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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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We have reached the Release Candidate (RC) status for Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) 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.

 

This RC contains the following enhancements:

  • Support for EMC XtremIO arrays
  • Support for Pure Storage arrays (Purity 4.6 or above required)
  • Refreshed user interface

 

New Metrics with All-Flash Arrays (AFA's)

The use of very fast flash memory instead of spinning disks is not the only benefit that comes with all-flash arrays. Many (but not all) models provide the user with interesting advanced features such as data de-duplication, compression, and thin provisioning. In order to monitor and report relevant information about the flash array, we extended and/or modified some of the reported statistics, alerts, etc.

The below information applies to both EMC XtremIO and Pure Storage arrays.

 

Capacity Reporting

XtremIO-Capacity.png

 

Let's take a look at storage array capacity summary resources. Because of the nature of disk space management, Raw Capacity and Total Used Capacity will always be the same for AFA's. They represent sum of physical sizes of all memory modules (e.g. SSD's).

 

Usable Capacity Summary is more interesting: Total Usable Capacity means sum of user data space on all memory modules (disks).

  • Data Reduction is the ratio of actually used volume capacity to used physical capacity in the cluster. In the picture below, the reduction is 3:1, which means that e.g. 300 GB of user data only occupies 100 GB physical capacity after deduplication. It's one of the most important parameters for capacity planning.
  • Total Reduction also takes compression and thin provisioning into account, but its interpretation is not so straightforward.

 

Further details are reported on storage pool level:

XtremIO-Pool.png

  • Total Usable Capacity -- Total user data space on all memory modules (SSDs)
  • Total Subscribed -- Capacity of all LUNs after the data reduction (SUM(Lun.CapacityTotal) / Data Reduction))
  • Provisioned -- Amount of user data space in use
  • Over-Subscribed -- Total Subscribed minus Total Usable Capacity

 

Monitor Your EMC XtremIO Arrays

XtremIO-Summary.png

 

The latencies with AFA's are much lower that for disk-based arrays.

XtremIO-Latencies.png

 

Monitor Your Pure Storage Arrays

Pure-Summary.png

 

Enjoy the New UI Design

If you kept reading up to this point, you have probably noticed that the user interface looks a little different than in the past. SRM is not the only module that benefits from this improvement shipped by the Orion Platfrom (Core). We wish you a pleasant experience.

 

RC builds are made available to existing customers prior to 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 leverage the SRM RC forum.

 

You will find the latest version on your customer portal in the Release Candidate section.

UPDATE: NPM 12 has landed! 

 

It took longer than usual to build this release but I can honestly say this is our biggest release in yearsNPM 12 is almost ready.

 

NetPath

NetPath started as something we were fiddling with in the lab.  We came up with some really cool tech tidbits like:

  • Discovering the entire, complex path that connects users to services far, far away on the Internet.  Often dozens and sometimes hundreds of routers, links, and servers.
  • Quantifying the performance of every node and every link.
  • Correlating hop by hop performance on a node or link that is used for a portion of the traffic to the end-to-end performance experienced by users.
  • Determining what portion of latency is healthy and what portion is unhealthy.  That way, we can correctly mark a link between two routers in the same building as unhealthy when it takes 7ms and mark a transcontinental link that takes 30ms as healthy.
  • Reliably mimicking application traffic so we are allowed through firewalls and treated with QOS just like application traffic is.
Early NetPath.png

At the end of the day, tools should make problems easier to understand and solve.  As Network Engineers, we know there will never be a troubleshooting easy button, but our tools should always be aspiring to achieve that goal.Today, NetPath is our very best first attempt to reach toward that goal.  Today, NetPath looks like this:

NetPath Today.png

As NetPath strives to make network problems faster and easier to solve, we're super excited to see how it impacts your view of the network and how you solve network problems.

 

 

Network Insight for F5 BIG IP

Network Insight for F5 BIG IP provides deep, relationship aware monitoring of your F5 LTMs and GTMs (BIG-IP DNS). We get new metrics like concurrent connections by pool member and health monitor status. Most importantly, we are able to relate a single component to all of the dependent components. Or enumerate all of the components that must be working for a single service to work. www.solarwinds.com is pretty important to us. We want to know fast if there is a problem, and what it is!

 

Network Insight for F5 Load Balancers - Mini Stack.png

 

UI Refresh

The UI for NPM and all other Orion based products has been refreshed. This includes two key changes.

 

First, we've rebuilt the top menu bar to minimize the space it uses, make navigation easier, and surface important features that are shared across several products, for example alerts and reports.

Menu Bar - Highlight.png

 

Second, we've reskinned the rest of the pages. This means colors and styles have been changed, but the function of the page is the same. Your cheese hasn't moved, it's just a different color! (hopefully that's good)

New UI Skin.png

The goal here is a clean UI that makes it easy to focus on things that really need your attention. This overhaul also provides a path to our truly next generation UI, the first of which can be seen in NetPath.

 

Improved Cisco Switch Stack Monitoring

Cisco switch stacks have a layer of technology beyond a simple fixed switch that allows the stack to act as a single logical entity. This release makes it easy to understand, monitor, alert, and troubleshoot on that layer of technology. NPM can:

  • List the member switches, and alert you upon membership changes.
  • Identify the master and backup master switches.
  • Discover CPU, RAM, and hardware health for each individual member.
  • Visualize the stack ring and identify partial failures.

 

Switch Stack - Highlight.png

 

And More!

ServiceNow integration, stackable poller scalability improvements, installation optimization, install pre-flight checks, built in upgrade path advisor, AD integration for discovery, auto-import from discoveries, and so much more. We can't wait to show you the rest! In the mean time, what looks most interesting to you?

 

Check out all the goodies in the Release Notes and get upgradedAnd be sure to check out the video at the NPM 12 microsite!

I'm happy to share with you, that we reached GA milestone for Web Help Desk (WHD) 12.4. Focus of this release was mainly security and stability of the application. Namely

 

Security improvements

  • Improved security across the application for FIPS-mode SSL connections, namely
    • HTTP over SSL connections
    • Microsoft® Exchange, IMAP, POP3, and SMTP over SSL
    • WMI and other asset discovery connections over SSL
    • LDAP over SSL
    • SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor (NPM), Systems and Applications Monitor (SAM), and Network Configuration Monitor (NCM) integration over SSL
  • User password hashes, integration password hashes, and other static data such as database custom fields and stored credentials
  • Detection and indication of system cryptography status
  • Automatic migration of all stored passwords for stronger and more secure cryptography

 

Support for FIPS 140-2 compatible cryptography

For environments where high security standards are required, you can install and configure FIPS 140-2 compatible cryptography to achieve your required level of regulation compliance. The user interface includes a password migration tool to help you migrate techs and clients to FIPS-secure passwords.

 

Additional improvements

  • Smarter backup rotations in the Virtual Appliance
  • Oracle® Java™ 8 support
  • Over 100 bug fixes that hugely improve the stability of the application

 

Now go and download web help desk from your customer portal or webhelpdesk.com.

 

PS. If you want to get excited about what is coming next (we are already busily working on new stuff) sign up for upcoming Beta here.

I am excited to announce that Database Performance analyzer 10.1 with support for Oracle 12c multitenant is now available in the customer portal and for free evaluation from the SolarWinds Website. What's so special about DPA 10.1?  Let's take a look!

 

New Features in 10.1

  • Support for Oracle 12c Multitenant
    • Monitor Oracle Pluggable Databses (PDBs)
    • Automatic Grouping of PDBs
    • Summary View, showing usage per PDB
    • Detect and alert when PDBs are added, remove or moved.
    • Mass registrion for PDBs, just like other
    • PDBs should up in the Orion integration
    • Using a PDB as an DPA repository
  • Improved Mass Registration
  • Offline License Deactivation
  • Lots of minor fixes - see the Release Notes.

 

What is a PDB?

What's a PDB you ask?   Officially, a Pluggable Database is "user-created set of schemas, objects, and related structures that appears logically to an application as a separate database". Basically, its everything that makes up the database.  Why is this important?  Previously, Oracle didn't have a good way to have multiple databases on one Oracle instance. You had a couple of options, table spaces and multiple instances per server, but they had their drawbacks.  Multitenant support is kind of like virtualization, where you can quickly "plug" in multiple databases into one Oracle "container" (aka CDB) and let them share resources and be managed as a whole, improving resource utilization and reducing management time.

 

Monitoring Oracle Multitenant and PDB changes

Adding individual PDBs now works just like Oracle single tenant or the classic Oracle databases.  Just choose Oracle, enter the needed information and go!  Same thing with mass registration.  DPA will only allow you to register PDBs, not CDBs (Container Databases).  If you try to add the CDB, DPA will politely ask you to register the PDBs instead.

 

Once you have registered two Oracle PDBs in the same CDB (Container Database), they will auto group in the home screen.  If you register just one PDB from a CDB, is will still show up as an individual database.

CDB View - Summarizing PDB Load

As a bonus, you can click on the CDB and get summary data across the PDB instances, allowing you to quickly see which PDB has more wait time, what kinds of waits they are experiencing,

 

Which PDB is waiting the most in the CDB?  Quickly see the balance between the PDBs.

If you are seeing unusual wait times at the PDB level, you can drill up and review the PDB.  Here we see a major increase "direct path read" and "read by other session".

Finally, if you want to look across all your PDBs and find the query with the most wait time, use the Top SQL tab.  You can click on the link to see the query.

 

PDB Annotations and Alerts

The data collected from a PDB is the same data we've always collected for Oracle.  However, we do annotate all PDB changes - when they are added, removed or moved.

For example, you will see annotations on the 30-day trend when

  • You plug in a PDB
  • You move a PDB from one CDB to another (see sample below)
  • You unplug a PDB

PDB Odds and Ends

  • If you have a dozens or hundreds of PDBs, mass registration allows you to quickly add them via a spreadsheet upload.
  • If you want to use a PDB as a repository for DPA, no problem - it works out of the box.
  • PDBs will show up in the Orion integration and support all current features, so they will map to your Orion nodes and application just like traditional databases.

 

 

But Wait, There's More

Every release has some minor features too, and 10.1 is no exception.

  • The mass registration file can now be uploaded directly to DPA via the GUI, rather than moving the file to the DPA server.  This simplifies mass registration and makes it a more secure process.
  • You can now deactivate licenses without involving support or customer service - even if you are offline.
  • Lots of minor fixes - see the Release Notes.

 

What's next?

Our dedicated team of database nerds and code jockies are 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 the above features get you excited, get on the list for the next beta by filling out this survey.

Not all virtual environments are alike, the default out-of-the-box configuration of the virtual appliance is not necessarily best suited to environments of all sizes, and those particularly large environments may want to consider adjusting some of those default settings for optimal performance.  To take advantage of the features that have been added to VMAN over the last several releases requires Orion integration, which makes correctly configuring VMAN extremely important for performance and scalability. The VMAN Sizing Guide was created to assist with the preliminary setup and configuration of both the Virtualization Manager appliance and the integrated Orion server. 

 

To access the guide click here.

 

The the following items are addressed based on the number of VMs to be polled.

 

·       Memory, CPU, and storage considerations for the VMAN appliance

·       Memory, CPU, and storage considerations for the Orion server when integration is enabled

·       Identify when federated pollers are needed

·       Identify when to deploy Orion APEs to distribute the workload when integration is enabled

·       Advanced fine tuning of the VMAN appliance for Optimal performance

·       Necessary hotfix install version to solve integration issues

·       Fixes for database size issues

 

 

The guide is organized into small, medium, and large deployment recommendations to help you determine the starting configuration size for your VMAN and Orion deployment. Not all possible scenarios are included in this document, so consider the recommendations in this document as guidelines.  This is not an exhaustive list of all the fine tuning and performance tweaks that can be made, if you are still having performance issues than please reach out to your sales engineer or support contact.  They should be able to walk you through some advance tuning recommendations that would be specific to your virtual environment. 

 

Click the following  button for the VMAN Sizing Guide.

VMAN Sizing Guide.png

Recently, Cisco® added a collection of Smart Services reports to Smart Net Total Care™.  The new Smart Net Total Care reports rely on current information about your network devices and how they are configured and used.  To get these reports, you must send information about your network to Cisco. One way to do this is to use SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM). NCM utilizes a variety of network discovery methods to identify the network devices it manages. Therefore, NCM knows a great deal about your network devices and how they are configured and used. Using a special connector, NCM is able to send this information to Cisco.

 

What follows is a quick overview of the reports included with a Smart Net Total Care subscription that are now available using NCM and the NCM Cisco connector.  

Service Coverage

The service coverage reports, also known as Know the Network (KTN), show devices and components not covered under a valid service contract. If service coverage exists, the report includes details about the service agreement, including coverage start and end times. Use this report to identify hardware and software that may not be covered under a service agreement, and identify devices that are covered but are no longer in service.

 

EoxHW

The Hardware EoX report shows you which devices you have in your network that are approaching critical lifecycle milestones. In addition to providing important dates associated with End-of-Life (EoL), this report provides recommendations for hardware you might consider migrating to. It also provides links to published bulletins that are full of information about planning budgets, preparing for eventual replacement, and ways to avoid problems when devices require service.

 

EoxSW

The Software EoX report is similar to the EoxHW report, except that it shows the software running on your devices that are approaching critical lifecycle milestones. This report provides important EoL dates associated with iOS® versions, recommends which iOS versions to upgrade to, and includes links to published bulletins. This information can help you identify which devices require iOS updates.

 

PSIRT

The PSIRT report identifies security vulnerabilities associated with devices on your network as determined by the Cisco Product Security and Incident Response Team. Use this report to identify and investigate potential security problems.

 

Field Notice

The Field Notice report summarizes all product defects found in devices on your network. It specifies affected devices and provides a URL where you can access a published Field Notice advisory. The advisory provides details on how a product can be replaced or fixed with an upgrade. Use this report to identify hardware and software that may be defective, and receive instructions on how to remedy any defects.

 

IPv6 Profile

The IPv6 Profile report evaluates your network and tells you what actions you need to take to support IPv6-based network services. Use this report to see which devices are capable of supporting IPv6, which devices are capable of supporting IPv6 with recommended hardware and software upgrades, and which devices are not capable of supporting IPv6.

 

Medianet Profile

The Medianet™ pre-deploy assessment report helps you determine which network devices are capable of supporting multimedia services. Use this report to see which devices are capable of supporting multimedia, which devices are capable of supporting multimedia with recommended hardware and software upgrades, and which devices are not capable of supporting multimedia.

 

To use the connector, you must install the most current version of NCM (v7.4).  Then you can access these reports in two ways. First, the NCM connector will download a CSV version of these reports locally for you to use. Second, you can view these reports in your Cisco Smart Net Total care portal.

 

To download or to learn more about NCM and Cisco connector, visit this Web page. If you already own NCM, you can download the free connector from your customer portal.

SCAWARDS2016_winnerhoriz.jpg

 

On March 1, SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM) was recognized for being the Best Policy/Risk Management Solution by SC Magazine for the fourth straight year. Other finalists for this years’ award included Bay Dynamics, TraceSecurity, Trustwave, and Venafi.

 

SC Magazine wrote, “Managing, monitoring, and auditing configuration policies on network devices are the top three reasons why IT pros select and use SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager.”

 

Risk management is a central element of IT governance for most organizations, even if they don’t have to comply with information privacy regulations. The purpose of IT risk management is to identify the business impact caused by the loss of IT services, and take measures to reasonably avoid or reduce this impact. Since the network is the very foundation for all IT services, and the function and suitability of the network is defined by the configurations for its constituent routers, switches, controllers, access control devices and more, then it makes sense to carefully manage, monitor, and audit these configurations. This is why NCM plays such a critical role in IT risk management and operations.

 

So how does NCM manage, monitor, and audit device configurations?  Here is a quick overview.

 

Manage

 

Device access  – Perhaps the first place to start is by removing ad hoc and remote access to devices. NCM lets you centrally manage device passwords, and even require configuration changes to be made using the change management features in NCM.

 

Backup and recover – Hardware failure and human error can break your network. Recover from these disasters quickly with the ability to schedule, back up, find, and restore device configurations.

 

User roles and permissions – Want to control who has access to network devices and what they can do? Use NCM user roles and permissions to determine who can access specific devices and what actions they can perform.

 

Configuration templates – Have a big network change looming, or need to standardize your configs? Use NCM configuration change templates. Change templates save you time making consistent changes across many devices by providing powerful device- and vendor-neutral automation using control logic and variable-based attributes stored in the device profile. 

 

Change approval – Want complete visibility on all changes? Use NCM workflow to review and approve changes before they can be applied.

 

Job scheduling – Want to control when changes are made? Use NCM scheduling to execute changes during maintenance windows.

 

Monitor

 

Change detection – Want to know whenever any change is made and who made the change? Detect configuration changes in near real-time, and even take automated actions, like archiving a configuration, writing a changed configuration to flash memory, or issuing an alert.

 

Change analysis – Want to know exactly what changed? Compare two configurations side-by-side and see exactly where statements have been added or removed.

 

Audit

 

Policies – Want to help ensure your configs contain (or don’t contain) specific configuration statements? Use NCM policies to define what is expected (or forbidden) in a configuration. NCM delivers out-of-the-box policies for PCI, DISA STIG, FISMA, SOX, and HIPPA, or you can build or customize your own.

 

Audit – Want to help ensure configurations never drift from your standards? Automatically audit your configurations as frequently as you like using the policies you have selected to use.

 

Report – Need to know when a violation occurs? Use interactive reports to see violations organized by policy or device, and then interactively drill into the details.

 

Remediation – Correct violations fast with remediation scripts (defined as part of the policy), that right violations quickly and consistently. Scripts can be manually executed from within interactive audit reports, or automatically when a violation is detected.

 

Summary

 

Managing, monitoring, and auditing are just three ways NCM helps you protect your network configs and manage IT risk. To learn about the SC Magazine 2016 awards and other category winners, read this article.  To learn more about Network Configuration Manager, visit our product page. To learn how to write a NCM policy, read this thwack® post.

 

How you are using NCM to manage, monitor, and audit your network configs? Use the comments below to share your stories.

In the previous two posts, we talked about high level performance information and then we dove into the details around storage performance from the array, pool, and LUN/Volume detail. Now let's talk about thresholds and alerting. This is where we start making Storage Resource Monitor adapt to your environment, while also showing what performance information matters to you. 

 

Thresholds

Setting thresholds is a key step in making sure your data center runs efficiently. When you start SolarWinds® Storage Resource Monitor the first time, there are pre-set thresholds setup based on general best practices. For most situations this will work, however there are solutions that require something a little more specific. There are applications in your environment that require low latency and if any of them deviate from that it would cause major headaches. There are other applications that require a specific amount of IOPS and any dip will slow the business down and lead to your inbox being filled with not so nice requests for information. Having your thresholds set properly can help you avoid "fire drills." The "SRM Settings" section is where you can set global thresholds for key storage resources.

Thresholds can be set for IOPS, throughput, I/O size, Capacity, and latency (LUN & Volume specific).  In addition, some of these can be set by read, write, or total so you can even customize for applications that are heavy on read or heavy on write performance. 

Using global settings allows you to tailor monitoring for your data center, but, as you know, there are also applications that differ from the others that need special attention.  If that’s the case, Storage Resource Monitor has you covered. Under each details screen (array, pool, and LUN/Volume), you can adjust the thresholds for that specific resource. Pool 1 needs to maintain 500 IOPS and I need to know when it goes below it. You can set the threshold to warning when IOPS are less than or equal to 600 and critical when IOPS are less than or equal to 550. LUN 2 has to maintain latency of 50ms. You can set the threshold to warning when it hits 40ms and critical when it hits 50ms. The thresholds you set for the individual resources will translate to the summary screens we talked about before, so at-a-glance you can see if the required performance needs are being met.

 

Alerting

So now you’re thinking, "thresholds are great, but if something happens when the custom thresholds are  reached I need to be alerted."  In addition to custom thresholds, setting custom alerts will make sure you know when something goes wrong quickly. Like before, the standard alerts in Storage Resource Monitor will get you going, however custom alerts help make sure you understand if all of your resources are performing as required. Creating custom alerts can be done for groups of resources with the same performance profile or for specific resources that have a very unique requirement.

 

You can set a single alert for a specific storage resource or set an alert for multiple resources that share a common performance profile. There is the ability to customize everything from a specific team to handle the alert, to setting that the condition has to exist for a period of time, and even the ability to set the alert to only be enable during a certain time of day to name a few. Setting a custom alert for a specific time helps avoid the unwanted alerting noise during expected downtime and/or planned degraded performance. 

 

 

By using thresholds and custom alerts, Storage Resource Monitor has you covered when monitoring storage performance for all your applications. Along with dashboards and storage resource details, you can easily stay ahead of your storage performance needs and track when more resources are needed.

 

What are some of your best practices around thresholds? What are the items you customize with alerts?

We have been working hard to bring another bulk of enhancements to the Network Configuration Manager (NCM) and NCM 7.5 Beta is available. We have been working on:

  • Additional F5 LTM & GTM Support (Including Binary Config Support)
  • Compliance Reports (security best practices) for various vendors
  • Usability Improvements

 

To get access to the Beta, you need to be a customer on active maintenance for NCM and sign up here.

 

You can discuss your experience in the NCM Beta Forum.

 

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

Having a high-level view of storage performance is good for a quick overview or understanding of how things are operating.  In order to take your monitoring to the next level, having access to details is critical. In my previous post,  I reviewed storage dashboards and performance data points that SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor provides.  Below I will cover performance monitoring at the array, storage pool, and LUN/Volume level.

The "Array Details" screen is usually the first stop when looking at your storage performance. This is a great starting point for when you want to get a look at the overall performance for a storage array. Having this information is ideal when you want to compare the expected performance of an array versus how the array is actually performing.  In addition, you can get an understanding of read/write performance ratios in relation to the overall performance.

 

The “Block Storage” and “File Storage” tabs allow you to quickly get into the underlying performance information for the device’s storage pools and LUNS/Volumes.  Each of these tabs will show you latency summaries and performance summaries for the individual resources.  At-a-glance, this will let you see if you have any latency issues at the LUN/Volume level and what your highest performing LUN/volumes are by IOPS, throughput, or latency.

 

 

"Storage Pool Details” provide storage administrators the ability to understand performance at a pool/RAID level.  Depending on how storage resources are assigned out to applications, this can provide the ability to understand performance for similar applications.  An example would be a VM farm is created for different instances of the same application.  Having the applications tied to the same pool of storage with different LUNs is ideal so that you have the same pattern of read/write ratio and not running into instances where different read/write ratios are involved.  This can cause application performance problems if the disk is having to store random data in one instance and then sequential the next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "LUN & Volume Details" screen is where you can see performance at the lowest level.  This is where you can tie application performance directly to the assigned storage. In addition, this is where the power of Storage Resource Monitor really comes into play.  Not only can you see the individual LUN performance, you can also see it in relation to other LUNs in the same storage pool.  Did a LUN in the same pool spike performance?  Are all the LUNs in the same pool experiencing high latency?  These are a couple of questions the LUN Details screen can help answer.

 

 

As you can see, the more in-depth you go with Storage Resource Monitor, the more information and comparisons become available.  All of the information presented is critical to understanding your storage performance and how it affects your overall environment.  In my next post, I will cover thresholds & alerting and how with the right settings & planning you can make Storage Resource Monitor not just an important monitoring tool, but a critical one.

 

How have you used the details screens to monitor and troubleshoot your storage performance?

Managing storage is a constant dance of making sure resources are available for the applications that need them, and making sure resources are constantly in use, because having wasted resources in addition to no resources can be problem. SolarWinds® Storage Resource Monitor helps make this dance a little less complicated. Over the next few posts I am not only going to show different parts of Storage Resource Monitor in relation to storage performance, but also how each of these parts can give you the information you need to monitor your environment and maximize one of your largest IT investments.

 

To start, we will address some basic information regarding storage performance and how Storage Resource Monitor presents the data. Based on customer feedback, one of the best things about SRM is that users are able to quickly view and understand their storage performance problems. Below, I will show you what initial performance information SRM provides, and ways to interpret the data. Depending on your environment, there will always be different ways to interpret performance data, so your mileage will vary.

 

Here we have part of the SRM Summary screen. In one simple view you get a list of storage devices being monitored, alerts, events, and performance and capacity summaries. The All Storage Objects widget will not only show you all the storage devices, but also point to devices that are having problems using easy-to-see green, yellow, and red notifications. To get to the exact cause, you can drill down into the array date until you get to the specific storage resource with the problem. A faster way to recognize performance problems is with either All Active Alerts or Storage Objects by Performance Risk.

                        

 

The Storage Objects by Performance Risk will give you a summary of performance problems based and sorted by latency. Like most things, high latency is not an ideal situation. However, the definition of "high" varies by environment and application. In addition to latency, IOPS and throughput are shown, and you can tailor the thresholds for the resources to be more specific to your requirements. Using this allows you to select your top performance problems by latency at the main screen without any digging. 

 

                             

In addition to the performance information on the SRM Summary screen, the Performance Dashboard lets you see additional performance data points. It includes the performance objects by risk and information for LUNs by Performance and NAS Volumes by Performance. Any of these sections will allow you to instantly dig into the specific storage resource that is experiencing performance problems.

              

 

This data allows you to instantly address performance problems. To see overall performance at the array and/or storage pool level, SRM gives you access to that data in a mere one or two clicks.  For array-specific performance information, select an array in the All Storage Objects section and the Array Details screen will show detailed information for that array. Clicking once more in the All Storage Objects section will show the storage pools and allow you to select the Storage Pool Details screen for each pool. Going even lower will show all the LUNs assigned to each pool.  Selecting a LUN will bring up the LUN Details screen.   Each of these screens will present specific performance information as it relates to that storage resource.

 

Array Details

 

Storage Pool Details

 

LUN Details

 

Now, what do these high-level performance views do for the end-user? Right from the start, you can instantly discover, identify, and start troubleshooting performance problems. The goal is that the critical problems are up front, and the need to check each storage device one by one for problems is eliminated. In addition, having the ability to customize the dashboards and information is critical to tailoring the monitoring to your needs.

 

My next post will cover the three specific layers we use to help you monitor your storage performance: array, storage pool, and LUN/volume.

 

I would love to hear your feedback about how SRM has helped you monitor your storage performance. Please leave comments and questions below.

I am excited to announce that Server & Application Monitor (SAM) 6.3 Beta 3 is now available . The team at Solarwinds has been hard at work at producing the next release of SAM with some great new features that continue from the SAM 6.3 Beta 1.  The Beta is open to SAM customers currently on active maintenance.  The beta is the best opportunity to provide feedback and have direct input which can affect this release and improve the usability of SAM.  We encourage all to sign-up and kick the tires.  Just as in beta 1 your feedback might just earn you some much deserved Thwack points that can be redeemed for some cool SolarWinds SWAG!

 

The SAM 6.3 Beta 2 includes some of the features mentioned in the Server & Application Monitor - What we're working on beyond SAM 6.2 post. Don't forget to signup for the Beta and provide your feedback in the Server & Applications Monitor Beta forum!!

 

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