Network Performance Monitor (NPM) 12.4 and the Orion Platform 2018.4 are now generally available in your customer portal. For those of you subscribing to the updates in What We're Working on for NPM (Updated June 1st, 2018)  you may have noticed a line item called "Centralized Upgrades." This update will give you the first chance to experience Centralized Upgrades on your environment.

 

Great news this upgrade is going to be easier than ever!

 

 

Planning for Your Upgrade to 2018.4

 

Read the release notes and minimum system requirements prior to installation as you may be required to migrate to new server or database infrastructure. For quick reference, I have provided a consolidated list of release notes below.

Note: Customers running Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2, and SQL 2012 will be unable to upgrade to these latest releases prior to migrating to a newer Windows operating system or SQL database version. Check for the recommended Microsoft upgrade path through the upgrade center.

 

See more information about why these infrastructures are deprecated here: Preparing Your Upgrade to Orion Platform 2018.4 and Beyond - Deprecation & Other Important Items

 

SolarWinds strongly recommends that you update to Windows Server 2016 or higher and SQL Server 2016 or higher at your earliest convenience. 

 

 

 

 

 

Refresh your upgrade knowledge with the following upgrade planning references.

 

 

Always back up your database and if possible take a snapshot of your Orion environment.

 

 

Start Your Upgrade on the Main Polling Engine

 

Download any one of the latest release installers to your main polling engine.

 

For the screenshots that follow I'm upgrading my Orion deployment with the following setup:

  • Main Polling Engine is installed with Virtualization Manager (VMAN) 8.3 and will be upgraded to VMAN 8.3.1
    • Utilizes a SQL 2016 database
  • Three scalability engines
    • One Free Additional Polling Engine for VMAN on Windows 2012
    • One Free Additional Polling Engine for VMAN on Windows 2016
    • One HA Backup on Windows 2016

 

My first screen confirms my upgrade path to go from 8.3 to 8.3.1.

  • If I'm out of maintenance for a specific product, I would see indicators here first on the screen. Being out of active maintenance will prevent you from upgrading this installation to the latest, so please pay attention to the messaging here.
  • The SolarWinds installer will upgrade all of the products on this server to the versions of product that are compatible with this version of the Orion Platform for optimal stability. This may mean that you'll be upgrading more than just one product.
  • When in doubt, feel free to run the installer to see the upgrade path provided, so you can plan for your downtime. Cancelling out at the pre-flight check stage will give you all the information needed to plan ahead, without surprises and without changes to your environment.  This information can also be used for your change request before scheduling downtime for your organization.

The second step will run pre-flight checks to see if anything would prevent my upgrade from being successful on the main polling engine.

  • In case there are no blocking, warning, or informational pre-flight checks, we will proceed straight to the next step, accepting the EULA.
    • My main polling engine server and DB meet all infrastructure system requirements for the 2018.4 Orion Platform, so I am not shown any blocking pre-flight checks at this stage.
  • Pre-flight checks can block you from moving forward with your installation
    • You  may need to confirm whether you meet new infrastructure requirements (e.g. NTA 4.2.3 -> 4.4 upgrade) to proceed. Blockers will prevent you from successfully installing or upgrading, so the installer will not allow you to proceed until those issues have been resolved.
    • Warning pre-flight checks give you important information that could affect the functionality of your install after upgrade but will not prevent you from successfully installing or upgrading.
    • Informational pre-flight checks give you helpful troubleshooting information for "what if" scenarios, in case we don't have enough information to determine whether this would be an active issue for your installation.

 

The online installer will start to download all installers needed from the internet

  • SolarWinds recommends that you use the online installer because it will be able to auto-update and download exactly what's needed for the installation. Not only is it more efficient, but it will save you from downloading unnecessary or outdated bits.

 

This screen gives you an overview of next steps. The Configuration wizard will launch next, to allow you to configure database settings and website settings.

In this release, all scalability engines, including Additional Polling Engines, Additional Websites and HA Backup Servers, can be upgraded in parallel manually, using the scalability engine installer. Manual upgrades are still supported, but if you have scalability engines, please try our centralized upgrade workflow to save you time.

 

Follow the configuration wizard steps to completion. If you only have a main polling engine to upgrade, your installation is now complete. Log in to your SolarWinds deployment and enjoy the new features that have been built with care for your use cases.

 

Centralized Upgrades of the Scalability Engines

For those customers who have chosen to scale out their environment using scalability engines, such as Additional Polling Engines, HA Backup Servers or Additional Websites this is the section for you.

 

If you kept the "Launch Orion Web Console" checkbox checked in the final step of the Configuration Wizard, the launched web browser session will navigate you directly to the Updates Available page, where you can continue with the Centralized Upgrade workflow. If you want to open a new web browser session on a different system, you can quickly navigate to where you want to go by following these steps.

 

Launch the web browser and log in.

Navigate to 'My Orion Deployment' from the Settings drop-down.

 

Click to the UPDATES AVAILABLE tab. If this tab is not showing, that means there are no updates available for you to deploy.

Click Start, to begin the process of connecting to your scalability engines.

My environment is not experiencing any issues connecting to my scalability engines.

Bookmark this page Connection problems during an Orion Deployment upgrade - SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC. Help and Support  for future guidance on common "gotcha" scenarios, and how to handle them.

After the contact with scalability engines has been established, pre-flight checks will be run against all scalability engines

Looking at my pre-flight checks you can see that one server PRODMGMT-49 has a blocker that would prevent upgrades from occurring, mainly that it does not meet infrastructure requirements for this version of the Orion Platform.

However, my "Start Upgrade" is enabled. This is because if at least one scalability engine is eligible for upgrade, we will allow you to proceed. Only when none of the scalability engines are eligible will this button be disabled. Pay attention to servers that have blocking pre-flight checks, as you will have to manually upgrade them or move items being monitored via this scalability engine to one that is upgraded.

 

Clicking "Start Upgrade" begins the centralized upgrade process, first by downloading all the necessary bits to all the scalability engines in parallel. Notice how my scalability engine that was on incompatible 2012 infrastructure is not being upgraded.

Grab a coffee as the rest of your installation and configuration happens silently on each of the servers being centrally upgraded.

Oh no, an error occurred. What can you do at this point?

  • Click Retry download after troubleshooting (e.g. did the scalability engine lose connectivity to the main polling engine?)
  • RDP directly into the server using the convenient RDP link that is provided

 

Common scenarios to investigate:

  • Is this scalability engine set up inconsistently from the other servers? For instance, you may have Engineer's Toolset on the Web installed on this server and not on the others.
  • Do some of the installed products have dependencies on .NET 3.5? Engineer's Toolset on the Web has a dependency on .NET 3.5 to be able to upgrade. Ensure that if you have enabled .NET 3.5 and try again.
  • Check the Customer Success Center for more scenarios to help while troubleshooting.

 

In my case, I clicked Retry and was able to get past the issue.

My upgrade is complete! Congratulations on an upgrade well done.

Click Finish to complete your Centralized Upgrade session.

 

Gotchas - What to do with Unreachable Servers

If your server isn't being blocked because of incompatible infrastructure, you have an opportunity to manually upgrade that server in parallel while the rest of your environment is being centrally upgraded.

 

In the installation example captured below, if I were to run the installer on the Additional Website that is currently being upgraded by Centralized Upgrades, I would be blocked from running the installer on that server. However for the listed unreachable Additional Website, I can run that upgrade manually with no problem in parallel.

If you're blocked from proceeding on a manual upgrade, you would see the following. Only until you have finished the Centralized Upgrade process will you be allowed to proceed with a manual upgrade that is blocked in this fashion. For these scenarios, simply navigate to My Orion Deployment and exit out of the deployment wizard flow to cancel the centralized upgrade session.

 

Manual Upgrades

Manual upgrades of your deployment are still supported. If you have only one scalability engine, Centralized Upgrades may not be the fastest way to upgrade. However, if you have more, it is. This upgrade is still beneficial for those considering using manual upgrades for their deployment, and the reason is the installation and configuration wizard process can now be run in parallel. Existing customers have always known that there were some scenarios where you could run the configuration wizard in parallel across servers (e.g. same server type) and some that you could not. It took time and training to understand what scenarios those were. In this release, that limitation is lifted, and all server types can be configured in parallel.

 

There are times where you may need to consider falling back to manual upgrades in combination with your Centralized Upgrade. As an example, take this installation: two have completed, one has the configuration wizard in process.

If the download, installation, or configuration is taking a long time for one of your scalability engines, and you need to see more information that is only available in the client, you may consider canceling out of the Centralized Upgrade session to resume the rest of your upgrade manually. The servers that have been upgraded thus far will remain in a good spot, so you can cancel out with confidence. Proceed with this option carefully, as you will want to ensure that you have upgraded everything by the end of your scheduled downtime.

Check the My Orion Deployment page to ensure that all the servers in your Orion deployment are upgraded.

 

Support

We have all been there, despite all the best intentions and all the preparation in the world, something went wrong. No worries! File a support ticket Submit a Ticket | SolarWinds Customer Portal  and start gathering diagnostics via our new web based and centralized diagnostics.

 

Click to the Diagnostics tab

Select all the servers in your deployment,

and click "Collect Diagnostics."

Sit back and relax as your diagnostics are centrally gathered in preparation for your support call.

 

Customer Experience

 

Early adopters and those who have participated in our release candidates have already begun to enjoy the benefits of centralized upgrades. Check out our THWACK forums for testimonials from customers just like you as they experience the new and improved "Easy Button" upgrade experience. Here's a link to one from one of our very own THWACK MVPs  The "Easy Button" has arrived with the December 2018 install of NAM (and other Solarwinds modules) If you'd like to share your upgrades with me, I'm very interested, and we'd love to see screenshots and your feedback on this new way to upgrade your SolarWinds deployment.