lists of individual IP addresses might seem like natural options for those of us who come from a network centric background. However, for those possibly unfamiliar with the networks design or IP addressing schema, Active Directory in many instances provides much or all of the information needed about the servers residing on the network.

 

Active Directory discovery can be added as an additional discovery method to any new or previously existing discovery profile and used in conjunction with the three previously available methods for complete coverage across the environment. 

 

Similar to the other three methods of discovery, multiple Active Directory domains may be used in the discovery profile. This is especially handy for large organizations that may have multiple domains running in their environment due to mergers and acquisitions, separation of internal business units, or even lab vs. production systems. Also, unlike Active Directory authentication to the Orion web console, there is no requirement for the Orion server to be in the same Active Directory domain as the domain controllers used for discovery.

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Active Directory has the distinct advantage of allowing for more precise and targeted discovery within the environment. Instead of using a very broad discovery technique such as subnets or IP address ranges, you can more surgically discover only those items you wish to monitor, such as servers and/or workstations. This is particularly useful for organizations using class B "/16" (65,534 IP address) or class A "/8" (16,277,214 ip addresses) subnets, where sequential network scanning techniques may take hours or even days to complete successfully. In environments such as these, much of that IP address space is unused, but it still must be swept to determine which IP addresses are in use and are not part of the discovery process. Active Directory however, has a complete database of all hosts on the network which are members of the domain. Leveraging that database allows for a much more rapid scan of servers and workstations running on the network that could be monitored by SAM.

 

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Once you've added the Active Directory domain you wish to discover and click "Next" you are shown a complete listing of all Containers and Organizational Units (OUs) in the domain hierarchy. By default all OUs and Containers are selected, including any future Organizational Units that may be created after the discovery profile creation process is complete. Selecting the root level domain object toggles between select/deselect all, and the individual checkboxes on the left allow you to select the specific OUs to include or exclude from this discovery profile. The checkbox to the right of each OU listed designates whether to include any sub-OUs that may be created under that Organizational Unit in the future. For example: you have a root level Organizational Unit named "California" because you have only one office in that region today, located in Los Angeles. Later a new office is brought online in San Francisco. As a result you may decide to create two sub-OUs under California named "LA" and "SF" to manage group policy separately for each of those offices. The "Include Future OUs" option allows for these types of changes to occur within an OU, sub-OU, or domain without the need to update SAM's discovery profiles that are used for recurring nightly scheduled rediscovery of new devices in the environment. If not applicable or desirable in your organization, this option can of course be disabled.

 

Automatic Monitoring

Another primary area we focused on for this release is reducing or outright eliminating the maintenance overhead required to keep SAM up to date as new systems are brought online. Too many of us have been in similar situations where a new critical business system is brought up in the environment, and the first time there's a reported problem or issue with the system there's immediately an exchange of finger pointing that occurs amongst the responsible parties attempting to assign blame for why the system wasn't being monitored. As a result many organizations have implemented rigid policies and processes surrounding the provisioning of new systems in an attempt to mitigate these blind spots on the network. Unfortunately even the best laid plans aren't immune from human fallacy, even those with the best of intentions.

 

With that in mind we aimed to provide a mechanism that would ensure that as new systems were brought up in the environment that they would be monitored without relying on someone in the organization to manually add them to SAM for monitoring; or dig through the nightly Network Sonar Discovery Results to select which new items should be monitored. If adding individual devices manually is more your speed, or thumbing through the Network Discovery Results is how you enjoy spending your morning "me" time, those options continue to remain intact and unchanged in this release.

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When selecting "Automatically Monitor" from the "Monitoring Settings" step of the Network Sonar Discovery Wizard you may continue on by clicking "Next" and accept the recommended defaults (only "Up" interfaces, non-removable media volumes, etc.) or use your own preferences by clicking the "Define Monitoring Settings" button. Clicking this button takes you through a mini-wizard where you are given the ability to define what you'd like automatically monitored should they be found during the Sonar discovery process. These options include, but are not limited to, interface type (trunk, non-trunk) , state (up/down/shutdown/etc.) upon discovery, interface name (contains, does not contain), interface description (contains, does not contain), volume type (Fixed Disk, Mount Points, etc), and AppInsight Applications. Additional steps may appear within the mini-wizard depending upon which Orion modules are also installed alongside SAM.

 

The next time the Network Sonar Discovery runs, either at the completion of creating the new Discovery Profile or its next scheduled run, any items found meeting the criteria defined within the profile not already monitored in Orion, will be automatically monitored by SAM.

 

For nodes managed via the optional Agent that was included as part of the SAM 6.2 release, these automatically become managed nodes in Orion by default when they first register with the Orion server or additional polling engine using Agent Initiated mode. Monitoring of these hosts however is limited to status, response time, CPU, and memory, without taking some additional step to select the specific items you'd like monitored on those hosts. The new automatic monitoring option shown here allows you to predefine those items just for agent managed nodes, agentlessly managed nodes, or all nodes in the environment depending upon the settings defined within the discovery profile.

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There's still more in store for this release, but we are eager and anxious to get your feedback on some of the features already starting to near completion. Please note that the absolute best time to provide feedback is during the beta, as things are still very fluid and there's plenty of time to fix bugs, make adjustments, and alter the design before release. That's right, betas are intended not only as a mechanism for finding bugs, visual defects, or other things broken in the code, but also to address usability issues and design flaws as well. If you are interested in taking SAM 6.3 for a spin and kicking the tires on some of these (and other) features, simply sign-up here. The only requirement for participation in the beta is that you own an existing license of Server & Application Monitor which is currently under active maintenance.