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Our Desktop Support Team (which I'll call "EUPS" from here on--for End User Platform Support) rarely unpatches data cables from switches when PC's or printers or other devices move or are retired.  That results in switches and blades with potentially many ports patched, and nothing using those ports.

 

That's a waste of money.

 

When someone has a new device to add to a network, possibly requiring a new data drop to be pulled to the network room, and there's no open ports on a stack of switches or in a chassis switch, we've got few options:

  1. Tell the customer "Sorry--there's no room in the inn."  You know that won't float.
  2. Tell the customer "Sorry, we're out of network switch ports, and no one in your department budgeted for adding a new switch or blade (between $5K and $8K, depending on the hardware).  When you can come up with the funds, we'll order the hardware and install it.  Probably in three weeks, if you get the funds to us today."  Nope, that won't float either--although sometimes we have to play hard ball to ensure folks think before they add new devices to a network.
  3. Take a new/spare switch from inventory, install it, and take heat from up above for not planning adequately.  Naw, that's not right, either.
  4. Run Rick's Favorite Report #1 and find which ports haven't been used in a year, have EUPS unpatch them, and then patch in the new devices.  TAH-DAH!  Money saved, customer up and running right away, budget conserved, resources reused--we're the Facilitators that make things happen instead of the No-Sayers that are despised.

 

So how does this magical report work?  Easily and efficiently!  Check out how to build it here:  https://thwack.solarwinds.com/docs/DOC-188091

 

Once it's built for a switch, it's easily modified to change switches--just change the switch name in the title, and change the switch name in Datasource1, and run the report.

 

 

My team uses this almost every day, and I bet I use it weekly.  How many switches has this saved us from buying, how many ports have we been able to reuse?  Let's say we use it only twice a week.  That's over a hundred ports every year that are repurposed at no cost!  And since they're typically in different network rooms, you might say we avoid having to buy between fifty and a hundred new switches or blades every year. 

 

A network switch port costs about $169 (including 10/100/1000/POE) if it's in a high-density high-availability chassis switch that's fully populated, and about the same if it's in a stackable switch.

 

So the actual cost of 50 ports X $169 = $8,450.  That's not too bad since it's money not spent for recovered ports.  100 ports is $16,900.   Not insignificant, and not something you want to waste.

 

But let's build a worst-case scenario: 

  • Every port on a switch is used
  • You have to buy another switch every time someone needs to patch something new into the network.
  • 50 devices X $5K per switch is a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS.
  • Perhaps a more realistic approach: Suppose your ports aren't so perfectly mispatched. Maybe only every tenth port to be patched requires adding another switch.  So if you find 100 ports incorrectly patched, you'd spend up to $80K on additional switches.

 

Some organizations offer a bonus to employees who discover and recommend process changes that result in significant cost decreases to the company, and the company bonus could be equal to 10% to 25% of the annual savings. If someone offered me 25% of $80K for saving the company from having to buy more switches every year, I'd be all over that!

 

And this easy Solarwinds report does it for free. Did the money saved pay for something significant to the company? Did you get a juicy bonus for your money-saving suggestion?

 

;^)

 

p.s.:  This report ALSO saves unnecessary downtime--we don't end up guessing about the purpose of a port, and unpatching and repurposing mission critical ports that are only used once every few months or years--because we label those ports in the switches.  The report includes those labels in its output along with how long the ports have been down.  It even displays them by length of down time, from longest to shortest.  Schweet!

OpsGenie – a cloud based alert and notification management solution – has recently announced integration with SolarWinds Web Help Desk. So, how does it work?

  1. WHD sends an email to OpsGenie, which in turn creates a new alert in OpsGenie.
  2. OpsGenie then sends alert actions back to WHD via Web Help Desk API. OpsGenie can make a web request to the WHD and update the ticket with a note. WHD needs to have a web-based URL that is accessible from the internet (http://hostname:port).

WHD-OpsGenie.jpg

 

By using OpsGenie with SolarWinds Web Help Desk Integration, you can forward SolarWinds Web Help Desk tickets to OpsGenie. OpsGenie can then determine the right people to notify, based on on-call schedules, email, text messages (SMS), phone calls and iOS & Android push notifications. OpsGenie will continue to escalate the alert until it’s acknowledged or closed.

For more information, please refer to the following support document.

If you have been keeping up with the Thwack product blog lately you know that Drag & Drop Answers to Your Toughest IT Questions revealed PerfStack, the new way to view performance analysis by visualizing and correlating data within the Orion web interface and Get Your Head Out of the Clouds, and Your Data Too identified that you can collect configuration and metric data directly from Amazon Web Services® (AWS), and have that data visualized along with the rest of the environment you are already monitoring in SAM 6.4 or VMAN 7.1.  This is great news for any administrator that needs to troubleshoot a Hybrid IT application with on-premises VMs and AWS cloud instances.

 

The good news is that Virtualization Manager (VMAN) 7.1 allows you to leverage the "new hotness" found in PerfStack and Cloud Infrastructure monitoring to correlate and pinpoint where the application performance issue is in your hybrid infrastructure. In the following example, we have a hybrid cloud application that has resources in the cloud (SQL AWS) as well as an on-premises virtual server (Analytics VM) both of which are monitored with VMAN. As with most IT incidents, the administrator is left trying to figure out what exactly is causing the performance degradation in their application with little to go on other than the "application is slow". Using PerfStack you can quickly dive down into each KPI and drag and drop the metrics you want to compare until the troubleshooting discovery surfaces what the issue is or isn't. The fact that VMAN contains cloud infrastructure monitoring means that you can add AWS counters from your cloud instances into PerfStack and correlate those with other cloud instances or with your on-premises VMs to troubleshoot your hybrid infrastructure with VMAN.

hybrid-2.jpg

 

In the example above, the cloud instance, SQL AWS is experiencing some spikes in CPU load but it is well within the normal operating parameters while the on-premises VM, Analytics VM is experiencing very little CPU load. With PerfStack my attention is easily drawn to the memory utilization being high on both servers that participate in the application's performance and the fact that my on-premises VM has an active alert gives tells me I need to dig into that VM further.

 

By adding Virtualization Manager counters that indicators of VM performance (CPU Ready, ballooning, Swapping) I see that there are no hidden performance issues from the hypervisor configuration (figure below).

Perfstack -2.jpg

From the Virtualization Manager VM details page for the Analytics VM, I see that the active alert is related to large snapshots on the VM which can be a cause of performance degradation. In addition, the VM resides on a host with an active alert for Host CPU utilization which may be a growing concern for me in the near future.  To monitor hybrid cloud infrastructure in VMAN  allows the administrator the ability to create a highly customized view for discovery and troubleshooting with the contextual data necessary minus the alert noise that can regularly occur.

activealerts.jpg

One of the added benefits of monitoring cloud instances with VMAN is that you can now build on the single pane of glass view that will be the monitoring authority for both your on-premises and cloud environment. Not only is it essential to have one place to monitor and correlate your data when applications span across hybrid environments but having visibility into both environments from Solarwinds allows you to determine what requirements will be necessary when moving workloads into your AWS cloud or off your AWS environment.

 

on-prem2.jpg         cloud-sum-2.jpg

 

For more information on PerfStack and Hybrid end-to-end monitoring, check out the following link.

Hybrid IT – Hybrid Infrastructure | SolarWinds

 

Don't forget to check these blog posts for deeper dives into PerfStack & Cloud Monitoring respectively.

Drag & Drop Answers to Your Toughest IT Questions

Get Your Head Out of the Clouds, and Your Data Too

I’m pleased to announce three new releases are now available!

 

NPM 12.1

 

PerfStack TMMeraki Wireless Monitoring

1.png

All your IT metrics on a shared timeline.  >> Learn more

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API based monitoring for your cloud managed wireless gear.  >> Learn more

Along with:

  • Mute alerts
  • Minor NetPath enhancements
  • Improved Arista 7500E support

 

Check out all the details in the release notes.  You can find NPM 12.1 now on the Customer Portal!

 

 

NCM 7.6

 

Firmware Upgrades

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Leverage the power and simplicity of the new Firmware Upgrade Wizard to help

with all your Cisco IOS upgrades.  >> Learn more

 

Check out all the details in the release notes.  You can find NCM 7.6 now on the Customer Portal!

 

 

VNQM 4.4

 

  • Updated Cisco Call Manager Support (11.x)
  • Avaya Aura Communication Manager Support (6.3.x)
  • Web-based Alerting & Reporting

 

Check out all the details in the release notes.  You can find NPM VNQM 4.4 now on the Customer Portal!

There has been a lot of focus on security lately in the news and rightfully soSeemingly each week there’s news of companies being hacked, data being stolen, and mass DDoS attacks.  With the amount of news on this topic I sometimes wonder if companies are actually taking the steps to protect themselves.  Granted, taking the proper steps to protect your network can be time consuming and tedious work, of which most engineers don’t have time for.  Well times are a-changing and now with SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager 7.6 and the new Firmware Upgrade feature---Everyone Has Time for That!

 

Before I start to dig into the new features of NCM 7.6, let’s back up and talk about a previous version of NCM (7.4) where SolarWinds introduced the Firmware Vulnerabilities feature.   This feature leverages the National Vulnerability Database to notify NCM users when they’re running firmware that potentially has a serious vulnerability.

Network Configuration Manager Vulnerability Summary

 

Vulnerability Details

 

 

I’ve received a lot of really positive feedback about this feature but the obvious question that always comes up after I show it to customers is; “Can SolarWinds fix this for me?”.  Historically I would have said, Yes, using the Network Configuration Manager and the amazing scripting technologies you can upgrade your firmware.  Well, now I’m pleased to say I can answer that question differently.  Using the new Firmware Upgrade Wizard in NCM 7.6 you can upgrade one or many of your Cisco IOS devices.

 

According to Cisco documentation there are 11 steps needed to complete a firmware upgrade on your Cisco IOS devices.  While 11 steps don’t sound too bad there are actually several sub-steps which drag this process out to over 40 tasks users must complete to upgrade a SINGLE device.  Seriously, who has time for that?  We here at SolarWinds decided we could save our users time and the misery of completing these upgrades by simplifying this process while adding a bit of automation.

 

 

 

NCM Firmware Upgrade Wizard

 

 

The new Firmware Upgrade feature in NCM contains a 3-step process of upgrading your devices.  During this process, we will collect a wealth of data about the devices you want to upgrade, including several important settings and of course we will ensure there is enough free space to successfully transfer your new image.  In addition, we will automatically backup running and startup configuration files and do a comparison after the upgrade has completed.  We’ve taken the necessary steps to make this process as smooth and safe as possible.  

 

 

 

After you’ve verified all of the settings and options you can then proceed to run the upgrade immediately or schedule it for a later date.  You can always keep track of the upgrade process on the Firmware Upgrade Operations page.  Hopefully you’ll agree that this is a much-improved process to the standard method of upgrading your Cisco IOS devices.  Ready to give this a try?  You can find the Release Candidate in your customer portal if you’re under active maintenance for NCM.  Otherwise you’ll have to wait until the official release of NCM 7.6.

 

Everyone Has Time for That!

If you are in the cloud or heading there, I'm excited to tell you Database Performance Analyzer 11.0 has your databases covered.  DPA already monitors databases on cloud VMs and Amazon RDS, but now we've got each vendors database DBaaS offerings as well.  Also, the updated DPA Integration Module (DPAIM) shows these new databases in Orion, and add SRM integration as well.  Here are some of the great features in DPA/DPAIM 11.0 RC:

  • Azure SQL Database... and in Orion too!
  • Amazon RDS Aurora support
  • SQL Server Availability Groups
  • Oracle Adaptive Plans
  • SRM Integration
  • GUI Improvements
  • Updated wait type descriptions

 

Monitor Azure SQL Databases

Microsoft did an awesome job creating a DBaaS option in Azure using SQL Server technology, and now we can analyze the database just like we do SQL Server, with database cloud metrics too!

Moving databases Azure SQL DB is measured and priced by by DTU's (Database Transaction Unit).  The more CPU, Memory or IO your SQL DB needs, the more money you pay.  In addition to our measuring the Wait Time, DPA captures DTU size and utilization, and captures CPU, Memory and IO in terms of percent utilization of the DTU, making it easy to see which resource is driving your DTU consumption.

So if you're bumping up your DTU limit, before you move up to the next DTU tier and increase you OPEX, try tuning some queries, eliminating blocking or adding some indexes.

And you can use Azure SQL DB as your DPA repository too.

 

Azure SQL Database in Orion too!

Oh, did I mention this would show up in Orion too!  If you have the DPA Integration Module (DPAIM) installed and configured, as soon as you add Azure SQL to DPA, you'll see your Azure Databases Orion as well.

Now you can map your DBaaS to your applications running on Azure VMs to fully support Hyrbrid-IT end-to-end single pane of glass!!!

 

Monitor Amazon Aurora

Aurora is Amazon's database that is MySQL compatible is now fully supported by DPA, to round out support for Amazon's database offerings.

 

Support for SQL Server Availability Groups

Availability Groups are one of the most popular features of SQL server these days, and DPA can now show you health and status of the availability groups and their member replicas and  databases.  You can configure DPA two ways:

  • Monitor via the listener - DPA will follow the primary replica from server to server.
  • Monitor each instance in the cluster

Either way, you'll see the same data for the primary server - the status of all availability groups for that server.

And if you drill down on an individual availability groups, you can see the status of all the replicas and databases.

When an instance is not the primary replica, you can still see the status of the itself in the availability group, but not the overall AG health or health of other replicas.

So now, when you see HADR wait types increasing, you can drill in and see the health and status of your availability groups

 

See Oracle Predicates and Adaptive Plans

For all Oracle users, we've added structure to our plan view and made it easy to filter out noise by hiding/showing the predicates.  Oracle 12c instances get the added bonus of seeing how Oracle is adapting plans for their queries.  And you can download the plan in easy to use and share text version, complete with link back to the plan view.

 

Storage Resource Monitor Integration

If you are a DBA and need to take a deeper dive into your storage array, you can now monitor your arrays with SRM and build relationships to the databases you are monitoring with DPA.  Once built, you can see capacity utilization and performance of the LUNs connected to your databases, including where you are at risk at to run out of a storage or performance capacity.

 

And a lot more!

In every release, we do a lot more than we can include here, but here are a couple more features worth mentioning:

  • GUI Improvements - Streamlined home page and filters, pages require less scrolling, simplified flow to Advisors and Historical Charts.
  • Updated Expert Advice - the expert advice for the most common Wait Type descriptions were expanded and improved... and to compliment the new Availability Group feature, we updated the HADR wait types as well.
  • Simplified Help - we unified our help into a single "Learn More" button and began adding and updating content, especially training around wait time analysis to help new users... more to come.
  • To see more, check out the release notes.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Log into the Customer Portal and download DPA 11.0. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to post them in the Database Performance Analyzer RC group as well.

Now that you’ve seen how to use PerfStack for networks, it’s time to check out the improved Meraki wireless monitoring of NPM 12.1!

 

This feature was born from a simple customer request: to cover Meraki gear in the same way we do all the other wireless vendors, showing their hybrid infrastructure in a single pane of glass.  Additional research show a common need: don’t develop some different monitoring specific to Meraki, just cover all my wireless gear in one spot, in the same way.

 

Now NPM has been able to monitor Meraki wireless gear for quite some time.  Use the Add Node wizard to add APs with SNMP polling, and you’re off the races.  But there were a couple of problems:

  1. Each AP had to be added individually.  Discovery can speed this up, but many users prefer not to run comprehensive discovery often. This really clashes with the idea that Meraki APs can be deployed with near zero touch.
  2. Client information is not available via SNMP, so it is missing in NPM.  Turns out client information is kind of important if you want to know what’s going on with your wireless service.

 

Essentially, these two issues crop up because of the unique and innovative way Meraki technology works. In traditional thin AP deployments, APs connect to a physical wireless controller that is on-prem.  The controller controls (obviously) the APs and provides a central spot for configuration and management.  Meraki compounds the benefit of the wireless controller by replacing the physical unit with a logical controller in the Meraki cloud.  This means you can express the wireless policy for all of your locations on Meraki’s dashboard, at virtually any scale.  You have one wireless configuration.  As new APs are added to the network, they can be deployed with virtually zero touch.  And you don’t have to manage any physical controllers.

 

Pretty slick.

 

How do you poll the cloud controller though?  SNMP really doesn’t make sense to use in a Meraki environment where the controller is logical, and you have to reach it over an insecure medium like the Internet.

 

The solution is to poll via API.  TLS protects the communication just like it does your credit card number when you make a purchase online.  And RESTful APIs are just a more modern, intelligent solution.

 

So we partnered with Meraki to get that done.  In NPM 12.1, you’ll notice a new option in the Add Node wizard:

1.png

 

Upon selecting Meraki Wireless: API, you’ll be prompted for your API key.  You can find this in your Meraki Dashboard.  Once that’s filled in, NPM will connect to the Meraki cloud and retrieve your Organization list.  Most companies will have a single Organization, but MSPs or companies that go through a lot of acquisitions may have multiple.  After selecting a specific organization and clicking next, NPM will discover all of the APs and list them just as we would for a traditional wireless controller.  You can select which you’d like to monitor, and additional APs can be monitored automatically.  With that done, you’ll see the Meraki logical controller, APs, and clients in your Node Details and Wireless views:

2.png

 

 

That’s it!  All the complexity happens on the backend, and the UI you use stays the same, just with more data.  Simple, right?

 

Some additional facts you may be interested:

  • Licensing works just like it does for traditional on-prem wireless controllers and thin APs.  The controller costs one node license.  The thin APs do not take licenses!
  • While NPM shows more metrics than before, we’re still missing a few things.  We’ll look to improve this as the data becomes available in the RESTful API.  And some data just doesn’t make sense for Meraki gear, for example Wireless Controller CPU and RAM.

 

We’re very excited to continue down this path of providing complete monitoring visibility of hybrid infrastructure.  Special thanks to Meraki for providing us with shiny new Meraki gear for our lab and working side by side with our development team.

 

Edit:

NPM 12.1 is out, with Meraki wireless monitoring!  Check out the video to see how it works.  Current customers can find it in the Customer Portal.  If you don't own NPM and want to try it, or want to try it in a lab, you can get it here.

download.jpeg

I have been bursting at the seams to write about this topic. Now that the Server & Application Monitor (SAM) Release Candidate is available, I can tell you all about it. As many of you may know, SAM already has an ability to monitor workloads that are running in the cloud. The Orion® agent and agentless based technology allows SAM the flexibility to monitor all of your workloads on-premises as well as in the public cloud.

 

Now with SAM 6.4 or VMAN 7.1, you can collect configuration and metric data directly from Amazon Web Services® (AWS), and have that data visualized along with the rest of the environment you are already monitoring. All you need are your AWS account credentials.

 

Once you have your account configured in the Orion console, you will then be able to see all of your EC2™ instances and EBS volumes within one summary screen.

cloud_summary.png

 

If you have multiple AWS accounts, no problem. Add each one, so the Orion platform can discover all of the associated cloud instances and know which AWS region they are running in.

cloud_infra.png

 

Just like the detail that is available with existing Orion Nodes, you can drill down and see more information about individual cloud instances, including attached EBS volumes, default CloudWatch™ metrics, and configuration settings like Auto Scaling Group membership.

cloud_details.png

 

Now, if you want to go deeper into monitoring your workloads running in the cloud, beyond what AWS provides, all you have to do is manage the cloud instance as an Orion Node. We even created a handy mechanism for you to do so, directly from the Cloud Instance Details page.

manage_instance.png

 

This will give you the ability to monitor what’s running on the OS, directly from the cloud instances. At that point, all you have to do is switch between the Orion Node Details view and the Cloud Instance Details view to have complete visibility.

node_details1.pngnode_details2.png

 

As an added benefit, you can apply your existing SAM Application Templates and visualize the end to end infrastructure relationships with AppStack™.

app_details.png

 

Our goal with introducing this feature was to ensure that no matter where your workloads are running, you will have the information you need to ensure their health and availability. We know that the landscape of IT is changing, and as increasing public cloud adoption transforms traditional IT environments into hybrid ones, we need to deliver the tools necessary for adapting to this new complexity.

 

But wait, there’s more!

Since you made it to the bottom of this post, I thought I would share something extra with you. If you have read the recent post, Drag & Drop Answers to Your Toughest IT Questions, you will be aware of the new PerfStack feature that is also available. What you may not have known is that the cloud instance data, mentioned above, is also available in PerfStack, allowing hybrid environment comparisons and correlations with on-premises workloads.

perfstack_cloud.png

 

So, what are you waiting for? Log into the Customer Portal and download SAM 6.4. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to post them in the Server & Applications Monitor Release Candidate group as well.

OK, OK, I admit it. My favorite new feature of NPM 12.1 is PerfStackTM which is actually a feature of the Orion® Platform (or “Core”). So my team didn’t actually build it. Darn.  Fortunately, all the products that run on the Orion Platform get it, including NPM.  More importantly, all products can contribute data to it, making it super powerful.

 

The idea is simple. Put all of the data points that Orion has on a single page and make it pleasantly interactive.  Check it out:

 

1.png

 

Search for an entity on the left, browse through all the data we have about that entity, and drag and drop it onto the visualization pane on the right.  Works for all sorts of different entities like nodes, interfaces, and volumes.  Works with all sorts of data types too, like status (think: up/down/warning), time-series (think: bandwidth utilization), and events (think: alerts).

 

What does that look like for networks?  Check it out:

2.png

 

Interface status, transmit utilization and errors, and top egress flows on a single page.  Including NPM and NTA data.  Awesome.  We’ve been wanting to build this into the product for years!  I never would have guessed we would instead build a framework so that YOU can build these views on a whim.

 

Making it this easy and fast to view data points is absolutely a game changer. I was exploring some of the data the other day.  It’s like the scientific method in real time.  Observe some data, come up with a hypothesis, drag on related data to prove or disprove your hypothesis, rinse and repeat.

 

Check this out.  We’ve been experiencing slowness on one of our routers here at SolarWinds.  Bandwidth wasn’t saturated, and slowness didn’t seem to be tied to any specific interface.  I started by seeing the performance the poller gets when contacting the router:

3.png

 

 

That looks good, so why is my transit traffic impacted?  How’s CPU and RAM?  Add those…

4.png

 

RAM is kinda high for a router.  Is that causing any buffer drops?  Yes! Let’s see what size is dropping by pulling in the history for the 5 different sizes.

5.png

 

Ok, so we’ve got high RAM, causing buffer misses, specifically and only for Medium Buffers. I can jump on the router and tell it to be more aggressive about preparing more Medium Buffers to cover spikes of packets of this specific size.

 

This takes literally seconds, which is exactly what you want during an outage.

 

And data is provided by everything that works on Orion Core.  Think about that!  Notice high load time on a web page?  Pull in your WPM chart to see the history.  Correlate to CPU usage.  Correlate that to IIS queues.  To interface stats.  To flow data.

 

PerfStack does several of the things you guys have been asking for, and a few extra things we thought up:

  • Imports new data points as they’re polled in near real-time.  Without reloading the page or even a graph.
  • Hide the metric panel if you want and PerfStack displays the graph full screen.
  • Save your favorite PerfStacks and go back to them whenever you want.
  • Send someone the URL of the PerfStack you’re looking at, and they’ll see the same, even without saving.  Of course if they don’t have permission to see some data, they’ll see only the data they have permission to see.
  • Update the timeframe and all charts will adhere to it.

 

Want to try it out for yourself?  Keep an eye on your inbox.  We’ll be emailing you soon that NPM 12.1 is ready in your customer portal!

 

And what would you do with PerfStack?  We want to hear over at the appropriately titled post: What Would You Do with PerfStack?

We've all been there at some point or another. For some of us it's a daily ritual, for others, it's what haunts our dreams at night.

 

I'm speaking, of course, about troubleshooting complex multi-faceted IT issues which can (and often do) transcend functional silos within the overarching IT organization. Cloud, virtualization, hybrid IT, storage area networks, converged infrastructure etc., have all fundamentally transformed IT. Tasks which historically may have taken hours or even days, now take minutes, and some just seconds to complete. These historically, time consuming tasks have become so easy, in fact, that in some organizations they're fully or at least partially automated.

 

The story doesn't end at the infrastructure either. Instead of monolithic, single purpose, do everything, application servers; distributed application architectures, elasticity, and containerization have increasingly becoming the norm. While all these abstraction layers have helped address application scalability and availability, they have also made it significantly more difficult for those monitoring the health and performance of everything which contributes to the delivery of the services those applications provide.

 

The troubleshooting process itself is more entangled than ever before, often times requiring collaboration amongst many different functional silos within the organization. From the storage administrator, DBA, Virtualization admin, cloud architect, application designer, network engineer, DevOps, systems administrators, etc., the finger pointing begins right away. But where to begin? The Orion® Platform and its related product modules such as Network Performance Monitor, Server & Application Monitor, etc., can collect millions of different metrics from across the entirety of the IT environment. That's an overwhelming amount of data to parse through as the clock is ticking; the pressure mounts, and your SLA is hanging in the balance.

 

Many Orion administrators have created elaborate, purpose-built, custom summary dashboards, comprising many various chart resources to help consolidate relevant information related to specific business critical services and to aid in troubleshooting scenarios. The issues with this approach are varied. First, depending upon the complexity and elaborateness of the custom dashboard, the creation process can be both tedious and time consuming. Second, only those with Orion View Management rights have the necessary permissions required to build or modify these custom summary dashboards, placing a tremendous burden on the Orion administrator and making them the bottleneck for efficient troubleshooting. Third, there's the issue of maintaining these custom summary dashboards. Some larger organizations may have dozens or even hundreds of these for various business services, and if not properly maintained to reflect changes made throughout the organization, these dashboards become less and less useful for their intended purpose.

 

From the end-user's perspective, these dashboards help eliminate the need to navigate through a various multitude of views and dashboards in search of data needed to isolate the root cause. Provided, of course, the issue they're investigating occurred within the default time period shown within the chart resources. If it didn't, then the end-user must click on each chart resource individually to be taken to the Custom Chart View, where they can adjust the timeframe shown to the timeframe desired for that specific chart. This then defeats the entire purpose of the custom summary dashboard as a means to visually correlate data more easily for the specific time period when the issue occurred.

 

Enter PerfStack

 

With the release of Network Performance Monitor 12.1 RC1, and the impending release of Server & Application Monitor 6.4 RC1 comes a completely new method for visualizing and correlating data within the Orion web interface. We affectionately refer to this as 'PerfStack'. In part, the name represents the newfound performance analysis and correlation capabilities this feature brings to the Orion® Platform, enriched with relationship data which powers AppStack. The culmination of time series and relationship data is what sets PerfStack apart, allowing you to quickly sift through the massive amounts of data Orion products collect, eliminating noise, and allowing you to focus on what's truly relevant to the issue at hand.

 

Immediately upon upgrading to any of our latest release candidates you will notice a new option available under the 'Home' menu, entitled 'Performance Analysis', which will take you to the new PerfStack dashboard. By default, you will begin with a new analysis project, whereby you will need to start by adding at least one entity. In the throes of an active investigation into an ongoing issue,   the entity selected would typically be the one exhibiting the symptom. This could be the switch, router, virtual machine, host, (AKA: node), or something more specific like the application, LUN, array, or web transaction, to name only a few of the possibilities. Choose whatever the most logical starting point is in your investigation and note that you can add as many entities as you wish to your analysis project.

 

Performance Analysis Menu OptionAdd Entities
Performance Analysis.pngAdd Entities.png

 

Select Entities

 

 

Once you’ve added your entity/s to PerfStack, hovering your mouse over any of those entities in the list, you will notice two icons that appear to the right of the entity name. When clicked, the first icon brings in all other entities related to that object. This leverages existing AppStack relationship data, as well as additional relationship information not currently expressed within AppStack. This includes items such as Hardware Health sensors, network Interfaces, IIS™ Sites, application pools, etc. Relationship information within PerfStack allows you to dramatically accelerate the troubleshooting process and focus exclusively on what's likely related to the issue at hand. This prevents you from fumbling about, wasting time manually trying to figure out how things are related on your own.

 

Add Related EntitiesAvailable Metrics

 

Clicking on any entity name itself populates a list of all available metrics associated with that entity in the adjacent column. These metrics are categorized into collapsed groupings based on their type, any of which can be expanded to reveal individual metric tiles. These tiles can then be dragged onto the chart area on the right where the metric data is plotted.

 

 

 

Add as many metrics to the chart area as you desire. You can add multiple metrics to the same chart, as well as stack multiple charts on top of each other. PerfStack is also capable of combining data from disparate data sources into the same chart. For example, combine Storage Resource Monitor's LUN IOPS data with Network Performance Monitor's network latency and bandwidth data into the same chart to troubleshoot iSCSI performance issues. A feat never before possible within the Orion® Platform family of products.

 

Correlate Metrics Across Different Orion Product Modules
Multi-Product Chart.png

 

PerfStack also allows you to combine integer-based metrics with percentage-based metrics while maintaining the appropriate scale. This is accomplished by maintaining two separate x-axes when metrics of dissimilar types are combined within the same chart.

 

Combine Metrics of Dissimilar Units Within The Same Chart
Integer Pecent.png

 

Data for all metrics displayed within the chart area are automatically aligned across the same time period. Hovering your mouse over any chart area adds a vertical marker which tracks with your mouse movement to visually align all data points across the series. It also displays the date and time that datapoint was collected. As you move your mouse horizontally across the time period of the chart area, the values within the legend update to reflect the values aligned to the vertical marker.

 

 

The viewable time period can be adjusted globally, maintaining sync across all charts in PerfStack. Both relative and custom timeframes are available, allowing you to view things such as the last seven days of history, or focus on a particular event that occurred between 8am - 6pm last Tuesday, for example.

 

Adjust Time RangeSave your Masterpiece

 

Once you've completed your masterpiece, you can optionally save it for future reference. Charted metrics, the entities they're derived from, and the custom or relative time frame are all included as part of your saved project. Saved PerfStack projects can be loaded just as easily as they were saved with a top five most recently used PerfStack list making juggling between projects a snap. You can also save a copy of a project using Save As, or delete PerfStack projects you no longer need from within the More menu.

 

Load Saved PerfStack MRUDelete & Save As

 

Each individual Orion user can create, save, load, update, and delete their own works of art within PerfStack. Also, users aren't required to have Orion 'Admin' or 'View Management' rights to do so, either. Any Orion user can create as many PerfStack dashboards as they wish and manage them independently without assistance from the Orion Admin; something I'm sure is music to the ears of every Orion administrator.

 

Sharing is Caring

 

The most powerful PerfStack feature of all is the ability to collaborate with others within your IT organization; breaking down the silo walls and allowing teams to triage and troubleshoot problems across functional areas. Anything built in PerfStack is sharable. The only requirement is that the individual you're sharing with has the ability to login to the Orion web interface. Sharing is as simple as copying the URL in your browser and pasting it into email, IM, or even a helpdesk ticket.

 

 

When received, the URL provided allows others to instantly see exactly what you've found. They, in turn, can work from that URL, add their own metrics, and send it back without ever affecting your project. Similar behavior is also true if you wish to share a saved PerfStack. Sharing saved PerfStack projects with others allows the recipient access to view your saved PerfStack dashboard and any updates you may make to it in the future. Other users cannot modify your saved PerfStack project, but they can save their own copy, update it as needed, and share back their results.

 

Orion account limitations are fully respected by PerfStack, so there's no need to worry about users gaining access to information they shouldn't. If for any reason, a user should receive a link to a PerfStack project containing objects not permitted by their account restrictions, then any/all metrics related to those restricted objects would be automatically hidden from that user's perspective of the PerfStack project.

 

Coming Soon to a Theater (Monitor) Near You

 

PerfStack is a feature provided with all upcoming Orion product releases which are built atop Orion Platform v2017.1 or later. The list of supported modules include (but not limited to)...

 

  • Network Performance Monitor 12.1
  • Server & Application Monitor 6.4
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer 4.2.2
  • Virtualization Manager 7.x
  • Storage Resource Monitor 6.4
  • Web Performance Monitor 2.2.1

 

SolarWinds PerfStack Analysis Dashboard was engineered to allow Orion users to troubleshoot, isolate, and identify IT problems in ways never before possible. As our IT environments evolve, so too must the tools we use to monitor them. Cross silo collaboration is an essential ingredient to any successful IT organization, now and for the foreseeable future. PerfStack, like NetPath before it, are just tiny glimpses into what we have in store for the future of Orion, and we sincerely hope you like what you see.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the End of Life of SolarWinds Alert Central. Alert Central was an attempt to build on something that you, our users and customers, knew us well for, free tools. The idea was to expand on the free tools concept and build something much bigger, an entirely free product.

 

When we were building Alert Central, cloud based applications were still few and far between, more marketing than reality. So we built Alert Central as a virtual appliance. This was great if you were familiar with that technology or worked closely with your virtual administrator. The experience was very similar to what you would get with SaaS; no need to worry about dependencies or install failures, just start it up and go. Obviously there has been a lot of change in this market over the last 3-5 years. Both in the underlying cloud services available to build applications, but also general acceptance from the market on cloud based applications.

 

If we were building this product today, we wouldn’t be asking your thoughts on virtual appliances as a deployment mechanism, we would be asking you about cloud or on-prem. We believe this use case is best fulfilled by a cloud based solution. This is a large factor in our decision to both stop development of Alert Central and also where the silver lining is. When we surveyed the market and worked with our IT Operations team, we quickly realized that there was company that stood above the rest, OpsGenie.

So I’m pleased to announce, SolarWinds and OpsGenie are partnering!

 

OpsGenie is a cloud based alert and incident management solutions for dev and operations teams. We believe OpsGenie has done a great job at solving these problems. In fact, they’ve done such a great job that our internal IT Ops team has already moved to them. Our free product was good and had a lot of fans, but we want to make sure our customers have the right long term solution, and that’s OpsGenie.

 

If you are using Alert Central today, what does this all mean for you? Well, for starters, nobody is going to come in and take away Alert Central from you. Since it’s a free product, there is no licensing or code that will turn off or stop working. However, OpsGenie has gone to great lengths to make sure that existing Alert Central customers will be taken care of, so we recommend switching sooner rather than later. They are aware that many of our customers are using a free product today so don’t necessarily have budget to buy a replacement solution. To that end, they have agreed to offer a special free tier for existing SolarWinds Alert Central users.

 

SolarWinds Lite Plan (Free)

  • Up to five (5) users
  • Email and SolarWinds NPM integrations
  • Email, mobile push notifications
  • 10 SMS notifications per user per month
  • Heartbeat monitoring

 

There will certainly be some customers that are larger shops or see the value in the advanced functionality that comes with the full OpsGenie platform. For those users, OpsGenie has created special pricing as well.

 

SolarWinds Pro Plan ($120/user/year or $12/user/month)

  • Email, SolarWinds NPM and chat integrations
  • On-call schedules, teams and escalations
  • Email, mobile push notifications
  • 100 SMS and phone notifications per user per month (U.S. only)
  • 25 SMS and phone notifications per user per month (International)

 

I’m guessing you can see why we were so happy to partner with OpsGenie. Not only do they have a great product, a product that our internal team loves, but they also understand what it means to take care of our customers.

 

We will be hosting a webinar on January 18, 2017 at 2:00pm EST where our Director of IT Operations will show you how our internal team migrated from Alert Central to OpsGenie. We will show you how things were done in Alert Central, and how you will do them with OpsGenie. We will also be providing documentation that should help with this transition at  https://www.opsgenie.com/solarwinds-alert-central

 

Saying goodbye is always hard so we hope saying hello at the same time will make it easier. Ultimately, we believe you will be much happier and more productive with this solution so let us know how we can help with this transition.

Register for webinar here: http://opsgenie.com/webinars/solarwinds-alert-central-transition-to-opsgenie

Jogging is my exercise. I use it to tune out noise, focus on a problem at hand, avoid interruptions, and stay healthy. Recently, I was cruising at a comfortable nine-minute pace when I was passed by four elite runners, and it was like I was standing still. It got me thinking along the lines of health versus performance and how they are related. I came to the conclusion that they are related, but more like distant cousins than siblings.

 

I can provide you data that indicates health status: blood pressure, resting heart rate, BMI, percentage of body fat, current illnesses, etc. Given all that, tell me. Can I run a four-minute mile? That question can’t be answered with the data I provided. That’s because I’m now talking about performance versus health.

 

As it relates to databases, we can look at health metrics: CPU utilization, I/O stats, memory pressure, et al. However, those also can’t answer the question of how your databases and queries are performing. I’d argue that both health AND performance monitoring and analysis are important and can impact each other, but they really do answer different questions.

 

Health is a very mature topic and pretty much all database monitoring solutions offer this visibility. Performance is another story. I love this definition of performance from Craig Mullins as it relates to databases – the optimization of resource use to increase throughput and minimize contention, enabling the largest possible workload to be processed.” Interestingly, I believe this definition would be widely accepted, yet approaches to achieving this with monitoring tools varies widely. While I agree with this definition, I’d add “in the shortest possible time” to the end of the definition. If you agree that a time component needs to be considered with regards to database performance, now we’re talking about wait-time analysis. Here’s a white paper that goes into much more detail on this approach and why it is the correct way to think about performance.

 

Stop chasing red herrings and stop resolving symptoms. Get to the root cause of database performance issues using the right approach.

 

 

 

For more on this topic, check out my webcast recording- Database Performance on Tap. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, questions, or ideas for my next webcast!

Christmas has come early, and Santa has brought everyone a present. No, its not a football.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_7fjPQ0A-4kI/TQUvQmNs7zI/AAAAAAAADFo/ngtuhHHOWW0/s1600/a-christmas-story-ralphie-santa.jpg

 

Actually, the SAM Engineering team is responsible for this holiday joy. I will not spoil the surprise but you can get a hint of what's inside the beta by checking out the What We're Working On Beyond SAM 6.5 (Updated December 4, 2017) post. What are you waiting for?! Click the button below to sign up and download.

 

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Must be under active maintenance for SAM

 

And as an added bonus, anyone who participates in the beta and provides feedback, will be awarded 3000 THWACK points!

gminks

What is SolarWinds SAM?

Posted by gminks Dec 12, 2016

Hi y’all! I’m the new product marketing manager for SolarWinds SAM – Server and Application Monitor. For the last few years, the products I’ve worked on have been focused on storage infrastructure and backups. Now that I’m part of the SolarWinds team I’ll be concentrating on monitoring infrastructures; the hardware and maybe even more importantly the applications that run on that hardware.

 

I’ve been at SolarWinds for three months, and I’m just starting to dig into the actual technology of SAM. I thought I’d work out loud, and blog my way through learning about my new product.

 

What is SolarWinds SAM?

SAM is an application monitoring product. It monitors servers and applications, gathering and pushing info by using native tools (SNMP or Windows® WMI, PowerShell®, etc.) or a lightweight agent to gather important host information. (I’ll cover why you’d want to use an agent vs going agentless in a future blog post). Information can also be gathered using templates -  specialized scripts that go directly to a server to gather specific information. There are out-of-the box templates for over 200 enterprise applications (including Exchange®, SharePoint®, etc.). You can also pull in scripts you have written, or design your own templates to gather information on applications that have been developed in-house.

 

Of course you can monitor Windows and Linux® servers, whether they are on-premises or in the cloud with SAM. Once it’s set up, SAM will alert you in real time about the health of the elements in your environment. But that’s just the beginning. Once SAM is installed, it automatically discovers your applications and maps out all of that app’s dependencies. It makes real-time, logical connections between hosts, networks, and applications with the information it gathers, allowing you to zero in on the real problem if you start getting tickets that SharePoint is slow. Is it SharePoint? IIS? A problem with a LUN? Is it really the network? You’re going to be able to identify performance problems in your environment, and can even remediate some of them directly from the SAM dashboard.

 

Exchange Application Summary.png

 

You won’t be taking on new technical debt, because you can still take advantage of scripts you’ve written, whether they are PowerShell, shell, or for other monitoring platforms such as Nagios® , by importing them into SAM.

 

Oh and bonus….you now have an inventory of all of your hardware and software. Pretty cool huh?

 

What's the Orion Platform?

You’ll see lots of references to Orion® sprinkled throughout content about SAM. The Orion Platform serves as the foundation for many SolarWinds products, including SAM. It provides a common set of services to the products that can plug into the platform:

  • Dashboards (common navigation and user experience across products)
  • Alerts
  • Permissions
  • Data storage

 

Orion Platform.png

 

 

 


The coolest thing about the Orion Platform is that it’s extendable. Once you install SAM, you also have the benefits of the Orion Platform. And if you add other SolarWinds products like VMAN for virtualization monitoring or DPM for database monitoring, you’ll extend the Orion Platform and be able to see deep relationships between an application (SAM) sitting on a VM (VMAN), sitting on a server (SAM), connected to a database (DPM) on a VM (VMAN) on a server (SAM), all using storage from the same array (SRM). All from one pane of glass. For real.

 

Once I blog all about SAM, I’ll dig into how adding other SolarWinds products that use the Orion platform help you take your application monitoring to the next level.

 

How can I learn more?

There are tons of resources to help you learn more about SAM. Here’s what I’m using to get up to speed:

  • Customer Success Center
    Yes, this is our official support site, but you have access to lots of content on this page even before you become a Solarwinds customer. Check out all the resources for SAM!
  • Customer Training
    You must be a customer to access this training, but here’s the amazing thing: all of this training is free for customers. All of the training is free, not just the products for which you’re under active maintenance. This means if you have SAM, but you’re interested in VMAN (our virtualization management product), you can go take the training to see if it will fit your needs!
  • Thwack Community
    The Thwack community of Solarwinds users is very active and vocal! The SAM-specific forum is here. The SAM Product Manager (and soon me!) post product-specific information here. More importantly, customers ask questions, and help each other.  One really interesting feature of this community is that members can upload and share SAM templates. I’ll go into depth about this in a future post as well.
  • Check out an interactive demo.

 

If you want to play along as I write, why not download a free trial and come along for the ride?

 

What I'll be writing about

 

Here is how I’ve plotted out the topics I’m planning to write about. I’ll add links to the posts as I publish them.

  • Overview of SAM – that’s this post
  • Architecture and Planning – How do you prepare for installing SAM?
  • Installation and Discovery – I’ll write about installing and discovering my lab
  • Configuration of application templates – I’ll configure templates that are included with SAM
  • Creating a custom template – I’ll configure a custom template
  • Future ideas: adding other Solarwinds products (SRM, VMAN, NPM); Security!
  • What would you like to see?


No Lines, No Waiting, No Rainchecks - SolarWinds NCM 7.6 Beta 1 is now available!

 

The NCM Engineering team has been busy preparing this exclusive SolarWinds NCM beta ahead of Black Friday!  Packed with some amazing new functionality, this beta can be yours to test over the long holiday weekend.  If you were looking for that perfect reason to avoid the In-Laws, SolarWinds NCM has delivered.  I can't give away all of the details, but this beta includes some of the features listed here; What We Are Working On for NCM after v7.7 (Updated on September 19, 2017).

 

Click the link below to sign up.

button_solarwinds-ncm-7-6-beta-1.png
Must be under active maintenance for NCM to gain access.

 

 

 

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All active beta participates who provide feedback will be awarded 3,000 THWACK points!

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