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If you are a virt admin, you probably have your hands full managing your virtualization environment and know that the virtualization workload is on the rise.   The technology has not just become extremely popular for the cost effectiveness, but also because it allows quick alterations to existing business models and processes and it is a sure way of generating more business value from an IT infrastructure.


All this growth in virtualization only means one thing to the virt admins - more complexity and more stress. With the growing number of VMs there comes another problem of mapping them with physical servers. To solve any issues that might occur, the virt admin must have a complete view of all the resources in his virtualized infrastructure.


Virtualization & Storage – Two Faces of a Coin

Now, consider a situation where there is a latency issue occurring on your ESX/ESXi server that goes beyond your virtualization space. Monitoring VMware contention metrics like CPU, Memory, disk I/O are just fine, but you do not know where the problem lies. With just a virtualization monitoring system in house, it would be challenging for a virt admin to drill down and look into the issue from a SAN viewpoint.


For a holistic view of the virtual infrastructure, it’s not just enough to monitor your virtual machines. There should be a good sync between your virtual monitoring system and your storage system providing complete end-to-end virtualization troubleshooting and the ability to also drill down into the storage supporting a specific virtual machine, right from a VM to spindle.


A realistic VM to storage mapping system would allow the virt admin to view virtualization metrics beyond the datastore level all the way to the LUNS, RAID groups, Storage Pools and ultimately, the physical disks. This functionality enables full VM-to-spindle mapping and much faster troubleshooting.


Storage and virtualization are two critical elements that require in-depth visibility for optimal management of IT infrastructure because of the inter dependency of their performance. The integrated system should ideally perform the following best practices.

  • Automatically map VMs and logical connections to the physical storage environment
  • Deliver end-to-end visibility across all resources in the virtualized infrastructure
  • Identify the individual spindle serving a virtual machine and all other VMs on the same spindle for faster troubleshooting


Being a virt admin is challenging, agreed. But with the right VMware to storage mapping between your virtualization and storage systems, the ambiguity is eliminated and even if an issue occurs, you now know where to look.

Recently SolarWinds had the opportunity to speak with Chet Camlin, managing consultant at Atlantic Digital, a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). Atlantic Digital is a valued SolarWinds partner providing enterprise-class IT management solutions to U.S Federal Government Agencies.


Since first partnering with SolarWinds in mid-2010, Atlantic Digital has implemented the full suite of SolarWinds products in enterprise environments, meeting and exceeding the Network Management System (NMS) challenges of several major federal agencies and Department of Defense Commands. In fact, one Atlantic Digital federal customer monitors more than 11,000 network devices and servers worldwide with the SolarWinds suite of IT management solutions.


“Taking away SolarWinds NMS from our Federal customers would be like turning off their headlights while traveling 100 mph down an Interstate highway,” said Camlin.


I invite you to read the full case study to learn more about how Atlantic Digital has provided the right SolarWinds solutions to their federal customers who are now able to see, in real-time, how well their IT environment is supporting their business and service delivery.


David Kimball

Vice President, Federal

I recently came across this review of System Center Operations Manger 2012 by Scott Hill.  Scott, like many, has a new enterprise license of System Center, which now bundles many previously sold stand-alone components like System Center Operations Manager (SCOM).  Since SCOM is now a “free” software monitoring tool, IT administrators over the globe are being strongly encouraged to use it.


For many organizations, System Center is a good systems management suite that provides comprehensive functionality from monitoring to configuration management to update management and virtual machine management.  However, while System Center provides the breadth of capabilities many IT shop needs, the depth of capability may not be to the level that an organization may require.


As Scott points out in his post, to monitor everything offered by Microsoft, you need to plug in management packs.  Unfortunately, management packs do not always offer the best guidance on why alerts fire, and one may have to resort to a Google search to see potential causes of the problem (often attributes that a monitoring tool should have identified).


To get the most out of your now-free tool (SCOM), SolarWinds offers a great product at very affordable price, SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor, that can be easily deployed alongside your SCOM environment in order to gain more visibility.  Server & Application Monitor provides out-of-the-box templates for nearly 150 Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications.  The benefits of this native support is:


• You don’t need to seek out multiple Management Packs from multiple vendors

• Each application template provides expert advice on metrics that should be monitored for each application.  For example, the Microsoft Exchange template monitors RPC latency (among many other metrics), and the tool provides guidance on what is good or bad performance for that threshold (should be less than 100ms at all times), which is reflected in the out-of-the-box thresholds.

• The time savings is incredible for creating custom application monitors – it literally takes minutes with SolarWinds Wizard driven approach.

• You can send alerts to specific groups or people via SMS or email.

• And Server & Application Monitor can also integrate alerts, via a Management Pack, so you have all your alerts in one place – your SCOM console.


Since this product can typically be deployed in less than an hour it is easy to see the value, and when I say value, that is evident in the price tag.  Try it for yourself in your own environment – free for 30 days.


failure.jpgFirst, buy SIEM software that is over-priced, blowing your budget for other business needs.   Focus on esoteric features that the vendor hypes, but that you do not need.  Select software that is extremely hard to use, configure and maintain.


Next, make sure the SIEM solution requires an entire team of security professionals to operate, eliminating any possibility of you sleeping or enjoying life.  The difficulty of the software must make rollout painful for your entire organization, and guarantee slower time-to-value.   Do not buy an SIEM that comes packaged with built-in rules and intelligence to help you.


If the SIEM vendor is counting on services revenue to bail you out after you buy it, that’s even better. Or, you can engage a third party – either way your budget will be sucked dry for years to come.

Finally, set up management with high expectations after all of these expenses.  Be sure to get a SIEM that makes management reporting painful for everyone involved, so that management has no idea about the value of the SIEM and develops a negative attitude about the project and you..


If you don’t like this scenario

Please consider a free trial of a sensible SIEM offered by SolarWinds – Log & Event Manager. It’s an understated SIEM that offers all the real time monitoring capabilities you need, pre-built security and compliance intelligence and easy reporting features.  It covers you “soup to nuts” – not just your network, but your apps, data and endpoints.  Try it and see if you don’t agree – it’s pretty darned easy, compared with your alternatives – unless you don’t like sleeping or enjoying life.

The trick is ignoring the hype, marketing and sales tactics vendors often use, and instead focusing on your business realities and needs.   When it comes to SIEM, this is critically important. 

Download a free 30 day license for Solarwinds Log & Event Manager

Graphic courtesy of :How to Become a Total Failure - The Ten Rules of Highly Unsuccessful People

In case you missed it, SolarWinds spilled the beans when we exposed the American, UK, and Australian system administrators in November. We revealed the SysAdmins’ likes and dislikes at work and at play, their favorite entertainment, and their choice beverages, among other things. What we didn’t tell you is that we conducted the same survey with a bunch of network engineers… (we are working towards an advanced degree in IT anthropology).


You didn’t think that we could resist the ultimate comparison, did you? Surely not. And, don’t call me Shirley.


We surveyed over 1,100 network engineers and network admins  in the U.S. (400), U.K. (400), and Australia (312) and found a few things that they had in common with each other and with their close cousins, the sysadmins. We also learned a few ways in which the network and systems folks just don’t see eye to eye.  (it really is just like any other family)


So who are these netadmins? They’re job lovers!


Across the board, netadmins responded that they were happy at work, reporting enjoyable or highly enjoyable jobs (U.S. – 79%, U.K. – 72%, Australia – 72% ahead of sysadmins (U.S. – 68%, U.K. – 67%, Australia – 61%).


Perhaps they’re so gleeful because:

  1. They make more money as netadmins (U.S. – $87K, U.K. – £50.3K, Australia – $89K AUS) than as sysadmins (U.S. – $78K, U.K. – £47.4K, Australia – $82K AUS), or
  2. They get to call the shots. More netadmins make final IT decisions (U.S. – 54%, U.K. – 54%, Australia – 49%) than sysadmins do (U.S. – 6%, U.K. – 9%, Australia – 9%).


Good thing they’re so darn cheerful, because netadmins continue to see increased responsibility and demands on their time (U.S. – 90%, U.K. – 89%, Australia – 85%) and feel increased pressure at work (U.S. – 79%, U.K. – 84%, Australia – 78%).


The regions differ, however, in feelings toward their companies and employers. American netadmins strongly agree that their systems are more reliable and efficient than ever (45%), their IT department leadership is trustworthy (44%), and that 2013 will bring growth for their companies (38%). Aussies feel less strongly, citing 29 percent, 35 percent, and 22 percent in respective categories, and the Brits are even less optimistic, offering 24 percent, 24 percent, and 18 percent respectively.


And then there is your free time, we know that you don’t just lock yourselves in the closet at the end of the day…  But who hangs together best?  The Yanks and Brits!

  • Aussies claim not to be big gamers – only 68 percent play while 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of Brits do.
  • Star Trek is the best on the telly for Brits at 21 percent. American netadmins like it too (22%), but Australians favor The Big Bang Theory (23%).
  • Who’s got the best cape? Batman, say UK (19%) and U.S. (22%) netadmins. The folks down under prefer Wolverine (14%). (Yes, we know that Wolverine does not have a cape. But if he wanted one, he’d produce one. And it would be made of adamantium and would be sharp… and useful… and cool...)


So, check out the infographics below.


Full survey results can be found here for the US (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - US)
here for the UK (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - UK)

and here for Australia (Netadmin and Sysadmin Survey Results - AUS).



And, of course, join the discussion in the The SolarWinds NetAdmin/SysAdmin Survey -- Which are you? space… we promise to give proper credit in the footnotes of our final dissertation.

Given that pretty much everyone in IT has to deal with IT alerts, you would think that there would be an awesome set of competitive products designed to consolidate and manage alerts, on-call scheduling, and automated alert escalation. Some products have some of this fucntionalty built in, but if you want to centralize all your alerts, dole them out to the right people at the right time, and manage your on-call schedules for lots of people on lots of teams, there's not much to choose from product-wise.  Lots of pain, no relief.


It's interesting. It may be that companies are just used to the status quo. Sometimes you never think about improvements until one comes up and basically hits you over the head. When we all saw the first tablets, did we think OMG I really need that! I need that *and* my laptop *right *now because my laptop isn't enough?  I can say for myself, no. But, I certainly cannot live without my iPad now. I mean, of *course* you need a latop  and a tablet to be productive. Duh.


So back to alert management. In a recent survey by SolarWinds with 156 respondents, 47% said they managed the on-call schedule using a group calendar like Outlook or Google. 26% more said they used a group calendar along with scheduling software in an "every group for themselves" methodology. A lot of people manage the on-call experience by passing around on-call phones and pagers. This seems fraught with the potential for career-limiting error. In something as important as "who is going to address and fix that problem," you'd think you'd want something automated, documented, and more reliable than an overworked human's memory and a shared pager.


Here's some other stats:


  • Over 73% of respondents said alert management was a real pain in their organization.
  • 65% said the methods they are currently using to manage on-call scheduling were just "somewhat" or "not at all" effective.
  • 75% of respondents said they get alerts that are not their problem to deal with at least once a month. 50% said this happens at least once a week.
  • Getting alerts to the right people in a timely manner was listed as a major concern by many survey respondents.


How does your organization manage alerts across all your IT systems? What about the on-call schedule?

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