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We are excited to share, that we've reached GA for Web Help Desk (WHD) 12.5.

 

 

This release includes new dashboards delivering a much needed UI and performance boost to WHD. The release also contains user interface improvements aligned to our Unexpected Simplicity theme.  The new features include:

  • Dashboard interface - New and improved dashboard user interface and functionality. The WHD development team did some fantastic work here to produce a new ground-up dashboard using a modern framework.

 

  • Technician interface - Manage ticket approvals from the technician interface. This request was one of the most highly requested features taken from Thwack. This feature empowers WHD technicians with an efficient and simple method to approve tickets.

 

Additional Improvements:

  • New email processing producing more reliability within WHD messaging queue.
  • Fixes for customer issues and security vulnerabilities

 

We encourage all to upgrade to this latest release which is available within your customer portal.

 

Thanks!

Solarwinds Team

We have been working hard to bring another bulk of enhancements to the Storage Resource Monitor (SRM).

SRM 6.4 Beta 2 is available and it contains some of the enhancements listed in the following post: What we are working on for SRM after v6.4 -- Updated on March 14, 2017.

 

To find out more and get access to the beta, you need to be a customer on active maintenance for SRM and sign up here:

 

sign-up-Beta.png

 

As an added incentive, beta users who submit feedback will receive 2,000 Thwack points to buy swag at the Thwack Store.

The VMAN 7.0 RC 2 install bits can now be downloaded from your Customer Portal.  Please note that the Release Candidates are fully tested and supported releases and are suitable to be run in production. 7.0 RC2 can be run as an upgrade from 7.0 RC1, as well as from the 6.3 installs. If you have problems with the RC, you can file a ticket with Support just as you would for any other Generally Available (GA) version.  To familiarize yourself with new features in 7.0 you can use Welcome to the Virtualization Manager 7.0 Beta 1 as a reference.

 

VMAN RC2 Button.png

 

The VMAN team is excited about this release and can't wait to receive your feedback in the Virtualization Manager Release Candidate forum. Make sure to review all documentation prior to the upgrade which can be found on the VMAN 7.0 Support page.

 

 

New features and improvements

Read this section for descriptions of the new features and improvements VMAN and VIM offer in this release.

 

Recommendations

When VMAN identifies a way to optimize VM resources for active and potential issues, it makes a recommendation for one click optimization. Recommendations display in the Orion Web Console with a description for optimizing your network, and provides a series of steps you can apply immediately with a button click or schedule at a later time.

  • Balance the virtual environment for optimal performance. You can spread load over hosts, which optimizes the performance for all virtual machines.
  • Optimize capacity. Virtualization Manager predicts when you will run out of resources on virtualization entities, so you can plan in advance when you have to assign new resources.
  • Predict possible future performance and capacity issues based on past trends.

 

Web-based License Manager

Easily add, activate, and manage Orion product licenses through the web-based License Manager. Accessing the License Manager on your main polling engine, you can monitor and update full product and evaluation licenses for your main poller, additional pollers, additional web servers, stackable pollers, and high availability pools all through one page. The License Manager also provides automatic online and offline modes for managing licenses. Add and manage evaluations with ease, including HA.

text-document.png Read more about these changes.

 

Other improvements

Various performance improvements and security fixes

How to upgrade

Use the following resources for planning and upgrading:

Fixed issues

Virtualization Manager 7.0 and VIM 7.0 fix the following issues.

 

CASE NUMBER

DESCRIPTION

1037297

NPM not showing CUP and Memory usage for some ESXi servers

1013905

Asset tree is not loading properly

999345

List of Virtual Machines on a host not displaying the OS version for Windows 10

953038

657558

Collector Data Processor keeps crashing

951495

VCenter data is inaccurate

951394

Additional Orion Web Server VM reports do not run

908177

VM to node mapping is not using MAC if integration is enabled

916806

sinpsyesx004.intlsos.com not returning any data - duplicated datastores causing data processing to fail

898072

VCenter status unknown on the Orion Web Console

890835

IVIM schema error on APE SWIS log

885008

Polling Engine Details page shows absolute value of jobs count instead of percent

825684

Issues with vShield Manager and VMs that are natted

820300

Orion Web Server does not display

997655

Unable to start collection jobs

989236

CPU overallocation

1001589

VMAN on-demand report displaying incorrect or old data

966359

Integration issue with Datastore and VMAN

975063

VIM appliance not passing data to the Orion server

978665

SSH Server CBC Mode Ciphers enabled

978638

Vcenter status unable to poll

967710

Invalid depletion data shown on Datastore dashboard for VMAN

968708

Vcenter data not being displayed in the Orion Web Console

945034

SSL certificate changes back to default after upgrade

941086

False alerts regarding VM reboots

934585

VMAN application unable to load because postgres service will not start

918211

VMAN crashes when a secondary collector is used

920658

Host rebooting during configuration collection

913169

Blue screen on host when running the configuration wizard, when collection has started

910234

No data displayed in the "cluster.cpuMHzPeak.day" column

896552

Trend widget does not populate when "multi-trend" mode is enabled

893378

VMAN stops working after upgrade to vSphere 6.0

891270

Query does not return the correct number of VMs when searching past 9 days

884311

Intermittent collection

873270

Mast applicance shows ActiveMQ transport "Usage Manager Memory Limit is full errors"

856868

Fatal error occurred during collection

853303

VMAN stopped polling and displaying data

422089

Virtual Machine not appearing in VMAN list

 

 

Download VMAN from the Release Candidate section of your Customer Portal.

 

VMAN RC2 Button.png

We have reached the Release Candidate (RC) status for Web Help Desk (WHD) 12.5. RC1 is the last step before general availability and is a chance for existing customers to get the newest functionality before it is available to everyone else.

 

 

Web Help Desk 12.5 includes the following enhancements:

  • Dashboard interface – New and improved dashboard user interface and functionality

WHD_125_Dashboard.jpg

 

 

  • Technician interface - Manage ticket approvals from the technician interface (Thank you to those who elevated this Feature Request on THWACK!)

 

WHD_125_Tech_Approval.jpg

 

 

  • Bulk action capabilities – Use bulk actions to link parent tickets
  • Fixes for customer issues and security vulnerabilities

Other Recent Improvements:

Recently added in Web Help Desk Service Release version 12.4.2 includes functionality that allows multiple FAQs to be added to a request type. For those who helped vote this feature into existence, we thank you. You can also find this feature included in the latest version of this product.

 

WHD_1242_FAQ.png

 

 

Download Web Help Desk 12.5 in the Release Candidate section of your Customer Portal.

RC builds are provided as a special privilege to customers on active maintenance in advance of the formal release. These are used to get customer feedback in production environments, and are fully supported. If you have any questions, I encourage you to engage the Web Help Desk RC forum on THWACK.

Something we hear quite often is "how can I build custom SLA report in Orion". Everybody who is a bit familiar with Orion knows our web-reporting tools which is the right place to start, however sometimes it requires more than a click & point tweak in reporting.

(we've made this article official: SLA Reports )

 

I'll use this SLA request example: WAN SLA availability by time zone & 7x24 in order to demonstrate one of the ways how to get there.

 

What you'd need to accomplish this?

  1. NPM (or any other SolarWinds product)
  2. Orion SDK - Orion SDK Information
  3. At least one hour data history for the devices which should appear in your SLA report. In my case, Nodes and business hours.
  4. 30 minutes of your time

 

What will be the result:

Our goal is to create daily custom SLA report for Node availability (in %) which shows the device availability only for our business hours - in our case 7AM - 6PM

The result may look like this:

Node             SLA Availability          SLA Hours         

New York      92.33                         7am-6pm   

 

Let's get started:

First problem we need to solve is how to "tell" system what are our report business hours. This seems to be a best fit for Orion custom properties. Let's create two custom properties: 1) time_from 2)time_to and assign the values to all nodes.

 

Go "All Settings" -> "Manage Custom Properties" -> "Add Custom Property" -> Select Nodes and click "next" -> specify property name "time_from" and apply on "reports" -> Select all nodes to assign a property.

 

Now we need to assign the start rush our time in a bulk operation to all nodes. Select "view/edit values" and set "7" to the field:

 

 

Ok, now go and repeat all steps above for "time_to" and value "18" (6PM).

 

Ready? Good. We have data ready and now it's time to data-mining. For that purpose we're going to use SolarWidns proprietary business logic and data layer represented by SolarWinds Information Service - SWIS. Which has simimar syntax to SQL but gives you much more power to get properties via "." operator (no need to know entire database table structures). In order to tune the final query we will use SWQL Studio tool which is part of SDK you already installed into ProgramFolder (x86)\Orion SDK\

 

Run the studio and enter the FDQN name of your Orion server (or IP Address), Administrator credentials and from drop-down select "Orion (v3)" which defines version 3 of SWIS.

If the connect is successful you'll see the SWIS database structure on the left hand side:

And again, this is not equal to your SQL server structure, this is the database structure Orion primarily use for viewing data and it's strongly recommended to use over direct SQL access because it provides data consistency, performance optimization and it will guarantee your reports to be working even if database structure is changed during product updates.

 

Prepare the SWQL query

Not the fun begins and we need to define SWQL query for our data set.

 

Here is the one I use to get the data for my SLA report:

 

select n.Caption, sub_query.sla_day, sub_query.sla_availability, n.CustomProperties.time_from, n.CustomProperties.time_to FROM

(

   SELECT avg(Availability) as sla_availability, datetrunc('day',datetime) as sla_day, r.NodeID

   FROM Orion.ResponseTime r

   where hour(datetime) >= r.Node.customproperties.time_from and hour(datetime)<= r.Node.customproperties.time_to

    group by datetrunc('day',datetime), r.NodeID

) as sub_query

 

inner join Orion.Nodes n ON n.NodeID=sub_query.NodeID

 

For those who are bit familiar with any SQL type of language it should look familiar. Here is what I've done

 

First I need to compute average data from Orion.ResponseTime table and I need to apply rush hour limitation defined by custom properties from above. This represents inner query. "Datetrunc" function is able to take a day, hour or month from entire date. I need a day so I can guarantee avaliability for each node is computed for only a given day and then for rush hours time interval. It's easy compare condition.

 

Second I need to return the results of average node availability for time-segment and apply a table formatting so I will see "Node Caption", day/date, availability and time_from and time_to defining SLA business rush hours.

 

And the result?

Great, so we can tune our query and add/remove columns or apply additional sorting.

 

Publish and view in Orion reporting.

Time to take our work and make it available for all Orion users. To do so, go to Orion web console -> reports -> manger reports -> create new report. And we will create new CustomTable based report.

Follow the steps below to accomplish your task where we enter our SWQL query, select the columns for report and apply sorting by date:

 

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

6)

7)

8) voila - here comes the final report

 

We're done. Till now our new report "Node SLA report - business hours" will be available in the list of reports in Orion and you can also schedule the report on daily/weekly basis as you need.

Please be aware our maintenance rolls-off the finest detailed data each month (30 days) and if you run the report after that period you won't be able to see full granular details beyond 30 days time border.

 

I hope you find this useful and it inspires you to experiment more with SWQL and SWQL studio in order to build the reports you're looking for. SWQL studio will also help you to browse our data structures so you can learn by walking and master your custom report skills in Orion.

We are pleased to announce the general availability of Server & Application Monitor 6.3.

 

This version includes the following new features and enhancements:

 

You can view the full set of release notes, including problems that were resolved here.

 

Server & Application Monitor 6.3 is available for download in your customer portal for those customers under active Server & Application Monitor maintenance.

We are proud to announce that Web Help Desk (WHD) 12.5 Beta 1 is now available!!!!

Sign-up.png

 

 

The team has been working hard at producing the next release for WHD. The Beta is open to WHD customers currently on active maintenance. Your feedback on the beta is key to our development. As an added incentive, beta users who submit feedback will receive 3,000 Thwack points to buy swag at the Thwack Store.

We encourage you to sign up and run the beta through its paces, then tell us what you think by providing your feedback in the Web Help Desk Beta forum!!

Time flies when you were having fun, so I must be having a blast because Database Performance Analyzer 10.2  has arrived in a blink of an eye (just 6 months since 10.1).  If you are ready, you can download it from the customer portal and for free evaluation from the SolarWinds Website. Be prepared to save hours every day as we take analysis of blocking and deadlocks to a whole new level.

 

New Features in 10.2

  • Identify Root Blockers causing the greatest impact
  • Find the last activity of an Idle Blocker
  • Monitor Deadlocks
  • Use MySQL as a DPA repository
  • Support for the latest databases - SQL 2016 and MySQL 5.7
  • AD/LDAP Configuration Wizard
  • Tomcat 8 and Java 1.8
  • Lots of minor fixes - see the Release Notes.

A major theme in this release is blocking and locking analysis.  Blocking occurs when the database locks an object to perform a transaction and another request for this same object is received.  The database blocks the second transaction until the original transaction is complete and the lock is released. Locking is a good and necessary thing for a database to function properly, but excessive blocking causes programs and clients to wait, and is very difficult to diagnose.  DPA 10.2 is focused on solving difficult blocking and lock problems with just a few clicks.

 

Identify Root Blockers causing the greatest impact

Blocking can involve more than just two transactions, as transaction A blocks transaction B, B blocks C, and so on, piling up the time applications are waiting quite quickly.  DPA 10.2 not only identifies the root blockers, but also aggregates the wait time in the correlation tab to show which queries are causing the most overall wait.  If one query is the root blocker for other queries, say from your online website store, customers may be waiting - which can impact your bottom line.

This new blocking summary information appears as a correlation tab under the wait time chart and tracks with your choices of dimension and time slice (from 30 days to 1 sec)... even the colors of the queries in the bar chart matches.

Bonus 1: You can toggle on the idle blockers (gray bar), to see if they are causing a lot of wait.

Bonus 2: We also have a Top Waiters view, so you can quickly find which queries are most impacted by blocking as well.

 

Find the last activity of an Idle Blocker

Imagine a construction crew blocks the road you're on, and while waiting for them to complete their work, you notice they stop jack hammering and walk away.  You are being blocked, and your blocker is idle - they're doing something (maybe eating lunch), but they sure aren't working on the road.  This is analogous to an idle blocker, where a program or user locks an object in the database, but then performs work outside of the database before completing the transaction.   From the database's perspective, the blocker is "idle" because its not doing database work, and there is no association with database activity.

So when you try to diagnose an idle blocker, you have no starting place, nothing to pass on to the developer other than "it's idle".  Often times, the DBA would have to spend hours sifting through queries to identify the last activity before the lock went idle, so that the problem could be found and fixed. Well, you don't have to do that manual work anymore - with a couple of clicks, DPA will take you back to the last known activity of an idle blocker, and let you easily annotate it too.

To find the last activity, drill down to an hour and click the Blockers tab. On the left of the table, root blockers are shown, and you can expand the tree to see all the waitiers.  For Idle blockers, there is a new link called Find Last Activity on the right.

When you click Find Last Activity (ex SPID 79), a popup appears with a couple of choices - Annotate and View Activity, or just View Activity.

If you choose "Annotate and View Activity", DPA will search the past 48 hours for last activity for that session related to the blocker (Session 79).  We've now found the last activity before the block went idle.

And we annotated it, so its much easier to find in the future!

Now you have something you can share with your team and quickly identify and fix the problem!

 

Monitor Deadlocks

A deadlock happens when two or more transactions block each other by holding locks on resources that each of the transactions also need.

DPA uses a modified Extended Event session in order to capture deadlock details for SQL Server, and will use the default system health session for SQL Server on Amazon RDS. Users are able to configure a non-default session using the Advanced Properties page. When deadlocks are detected, they are displayed at the bottom of the Trends tab:  DPA also shows a metric named Victim Impact, which is a measure of time the victim's transaction was running and consuming resources.

Deadlock analysis is contained in the correlation tab with two options - Deadlock List and Deadlock chart.  The deadlock list contains a list of all the deadlocks for the current timeslice.

Clicking on a deadlock link takes you to a deadlock details page which has three parts.

1. Deadlock Summary, which shows the Total Victim Impact.
Bonus:  Open the deadlock XML in SQL Server Management Studio and see the visualization of the deadlock or email the deadlock information with a click of the button!

 

2. Victims and Survivors: Shows you details of the queries that were victims and thus rolled back, as well as the survivor which completed.

3. Deadlocked Resources - Bonus: All those links have popups with definitions and expert advice.

The Deadlock chart simply counts the number of deadlocks occurring in the same dimension and time slice you are viewing, helping you identify trends.

For a deeper dive on the nature of deadlocks and how to analyze them with DPA, check out our deadlock analysis KB article.

 

MySQL as a DPA Repository

When we released monitoring for MySQL in DPA 10.0 less than a year ago, our customers were excited to finally be able to monitor MySQL with the same wait time analysis methodology as used for SQL and Oracle.  However, there were lots of folks who wanted DPA to use MySQL as a data repository too.  I am happy to say you have the option to use DPA as a data repository!  If you want to change from SQL or Oracle, we don't migrate old data when changing repository types.

 

New way to get to Historical Charts

A new trick that's easy to miss is the addition of a link to the historical charts wherever you open the query popup.  There is a new button in the bottom left that allows you to jump to historical charts from almost anywhere. Its a small but welcomed change.

 

But Wait, There's More

Every release has some minor features too, and 10.2 is no exception.

  • Support for the latest databases - SQL 2016 and MySQL 5.7
  • AD/LDAP wizard now makes it much easier to connect to your directory.  Current configurations are supported and you can modify them via the Wizard.
  • Tomcat 8 and Java 1.8 moves DPA to the latest versions with security updates.
  • Lots of minor fixes - see the Release Notes.

 

Sign up to get on the next beta!

The dust hasn't settled on 10.2, but our dedicated team of database nerds and code jockeys are already hard at work on the next awesome DPA release - check out the What We Are Working On for DPA (Updated April 7, 2017) post.  If you don't see everything you've been wishing for there, you add it to our Database Performance Analyzer Feature Requests

 

If you want to get your hands dirty as soon as our next beta is ready, get on the list for the next beta by filling out this survey.

We have reached the Release Candidate (RC) status for Log & Event Manager (LEM) 6.3. RC is the last step before general availability and is a chance for existing customers to get the newest functionality before it is available to everyone else.

 

The RC contains the following enhancements:

  • Single sign-on (SSO)/smart card integration.
  • Update to Java 8
  • SNMP v3 Monitoring of LEM virtual appliance
  • New configurable alerts for disk utilization
  • Fixes for security vulnerabilities and multiple supportability enhancements

 

Single Sign-On / Smart Card Integration

 

LEM now supports SSO to log in to the LEM console. This means you can leverage your existing single sign-on infrastructure to authenticate and authorize activity in the LEM web console. We are developing a comprehensive document to configure SSO, but below are a few quick tips for configuring Kerberos based SSO for MS LDAP.

  1. Ensure an A record exist in DNS with the FQDN for your LEM server.
  2. You need to setup a Service Principal Name (SPN), a service account for Kerberos authentication. If this account expires, you will need to re-create a new one so make sure to keep an eye on that. Generate a keytab file based on that SPN.
  3. Create AD groups for each of the LEM groups. See the below table.

    

Header 1Header 2
ROLE_LEM_ADMINISTRATORSadmin_role
ROLE_LEM_ALERTS_ONLYalerts_only
ROLE_LEM_AUDITORaudit_role
ROLE_LEM_GUESTSguest
ROLE_LEM_CONTACTSnotify_only
ROLE_LEM_REPORTSreports_only

 

4. Ensure browser security settings trust the LEM appliance's address. In IE, the simple way to configure is to add it to the Trusted Sites. If you configure IE security settings they will flow through to other browsers such as Netscape (just kidding), Firefox and Chrome.

5. SSH to the CMC and import the keytab generated in step 2. Type 'import' from the main CMC screen.

6. Before you can configure SSO, you must have at least one LDAP account configured.

 

Update to Java 8

Since the LEM appliance is a secured hardened virtual appliance, it's difficult to practically exploit many of the vulnerabilities in the packages we use. Every time we ship a new version, we update those packages to include the most current and secure versions. When new exploits are announced, we evaluate the severity of the exploit and whether that exploit can be used against the LEM appliance. Sometimes the exploit requires root access which isn't really relevant because if you already have root access, you can do whatever you want, so we make sure to focus on the critical issues like remote exploits.

 

SNMP v3 Monitoring of LEM virtual appliance

You can now monitor the LEM appliance just like any other node in your network. You need to configure the SNMP service in the CMC. From the main CMC prompt, type 'service' then 'snmp'. The CMC will prompt you through the next steps. Make sure you record this information as you will need it when you configure your monitoring server, hopefully SolarWinds NPM! This will provide you base metrics such as CPU, Memory, and Disk utilization.

 

New configurable alerts for disk utilization

While previous versions of LEM contained a system audit event when a disk partition reached 90% utilization, many customers needed more granular control for regulatory reasons. You can now configure percent utilization or absolute availability in the CMC. From the appliance menu type 'diskusage' to see current utilization then 'diskusageconfig' to define the limits you need. When a threshold is met or exceeded, you will see it in the Monitor UI on the web console. You can also configure alerts and other actions based on these events.

 

If you are an existing customer on active maintenance the RC should be available in your portal now! After you upgrade, post below and let us know how it went and what you think of the updates!

We are pleased to announce the general availability of Netflow Traffic Analyzer 4.2.

 

This version includes the following enhancements:

 

Netflow Traffic Analyzer 4.2 is available for download in your customer portal for those customers under active Netflow Traffic Analyzer maintenance. 

 

You can view the full set of release notes, including problems that were resolved here.

We are pleased to announce the general availability of Network Configuration Manager 7.5.

 

This version includes the following enhancements:

 

Network Configuration Manager 7.5 is available for download in your customer portal for those customers under active Network Configuration Manager maintenance. 

 

You can view the full set of release notes, including problems that were resolved here.

We are pleased to announce the general availability of Storage Resource Monitor 6.3.

 

This version includes the following enhancements:

  • Support for EMC XtremIO arrays
  • Support for Pure Storage arrays

 

Storage Resource Monitor 6.3 is available for download in your customer portal for those customers under active Storage Resource Monitor maintenance.

 

You can view the full set of release notes, including problems that were resolved here.

You can find further details about the improvements here: Storage Resource Monitor v6.3 Release Candidate is Avaiable!

We are pleased to announce the general availability of Kiwi CatTools 3.11.

 

This version includes the following enhancements:

  • IPv6 support
  • SSL/TLS email support
  • Variations for HP.Switch.2500, RedHat Linux, Checkpoint VPN & Huawei General
  • HP Procurve software updates
  • ARP report support for Checkpoint firewalls.

 

Kiwi CatTools 3.11 is available for download in your customer portal for those customers under active Kiwi CatTools maintenance.

 

You can view the full set of release notes, including problems that were resolved here.

veroa

Reducing the Upgrade Blues

Posted by veroa Employee May 24, 2016

We’ve been talking with many of you over the years and from some of those conversations we know that upgrade days, or rather, nights and weekends, aren’t really your favorite part of your job. Also, we’ve learned that SolarWinds Orion product upgrades haven’t been as easy as they could be.

 

With the upcoming release of NPM 12 we decided to focus on improving the Orion upgrade experience. Check out some of the initiatives we’ve worked on and why, and learn how you can help us as we continue to look for ways to improve your upgrade experience with SolarWinds Orion products.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE PAIN POINTS

Our initial objective for the upgrade project was to baseline the upgrade process in the real world. We interviewed dozens of Orion users who had recently upgraded and asked questions such as, “How/where do you find out there is a new version of your SolarWinds product?”; “When you find out there is a new version, where do you go to find out more and what do you do next?”

 

You told us there were three top pain points when upgrading: planning, execution, and cleanup. For planning, we learned that information wasn’t centrally located; most of you use Release Notes at some point, but there were gaps in the data they provided, and that it wasn’t always easy to answer the question “is upgrading worthwhile?” A big theme for the execution and cleanup phases was that upgrading generally isn’t so much difficult as it’s tedious, time-consuming, and manual. For large customers, dealing with multiple products and additional polling engines only compounds the issue.

 

DESIGNING A BETTER EXPERIENCE

We ran surveys with hundreds of users and validated that the pain points were true for most. Then, we were off to problem-solving land!  We created multiple versions of new content, tested it with users, made changes, and started the process all over again until we were confident that we were providing content that really addressed the pain points. We also worked with individual users to review current installations “in the wild” to look for opportunities to reduce time to upgrade and automate where we could.

 

WHAT'S NEW IN YOUR ORION UPGRADE EXPERIENCE?

To help you with the planning phase of your upgrade experience, we worked on enhancing the release notes by highlighting key features and gotchas, providing an upgrade guide/checklist, including new feature technical overviews, as well as version comparison content and training videos on new features.

release-notes.jpg

Enhanced Release Notes

 

 

When you’re actually doing the upgrading, you’ll be able to take advantage of over 100 automatic system checks and compatibility checks that let you know prior to installation when certain things might be blockers. If we find a potential problem, we even tell you what to do to fix it. For example: if you’re running antivirus, we check for that and recommend you turn it off on your Orion main poller.

 

We also took a hard look at the performance of installs—literally, how long it takes users to install the bits for an upgrade (or for that matter, a new install). Our intrepid dev team has done some behind-the-scenes tuning, so you should experience faster performance during the actual installation.

 

Take a look at what's new and how to upgrade to NPM 12.

 

 

Below are some comments from users who have seen all of these changes:

 

"I wish we had this when we were upgrading from 10.5"

 

" . . . this really covers everything I need to know about upgrading. Everything is in once place. It used to be I had a list of features, then I had to go somewhere else for upgrade instruction, somewhere else for gotchas, somewhere else for troubleshooting. This has everything in one page and I like that."

 

I’ll be sending these links to my boss and coworkers.

 

"I like (the new Release Notes); the layout is nice and clean, I like the pictures on it, keep up the good work!"

 

 

And of course, so much more is in the works! As always (you all should know what’s coming by now), we never solve every problem, and we never will make perfect software or perfect experiences… but we always strive to do better! Which is where YOU come in.  If you haven’t already, use the big button below to sign up for UX feedback sessions. You’ll get a chance to provide feedback and influence product, feature, and customer experiences that are in the works. If you’ve already upgraded or gone through RC, check in here and let us know what your experience was like. Your feedback is very valuable to us!

 

button.png?t=Sign+up+to+participate+in+UX+feedback+sessions&f=Calibri&ts=20&tc=fff&tshs=0&tshc=000&hp=20&vp=8&c=9&bgt=unicolored&bgc=3d85c6&bs=1&bc=fff

Last year, we wrote a post about the Orion User Interface (UI) Refresh in which we shared with you some changes to the look and feel of Orion you could expect to see in upcoming releases, such as reducing the visual noise and clutter to better help you focus on ‘the big red things’ that should draw your attention.

 

As part of that effort, we in the SolarWinds User Experience (UX) team have relied heavily on input from you, our users, to help us identify where we were on track, and where we needed to course-correct. Come take a tour with us and learn about some of the changes that were made based on feedback from hundreds of users like you over the past year and a half!

 

Baselining the old UI

A basic tenet of our process is to really understand what’s working for users and what isn’t before we make any changes. We knew the UI was tired and dated, and we knew there were many underlying problems to solve, but we wanted to better understand what problems we should solve for and what use cases we should support. We interviewed users and took tours of real environments ‘in the wild’, ran focus groups over the phone, and met with key internal stakeholders like sales engineers, support and others who engage with users every day to ask for their input on what we should focus on. Out of that came this:

orion1.png

Solving the problems

Once we had our marching orders, we began investigating solutions. Visual design ideas had been percolating in our heads for a while, so we tackled that problem first. We mocked up a few key pages into an interactive prototype and asked users to take a look, and then take a survey to let us know their thoughts. Initial feedback let us know we were on the right track, but that we had some readability and contrast issues to solve. More changes were made, and more surveys went out until we felt confident that the new design would reduce visual noise, still allow good information density, and ensure easy readability.

 

Navigation took longer to solve for. We did card sorting activities where we asked users to group pages and name each group. We came up with four fully-coded navigation prototypes and watched users do tasks on each one. Then, we compared the time it took users to complete tasks on each one, and we collected comments on preference on each as well. We updated each navigation prototype and ran the same activity again. Lastly (or so we thought), we ran internal focus groups with sales, support, and other key audiences to fine-tune the chosen navigation scheme so we could finalize it.

 

Ta-da! (or not?)

orion2.png

 

Our new visual design and navigation scheme (above) addressed many of the problems we set out to solve. The visual design frees up space and allows the design to breathe, making it less intimidating for new or evaluation users, while preserving good data density for existing users.

 

In all activities with users, the most common word we heard to describe the new visual design was “sleek.” We successfully reduced the space that the navigation bar took, made navigation task-based and not product-based (notice Alerts, Reports, and Settings are right there in the top level navigation!), and got rid of that annoying problem of having second level navigation targets disappear when users scrolled off the appropriate first-level navigation. Users can still find everything they used to find under product tabs by clicking the My Dashboards menu (see screenshot below).

orion3.png

Were we done?—As it turns out, no. Late feature walkthroughs of the whole enchilada (navigation and design) exposed a problem. We had focused navigation efforts on targeting the far more prevalent use case of users with 3 or fewer Orion-based products. But users who had more than 3 products felt overwhelmed by what one called “the wall of black” that they saw when mousing over My Dashboards.

 

The solution? –Give users a choice of menu style. For users with 4 or fewer tabs in their primary navigation in Orion Platform version 2015.1.2 or earlier, the My Dashboards navigation defaults to show all menu items expanded (like the image above). For users with more than 4 tabs, we default to show each menu item individually expanded when moused over (like the screenshot below). Users can switch to whatever version they prefer, by selecting Expand or Collapse in the blue link at the bottom of My Dashboards.

orion4.png

 

Moving forward

We’ve done lots of work with users to validate the changes we made, but we know there is always room for improvement.  And, we have big plans moving forward!  When you get a chance to experience the new changes in any of the Orion products in June 2016, feel free to let us know what you think.  And if you’d like to take part in feedback sessions where you too can help shape the future of Orion products, sign up below!

 

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