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Orion Platform 2019.4 - Orion Maps is Now Available

The latest version of Orion Maps is now available and we are excited to share some amazing updates providing new flexibility within the platform. We hope these changes make your day-to-day exploits a bit more manageable as you continue to tackle problems that keep business moving forward. For those of you unfamiliar with the Orion Maps project to date, I always like to include previous release posts for easy access to share a look inside the journey so far.

Previous Releases:

Orion Platform 2018.2 Improvements - Chapter Two - Intelligent Mapping

Orion Platform 2018.4 Improvements - Intelligent Mapping Enhancements


Whats New!

Build a Map Faster and Easier!

One of our main goals as we drive toward a completely revamped mapping system is to review features leveraged in the past.  Network Atlas tends to be a great starting point but we want to be sure we are not giving old problems a new home.  By examining key functionality with a critical eye, we have an opportunity to discover pain points and provide a better experience for our users. When building a map, usually the first thing you need to do is figure out how to get all the things you want on the map!  Exploring the Network Atlas Entity Library in the image below, we can quickly see plenty of room for improvement.  There is no search, no filtering beyond a single Group By option, and a node tree that just continues to expand, which for many of our larger customers just doesn't scale.  Many of you echoed these statements throughout user sessions, indicating the process of finding entities to be added to the map was difficult and time consuming.

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Each component of the web based map editor should be simple to use and make it easier to accomplish what you need to do. Allow me to walk you through some of the changes we have made to the new Entity Library. Start with a new map by selecting My Dashboards, Orion Maps, and New Map.

"Orion Maps" menu is available under My Dashboards and Home. Selecting this option will transport you to the Map Management page.  This will be blank initially, prompting you to create a map.
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You will be taken to the Map Editor where you will get the large empty canvas utilizing the majority of the real estate, and the Entity Library on the left. On the right hand side will be a Map Properties Panel which we will circle back to at a later point in the post. In previous versions, the library was a great way to start building a map but you kind of had to know exactly what you were after. What about those of you that are looking for a bit more flexibility? In this release the Entity Library has had a significant face lift. Rather than forcing you to scroll, or search, or drag objects onto the canvas one by one, the Enhanced Entity Library now provides intuitive features for quickly and easily refining your list to a specific set of objects.

In the upper left hand corner, underneath the Entity Type drop-down, you have a filter button. Selecting this button will provide a number of available options for filtering based on properties such as Machine Type, Polling Method, and Status. Don't see the one you want? Click the pencil in the upper right corner of the pop-up and a dialogue will generate, allowing you to select any relevant property you are after. Perfect for those of you that love to take advantage of Custom Properties. In the example below, I am filtering nodes based on a custom property of "Demo Environment".

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Once you have your list, you will be happy to see that you are no longer shackled to adding devices one by one.  Much in the way you would expect, you will be able to use the Control Key to hand pick selected entities from the list, or use Shift to grab everything between your selections.  Dragging them onto the canvas will place nodes in a staggered grid formation and remain selected.  Yes, multi-select is now available in the Map Editor along with other bulk administrative options such as positioning entities!  By clicking and dragging your cursor, you can perform a lasso selection of entities.  If desired, you can again use the control key to be selective when necessary.

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As selections are made, the Map Editor Tool Bar will update with additional options. One of those options is the Delete tool.  Delete is nothing new, but the keyboard shortcut was not always easily discovered by new Orion Maps users, so we added it to the tool bar and I wanted to call it out. Speaking of delete, you may from time to time make a mistake. Perhaps you removed or added something you didn't intend to, or quickly realized that you need to walk something back as many of us do when we are trying to design that perfect representation of our environment. For those users, we have incorporated an Undo and Redo function within the editor, handling any "oops" that might occur. Pictured below is what that looks like. I'll also demonstrate the ability to disable the "Snap to Grid" which is enabled by default for all maps. This is located under the More Menu and will allow movement of the entities to be dictated more closely by your cursor.  Don't forget that the Center key on the canvas will always perform an auto-fit, centering the map within the view-able canvas.

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A monitoring platform should mitigate the need to manually track dependencies or how objects are associated, and the Orion Platform plays an essential role in tracking these relationships for many of our customers. The Orion Maps team wants to take advantage of this wherever possible, so it is important to be able to utilize the function of Related or Connected Entities. Previous versions of the Entity Library had little to no notion of these types of relationships and this data can certainly accelerate your ability to construct a map. To simplify the difference between the two, connected entities are any nodes, interfaces, or applications that are connected based on two specific things. These are NPM's Topology data or SAM's Application Dependency Connections.  Related entities are everything else such as the volumes associated to a server or the LUN of a storage array.

Continuing to build off the example we have been using so far, I have added some of the core devices from my network but want to be sure to include some of the virtual infrastructure as a part of this map. I don't remember all the devices off the top of my head, but fortunately I don't have to. Using the ESX host, I am able to leverage the Related and Connected Entities option in the Entity Library to find everything I need. In order to access this option, a menu depicted by three dots is available on the right side of each entity in the panel. In this example, I will select Show Related Entities. A new panel will overlay the existing Entity Library and provide, yep you guessed it, all the related entities. There is always a search tool made available, and a filter based on entity type which can make it very easy to find what you are after.

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You may have noticed that I chose to disable a certain connection type in the Map Properties Panel on the right. This is a new panel that allows you to perform a number of options for customizing the map. With hundreds of example maps shared with us over the years, we want to be sure we are incorporating the flexibility necessary to create all sorts of maps. Options such as hiding all or certain connection types, as well as features that allow for a light or dark contrasting theme have been added.  You can also select between Icon Styles which for now, consist of the standard map icons or the general status icons. Here is an example of the map we have built so far with those options set.

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Manually Define Connections!

As you are likely aware, the Network Performance Monitor module is responsible for collecting and calculating massive amounts of data from network gear. This includes topology data from which maps derive the network connections. However, topology data can be tricky to calculate across complex environments for a variety of reasons. Whether this is due to missing SNMP data, inability to access certain protocols, or something else entirely, at times we may not have everything required in order to stitch together a complete picture.

While there is no substitution for automatic discovery, having flexibility within the designer can present massive amounts of options and has certainly been a highly requested topic. Starting with this release, you will now be able to select any two entities and see a new button activated on the tool bar.  This button will grant users the ability to Connect Objects and define a custom connection within the map editor. Continuing with the map we have constructed to this point, I will walk through creating a number of topology connections between some of my network devices which are not currently connected and even to the ESX host.

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This example highlights a simple workflow, and once completed, these connections will function just like any other topology connection on the map, adhering to thresholds defined at the interface level from NPM. Taking a closer look, I want to emphasize two additional important options. In the image below, you can see I have the ability to create the connection "for this map only", which should hopefully be pretty self explanatory, or a secondary option, creating a connection "for all maps..."


What this means, is that anywhere in the platform where these two objects exist, including other maps, this connection will be visible. This custom connection will also appear in the Core or NPM Topology Widgets. Below is a screenshot of what that will look like. This moves Orion Maps beyond a simple editor, allowing you to define topology directly from the map, and alleviates the overhead of having to create this connection over and over again. This is an exciting improvement we think many of you will find quite useful.


Custom Images Anyone?!

Visual images outside of the monitored entities in Orion can be important elements to include in any map. Whether this helps users more easily interpret a map, highlights where things are located, or just looks cool, this of course has been a frequently requested item for the new Orion Maps. Located in the Map Editor toolbar, you now have access to the Insert Images option. Any image added will be layered behind entities and connections.  You can layer images on top of each other in the order you add them. Images will function similar to any other entity on the canvas where they can be selected, moved, and deleted.  Images can also be scaled via the Properties Panel on the right, either utilizing the slider, or specifying the size manually. Orion Maps support a number of formats such as *.jpeg, *.jpg, *.png, *.gif, *.bmp, and *.svg.  I was forced to update some of the map we have been building without you in order to make it all fit, but walked through what it looks like to add the SolarWinds logo for good measure.

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Pretty slick right?! Now, what you also have the ability to do is combine the two features we have just discussed.  As an example, many of you have requested the ability to show network utilization when only one side of the link is known.  Very often, the idea is to represent your utilization from the perspective of the edge devices out to your service provider or internet. To see how this might work, check out the examples below!

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What you should have noticed is that you were able to connect the edge device to another image. Of course a cloud was selected for this demo. You can then assign interfaces to represent that connection. In this case, we only know about the interface from one side, so in reality you need to choose the same device and the same interface twice. The next step is to simply flip the "internet" side to ingress to ensure you aren't seeing the same performance stats on both sides of the link. Now you can see inbound and outbound traffic from the edge of your network displayed on the map!

It is hard to demonstrate all the amazing maps you can create with this new release, and we hope you find these new features worthwhile. I will likely continue to update this post but will leave you with some examples I have been tinkering with, and hope you can share the maps you create in the comments below!

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