Hopefully you are already reaping the benefit from the many improvements that were made in Network Performance Monitor 12.1, Server & Application Monitor 6.4, Storage Resource Monitor 6.4, Virtualization Manager 7.1, Netflow Traffic Analyzer 4.2.2, and Network Configuration Manager 7.6. If you haven't yet had a chance to upgrade to these releases, I encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience, as there are a ton of exciting new features that you're missing out on.

 

Something a few who already upgraded may have seen, is one or more deprecation notices within the installer. These may have included reference to older Windows operating systems or Microsoft SQL versions. Note that these deprecation notices will only appear when upgrading to any of the product versions listed above, provided you are installing on any of the Windows OS or SQL versions deprecated in those releases. But what does it mean when a feature or software dependency has been deprecated? Does this mean it's no longer supported, or those versions can't be used anymore?

 

Upgrade.png

 

Many customers throughout the years have requested advance notice whenever older operating systems and SQL database versions would no longer be supported in future versions of Orion, allowing them sufficient time to properly plan for those upgrades. Deprecation does not mean that those versions can't be used, or that they are no longer supported at the time the deprecation notice is posted. Rather, those deprecated versions continue to remain fully supported, but that future Orion product releases will likely no longer support them. As such, all customers affected by these deprecation notices should take this opportunity to begin planning their migrations if they wish to stay current with the latest releases. So what exactly was deprecated with the Q1'17 Orion product releases?

 

Windows Server 2008 R2

 

Released on October 22, 2009, Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 six years later on January 13, 2015. For customers, this means that while new security updates continue to be made available for the aging operating system, bug fixes for critical issues will require a separate purchase of an Extended Hotfix Support contract agreement; in addition to paying for each fix requested. Since so few of our customers have such agreements with Microsoft, the only recourse, often times, is an unplanned, out-of-cycle, operating system upgrade.

 

Microsoft routinely launches new operating system versions, with major releases on average every four years, and minor version releases approximately every two. As new server operating system versions are released, customer adoption begins immediately thereafter; sometimes even earlier, during Community Technical Preview, where some organizations place production workloads on the pre-released operating system. Unfortunately, in order to leverage the technological advances these later versions of Windows provide, it occasionally requires losing backwards compatibility support for some older versions along the way. Similar challenges occur also during QA testing whenever a new operating system is released. At some point it's simply not practical to thoroughly and exhaustively test every possible permutation of OS version, language, hotfix rollup or service pack. Eventually the compatibility matrix becomes so unwieldy that a choice between quality or compatibility must be made; and really that's not a choice at all.

 

 

SQL Server 2008 / 2008 R2

 

SQL Server 2008 was released on August 6, 2008, with SQL 2008 R2 being released just four months shy of two years later, on April 21, 2010. Seven years later, there have been tremendous advances in Microsoft's SQL server; from the introduction of new redundancy options, to technologies like OLTP and columnstore indexes, which provide tremendous performance improvements. Maintaining compatibility with older versions of Microsoft SQL precludes Orion from being able to leverage these and other advances made in later releases of Microsoft SQL Server, many of which have potential to tremendously accelerate the overall performance and scalability of future releases of the Orion platform.

 

If you happen to be running SQL Server 2008 or SQL 2008 R2 on Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2, not to worry. There's no need to forklift your existing SQL server prior to upgrading to the next Orion release. In fact, you don't even need to upgrade the operating system of your SQL server, either. Microsoft has made the in-place upgrade process from SQL 2008/R2 to SQL 2014 extremely simple and straightforward. If your SQL server is running on Windows Server 2012 or later, then we recommend upgrading directly to SQL 2016 SP1 or beyond so you can limit the potential for additional future upgrades when/if support SQL 2012 is eventually deprecated.

 

Older Orion Version Support for Windows & SQL

 

Once new Orion product module versions are eventually released which no longer support running on Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, or SQL 2008/R2, SolarWinds will continue to provide official support for those previous supported Orion module versions running on these older operating systems and SQL server versions. These changes only affect Orion module releases running Orion Core versions later than 2017.1. If you are already running the latest version of an Orion product module on Windows Server 2008/R2 or SQL 2008/R2 and have no ability to upgrade either of those in the near future, not to worry. Those product module versions will continue to be supported on those operating system and SQL versions for quite some time to come.

 

Monitoring vs Running

 

While the next release of Orion will no longer support running on Windows or SQL 2008/R2, support for monitoring systems which are running on these older versions of Windows and SQL will absolutely remain supported. This also includes systems where the Orion Agent is deployed. What that means is if you're using the Orion agent to monitor systems running on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2, rest assured that support for monitoring those older systems with the Orion Agent remains fully intact in the next Orion release. The same is also true if you're monitoring Windows or SQL 2008/R2 agentlessly via WMI, SNMP, etc. You're next upgrade will not impact your ability to monitor these older operating systems or SQL versions in any way.

 

 

32Bit vs 64Bit

 

Support for installing evaluations on 32bit operating systems will also be dropped from all future releases of Orion product modules, allowing us to begin the migration of Orion codebase to 64bit. In doing this, it should improve the stability, scalability, and performance for larger Orion deployments. Once new product versions begin to be released without support for 32bit operating systems, users wishing to evaluate Orion based products on a 32bit operating system are encouraged to contact Sales to obtain earlier product versions which support 32bit operating systems.

 

 

.NET 4.6.2

 

Current Orion product module releases, such as Network Performance Monitor 12.1 and Server & Application Monitor 6.4, require a minimum version of .NET 4.5.1. All future Orion product module releases built atop Core versions later than 2017.1 will require a minimum version of Microsoft's .NET 4.6.2, which was released on 7/20/2016. This version of .NET is also fully compatible with all current shipping and supported versions of Orion product module releases, so there's no need to wait until your next Orion module upgrade to update to this newer version of .NET. Subsequently, .NET 4.7 was released on 5/2/2017 and is equally compatible with all existing Orion product module versions in the event you would prefer to upgrade directly to .NET 4.7 and bypass .NET 4.6.2 entirely.

 

It's important to note that Microsoft's .NET 4.6.2 has a hard dependency on Windows Update KB2919355, which was released in May 2014 for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1. This Windows Update dependency is rather sizable, coming in between 319-690MB. It also requires a reboot before .NET 4.6.2 can be installed and function properly. As a result, if you don't already have .NET 4.6.2 installed, you may want to plan for this upgrade during your next scheduled maintenance window to ensure your next Orion upgrade goes smoothly and as quick as possible.

 

Minimum Memory Requirements

 

With many of the changes referenced above, minimum system requirements have also needed adjustment as well. Windows Server 2012 and later operating systems utilize more memory than previous versions. Similarly, .NET 4.6 can also utilizes slightly more memory than .NET 4.5.1. As we move forward however, 64bit processes inherently use more memory than the same process compiled for 32bit. To ensure users have a pleasurable experience running the next version of Orion products, we will be increasing the absolute minimum memory requirements from 4GB to 6GB of RAM for future versions of Orion product modules. The recommended minimum memory requirement however, will remain at 8GB.

 

While most readers themselves today would never consider running and using a Windows 10 laptop on a day-in-day-out basis with just 4GB of RAM, those same people also likely wouldn't imagine running an enterprise grade server based monitoring solution on a system with similar such specs either. If you do, however, find yourself in an environment running Orion on 4GB of RAM today, an 8GB memory upgrade can typically be had for less than $100.00. This can be done before the next release of Orion product modules and will even likely provide a significant and immediate improvement to the overall performance of your Orion server.

 

 

How to Prepare

 

All items listed above can be completed prior to the release of the next Orion product module versions and will ensure your next upgrade goes off without a hitch. This posting is intended to provide anyone impacted by these changes with sufficient notice to plan any of these upgrades during their regularly scheduled maintenance periods, rather than during the upgrade process itself. In-place upgrades of SQL, as stated above, are a fairly simple and effective process to get upgraded quickly with the least possible amount of effort. If you're running Orion on Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2, in-place OS upgrades are also feasible. If either of these are not feasible or desirable for any reason, you can migrate your Orion installation to a new server or migrate your Orion database to a new SQL server by following the steps outlined in our migration guide.

 

Other Options

 

If for any reason you find yourself running Orion on Windows Server 2008, Server 2008 R2, or on SQL 2008/R2 and unable to upgrade, don't fret. The current releases of Orion product modules will continue to remain fully supported for quite some time to come. There is absolutely zero requirement to be on the latest releases to receive technical support. In almost all cases, you can also utilize newly published content from Thwack's Content Exchange with previous releases, such as Application Templates, Universal Device Pollers, Reports, and NCM Configuration Change Templates. When you're ready to upgrade, we'll be here with plenty of exciting new features, enhancements and improvements.

 

 

Planning Beyond The Next Release

 

At any given time, Orion supports running on a minimum of three major versions of the Windows Operating System and SQL database server. When a new server OS or SQL version is released by Microsoft, SolarWinds makes every effort possible to support up to four OS and SQL versions for a minimum of one Orion product module release. If at any time you find yourself four releases behind the most current OS or SQL server version, you may want to begin planning an in-place upgrade or migration to a new server during your next regularly scheduled maintenance window to ensure your next Orion product module upgrade goes flawlessly.

 

For your reference, below is a snapshot of Windows Operating Systems and SQL Server versions which will be supported for the next release of Orion product modules. This list is not finalized and is still subject to change before release. However, nothing additional will be removed from this list, though there could be additional version support added after this posting.

 

Supported Operating System VersionsSupported Microsoft SQL Server Versions
Server 2012SQL 2012
Server 2012 R2SQL 2014
Server 2016SQL 2016