Not to be overshadowed by the excitement around the introduction of SolarWinds® Service Desk earlier this summer, we’re excited to introduce you to SolarWinds® Discovery. This technology provides your organization the ability to discover, map, and manage your software and hardware assets directly in your service desk.

 

SolarWinds Discovery utilizes cloud-based technology to make it easier to implement, manage, and scale throughout your organization, helping you discover your IP connected devices with just a small footprint.

 




Now you may be thinking, “Discovery? Don’t I already have this functionality with other SolarWinds products I use?” Depending on the products, the answer is most likely yes. Many SolarWinds solutions have discovery components included, like Network Performance Monitor or Service & Application Manager on the SolarWinds Orion® Platform. However, they are helping your organization solve a different set of problems.

 

The discovery mechanisms used by Orion help you monitor asset performance, generate system alerts, or pinpointing vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure.

 

On the other hand, SolarWinds Discovery helps you leverage your asset data to support your IT service management (ITSM) and IT asset management (ITAM) processes.

 

 

Let’s take a deeper look into the benefits SolarWinds Discovery can bring to the ITSM and ITAM capabilities provided by your SolarWinds Service Desk.

 

Improving Service Management Processes

SolarWinds Discovery populates asset information directly into your service desk, giving your technicians visibility into data that can help them diagnose issues quicker. Let’s say you have an employee (end user) who is having an issue accessing a particular software.

 

Because SolarWinds Discovery collects all the software titles installed on your computing device, you can then quickly looking up the employee’s devices and see what version of the software they are currently running. Within a matter of seconds you have the information you need to effectively troubleshoot and quickly resolve the issue.

 

 

The data that SolarWinds Discovery finds can also be used to help your service desk mitigate risks. SolarWinds Service Desk allows you to designate software titles as Greynet, meaning they are either illegal, not approved by your organization, or even a potential virus.

 

When SolarWinds Discovery finds a software title labeled Greynet, a notification is generated to give your agents visibility into the potential issue. Check out how FirstHealth of the Carolinas was able to utilize SolarWinds Discovery to pinpoint devices that were infected with a ransom virus, which ultimately helped them remove it without paying the demanded dollar amount.

 

 

Aligning your Assets with your Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

When SolarWinds Discovery finds assets throughout your infrastructure, they are automatically converted to Configuration Items (CIs) and populated into the CMDB that is included with your SolarWinds Service Desk. This allows you to create relationships between CIs, giving you a better picture of how the components of your infrastructure interact with each other and support IT services you deliver.

 

In turn, this can help your agents evaluate the root cause of a larger issue impacting your organizations, so they can work on resolving it quickly. Also, by understanding the relationships between your CIs, you can better evaluate impacts associated with changes you are making to your infrastructure, which helps your team understand and mitigate potential change related risks.



 

Your CMDB can provide a lot of value to your organization, but it is imperative that it remains complete and up-to-date in order to take advantage of its full capabilities. By combining your CMDB with SolarWinds Discovery, additions and changes to your IT infrastructure will continually be reflected in your service desk.

 

Leveraging Discovery for IT Asset Management Use Cases

SolarWinds Service Desk comes with an IT asset management module, helping you manage the capital expenditures (CAPEX) and lifecycle of the devices in your infrastructure. SolarWinds Discovery is a critical aspect to these capabilities as it helps you locate all your assets and collects additional information necessary for lifecycle analysis, such as installed software titles and warranty information.

 

SolarWinds Discovery also helps you lower your CAPEX by giving you greater visibility into the assets you own. For example, many organizations spend money on assets they do not need, specifically on assets like computers and printers. This is often a result of a lack of visibility into what assets they already have, so they end up purchasing instead of utilizing what is already in their inventory.




Also, SolarWinds Service Desk comes with software compliance capabilities, which help organizations avoid costly true-up expenses incurred when over-using software titles based on licensing contracts.

 

SolarWinds Discovery finds your installed software titles, giving you a clear picture of what is being utilized. These installs can then be vetted against your software licensing contracts, allowing you to build compliance reports to show both overutilization and underutilization.

How does SolarWinds Discovery work?

SolarWInds Discovery provides a suite of technologies to give you a flexible approach to discover your IT assets no matter how your IT infrastructure is configured. Let’s take a look into the three discovery options available:

  • Agent-based
  • Agentless
  • Integrations



Agent-based Discovery


The SolarWinds Discovery Agent is a lightweight software that can be installed on your Windows® and Apple® computing devices as well as Android® and iOS® mobile devices. Light and mighty, the agent can collect over 200 data points and the installed software titles from each device.
The agent takes a snapshot of the device every 24 hours of run-time (roughly every three days for standard users or every day and a half for IT pros). Built for easy deployment, organizations can use Group Policy or Domain Logon method to quickly install the agent throughout all their computing devices.
The agent enables software compliance and Greynet notification capabilities discussed above. It also highlights computers that have not reported back in the last seven days, helping you visualize devices that are potentially being misused or underused. This is an ideal discovery option for computing devices issued to remote workers who may not be frequently on company networks where other discovery technologies may be in use.

Agentless Discovery


The SolarWinds Discovery Scanner provides you an agentless way to find the IP-connected devices throughout your infrastructure. The Linux-based technology is installed on an individual subnet, and it can be extended to other subnets using multiple methods, for example, giving the scanner visibility to an ARP table located on a router. The system allows you to set the scanning frequency so it is active at optimal times. It also allows you to import SNMP and SSH credential to collect additional information on each device.
Compared to the agent, the scanner does not collect the same breadth of data points on computing devices However, the scanner will find all of the non-computing devices that an agent cannot be installed on. For many organizations, non-computing assets make up a majority of your total asset inventory. The scanner helps you get a fuller picture of your infrastructure. This is a critical component in keeping the SolarWinds Service Desk CMDB populated so you can map your devices’ relationships and dependencies.

Discovery Integrations

SolarWinds Discovery offers several out-of-the-box integrations with some of the industry leading configuration management tools, helping you bring device information from those systems directly into your service desk.
Available integrations:

  • Microsoft® System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)
  • VMware vCenter®
  • Google Chrome® OS

 

Implementing Multiple Discovery Methods

By leveraging multiple discovery methods, you can be better equipped to collect the asset data to meet your organization's needs.

 

A good principle  to follow when implementing multiple discovery methods is to use the scanner to get a broad picture of your IP connected devices, then add the agent and/or integrations to get deeper information into the applicable devices. 

 

For example, you may support Windows, Apple, and Chrome computing devices that you would like to increase your visibility on. You may also have a heavy VMware footprint and hundreds of IP connected devices you would like to track.

 

In this scenario, you can install the agent on your Windows and Apple devices, activate the ChromeOS and vCenter integrations to collect data these assets, and install the scanner to collect data on everything else.

 

By combining the different discovery technology you will get a broad and balanced view of your IT infrastructure.  

 

Get more details on the SolarWinds Discovery technical specifications.

 

What’s Next for SolarWinds Discovery

 

We are currently working on deepening the SolarWinds Discovery Scanner capabilities to better support organizations that are predominantly Windows shops. This will include a Windows Installer, allowing customers to install the scanner on either Linux or Windows-based servers. Additionally, this will include the ability to add WMI credentials when scanning devices, greatly increasing the amount of data points you can discover on Windows devices.


SolarWinds Discovery can help you maximize the value of SolarWinds Service Desk for both your IT pros and your organization. If you have any questions, feedback, or ideas around SolarWinds Discovery, please comment below or visit the SolarWinds Product Blog Forum.

serena

Revisiting AppStack™

Posted by serena Employee Aug 23, 2019

After a long tenure working on the Orion® Platform, I’ve recently shifted my responsibilities to fully focus on Server & Application Monitor (SAM). Features designed on the platform and in SAM have eye-opening similarities due to deep integration between SAM, Virtualization Manager (VMAN), Web Performance Monitor (WPM), and other heavy hitters in our systems portfolio. The same tenets of componentization and shareability demanded by the Orion Platform exist in AppStack the way they do for PerfStack or the newest generation of Orion maps.

 

In honor of this revelation and how far our integration story has come since the first introduction of AppStack in 2014, I’d like to revisit this milestone feature and show those new to the SolarWinds systems portfolio the power of what we provide. For those who enjoy nostalgia, revisit the first AppStack post here https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/product-blog/blog/2014/11/03/appstack. Personally, I was taken aback by the amount of change that’s occurred in the UI itself.

 

Welcome to 2014, amirite? (I stole this screenshot from Jeremy's original 2014 post.)

Fast forward to 2019, the look and feel is quite different. Navigate to AppStack through the menu bar, or enjoy the contextual AppStack widget on the details page for an entity.

For those who land on the full AppStack view today, you'll notice we have new entities appearing in the stack with the inclusion of container monitoring.

When we as Product Managers introduce the capability to monitor new entities such as containers, we must first ask if it deserves a place in the AppStack. For containers, this is certainly true, due to their ephemeral nature and clear distinction as a generic entity type. The same can be said for the improvements to Cisco UCS monitoring, where SAM added chassis, blade, and rack server statistics into the AppStack view. However, in the case of VMware vSAN entities, you'll notice their inclusion into AppStack in a subtle approach aligned with customer expectations for hyperconverged infrastructure.

 

In 2019.2 versions of the platform and later, the spotlight workflow is still an effective tool to quickly analyze where the problem might lie along your infrastructure stack.

The subtle difference lies in the changes to node status in the Orion Platform 2019.2 release. With simplified status calculations, and clear contributors detailed in the popovers, it's easier than ever to navigate to where you need to drill in for detailed troubleshooting. 

With additional changes from VMAN 8.4 to add virtual entities as status contributors and the ability to control the status contributors via the Node status contributors page, the AppStack solution becomes even more powerful. Through continued improvement and integration throughout the Orion Platform and the system portfolio, AppStack in 2019 has aged well and can help you navigate the intricacies and quirks of your environment.

Supplementing AppStack capabilities, through the addition of new Orion Maps and PerfStack, you now have a full toolset available to visualize your environment, narrow down the problem, and then troubleshoot the problem in-depth in real time.

 

Now that we've walked through how AppStack has grown over the years, I'd love to hear from you, both new and familiar to AppStack. What was your introduction to AppStack? Was it back in 2014 or the newer versions available today? What would you like to see improved in the future and what would you like to see preserved to keep the heart of AppStack beating strong for the next generation of Systems Management product releases? Put your feature request into Server & Application Monitor Feature Requests  for tracking and community input.

SolarWinds has a long history of being easy to try and easy to buy. Those of you who own two or more Orion Platform product modules may have realized, usually when planning your next upgrade, it's not necessarily easy to know which product module versions are compatible with others. While figuring this out may not be too terribly difficult when you own only two Orion product modules, the complexity rises significantly with each additional product module you purchase thereafter. Imagine you need to figure out which versions of your other 13 Orion Platform product and integration modules are compatible with Server & Application Monitor 6.7? Suddenly, what was previously a rather trivial task has become a daunting, and sometimes overwhelming, challenge.

 

For that reason and many more, we have some significant changes coming your way to end the madness. First though, here’s a brief history of where we've been, how we got here, and where the future will take us.

 

 

 

The Matrix

 

For many years, we attempted to make the process of deciphering compatibility between Orion Platform product modules easier through a compatibility matrix maintained within our documentation. The matrix itself was a fairly complex Excel spreadsheet that oftentimes felt like you needed a secret decoder ring to help interpret the results. For what you might imagine should be a relatively simple task, the compatibility matrix was anything but.

 

 

Upgrade Advisor

 

As the number of available Orion Platform product modules increased, we eventually realized the Compatibility Matrix had become too complex for customers to interpret, and too unwieldy for us to maintain. Thus came our next valiant attempt at improving the situation for determining multi-product compatibility, the Upgrade Advisor. The Upgrade Advisor represented a monumental leap forward compared to the Compatibility Matrix. In fact, many still rely upon it today.

 

 

 

The process is relatively straightforward. Enter in the Orion Platform product modules you currently have installed and their respective version numbers. Next, enter the version number of the product module to which you'd like to upgrade. The Upgrade Advisor will then map out the rest of the product module version numbers compatible with the newer version.

 

While fraught with good intentions, the Upgrade Advisor still suffered from the same fundamental flaw which led to the demise of the Compatibility Matrix. It still required users to be both aware of its existence and proactive about their upgrade planning. When the recommendations outlined in the Compatibility Matrix or Upgrade Advisor weren't followed, bizarre and unexplainable issues would occur due to incompatible module behavior.

 

 

Next Generation Installer

 

The latest attempt at unraveling this quagmire has been to place the information available in the Upgrade Advisor into the installer itself. Anytime before or at the time of upgrade, simply running the installer provides a list of all Orion Platform product modules currently installed and their respective versions. Next to it is the list of versions for other product modules compatible with the module version downloaded.

 

Image result for solarwinds installer upgrade

 

This method is vastly superior to both the Compatibility Matrix and Upgrade Advisor, as it requires no prior knowledge of the existence of either, nor does it require any manual steps to determine module compatibility. The installer simply handles it all for you. No muss, no fuss.

 

While the next-generation installer took all the complexity out of the equation, it introduced a fair amount of confusion. For the planners among you, it seemed counterintuitive to run an installer, days, weeks, or even months ahead of a scheduled upgrade to determine the upgrade path. For others, executing the installer on a production environment prior to the scheduled change window sounded like a dangerous proposition, assuming the mere fact of running the installer might start the upgrade process or shut down Orion services without consent or confirmation. As a result, some still found greater comfort utilizing the Upgrade Advisor this new installer was intent on replacing.

 

Does this really need to be so complicated?

 

A lot of time, effort, and different technologies have been used throughout the years in what seems to have been a vain attempt to reduce confusion and make it easier for users to identify compatibility between different product module versions. The problem, however, was never how we attempted to address the issue (though admittedly, some methods worked better than others). The ultimate solution is to change how we think about the problem in the first place: the version number itself.

 

 

Ushering in a new tomorrow

 

It's rather arbitrary that 6.9 is the Server & Application Monitor (SAM) version compatible with Network Performance Monitor (NPM) 12.5. Rather than require users have a Ph.D. in SolarWinds Orion Platform product module versioning, wouldn't it be easier if those product modules compatible with each other all shared the same version number? Then it would be downright simple to identify IP Address Manager vX.XX wasn't compatible with User Device Tracker vY.YY or Network Configuration Manager vZ.ZZ.

 

Simplifying and consolidating our product module versioning is precisely what we aim to do in our next Orion Platform module releases. As you can imagine, this might come as a big surprise to many, which is why we've decided to notify the community in advance.

 

New releases for every Orion Platform product module going forward will now use the same versioning as the Orion Platform itself. This means the next release of Network Performance Monitor will not be v12.6 or v13.0, nor will any of the other Orion Platform product modules bear a resemblance to their current versioning. Instead, Orion Platform product module versions will be the four-digit year in which they were released, followed by the quarter of release. If there is a Service Release for a given module, it will appear in the third position following the quarter.

 

 

[YYYY.Q.SR]

 

If this all seems a bit confusing, fret not. You're probably already familiar with this versioning, as it's been the basis of the Orion Platform version for nearly a decade. This is also the same versioning used for Network Automation Manager.

 

 

What does this mean for my product modules?

 

To be completely honest, really nothing at all, aside from a departure from those products’ previous versioning schemes. It also means versioning is much more transparent and easier to relate to. For example, if you needed to know what version of Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) was released in October 2025, it’s now very easy: Storage Resource Monitor v2025.4. If you also needed to know what version of Server Configuration Manager (SCM) was compatible with SRM v2025.4, that too is now easy: SCM v2025.4, of course!

 

 

How will this affect previous releases?

 

In short, it doesn't. Currently released product module versioning will remain unchanged, though you can expect a fairly significant jump in version numbers the next time you upgrade.

 

 

I still have unanswered questions

 

You undoubtedly have a million questions related to this change racing through your brain right now. If not, perhaps later, after pondering this post for a while, a fantastic question pops to mind. In either scenario, post your questions related to this change in the comments section below.

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