I Have the Power! How Upgrades Let You Level Up Your Monitoring Awesomeness


Anyone who has worked in IT for more than 15 minutes – especially in decent-sized environments where there's a level of rigor and control – can tell you that upgrades are a pain in the TCP socket. Even when the upgrades themselves are easy, the process of getting them approved and completed in production is not. There's the testing (which must be done to satisfy the change control committee), the publishing of results, as well as crafting the deployment plan, validation plan, and backout plan should things go wrong. Then there’s the change control request meeting where you have to justify the upgrade to all stakeholders. And finally, the upgrade itself, often performed at a time window that would make vampires happy: 2 a.m. on a Sunday, with all work required to complete before 8 a.m. It's no wonder folks aren't eager to keep their software up to date.

The reality is that when I’m out at user groups (SWUGsTm) and working at conventions, I encounter customers who haven’t upgraded all the time. These folks are (somehow) living without the latest and greatest performance improvements, security updates, and let's not forget new features in our current stable of products. It's enough to make this old Geek weep in both pity and regret for those lost souls. And what's worse is that upgrading doesn’t cost a thing! That's right, moving to the latest version is 100%, true-blue, legal-even-let-me-say-this-eff-arr-ee-ee FREE.

As I was pondering this injustice, it occurred to me that, outside the gilded walls of SolarWinds HQ, it may not be as clear just how many updates we release each year, or what is contained in them. The fact is that our developers are some of the best in the world, and on top of it, our entire team keeps our fingers on the pulse of customer needs as we attend conventions, user groups (SWUGs), participate in UX sessions (you can join in here), and of course, via the "feature request" forum for each product on THWACKRegistered. With all of that input, SolarWinds updates are rarely just a collection of bug fixes and security patches. Of course, every update DOES have those things, but there's almost always an extra nugget (or two, or more) of goodness to make it worth your while.

For example, on November 20, SolarWinds released new versions of Network Performance Monitor (NPM) , NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA), Network Configuration Manager (NCM), and IP Address Manager (IPAM). Along with performance improvements, security updates, and bug fixes, those versions also included:

  • Network Performance Monitor (NPM 12.4) – Support for monitoring Cisco ACI devices, as well as SAML 2.0 support.
  • NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA 4.5) – Expanded alerting on a variety of NetFlow-specific conditions such as traffic increases, decreases, or disappearances.
  • Network Configuration Manager (NCM 7.9) – Compare one device’s configuration to other devices, as well as point-in-time configurations.
  • IP Address Manager (IPAM 4.8) – Integrated management of Infoblox devices for both DHCP and DNS.
  • AppMap: Context-aware automated mapping, which shows device relationships based on the data flowing across your network Support for monitoring Kubernetes, Docker, Docker Swarm, and Mesos containers
  • Virtualization Manager (VMAN 8.3)
  • Support for VMware vSANs
  • Support for monitoring Docker, Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Mesos containers
  • Support for custom properties applied to VMs, hosts, datastores, and clusters
  • Storage Resource Monitor (SRM 6.7)
  • Support for Huawei storage devices
  • Support for GPT disks
  • Hardware health information collected from EMC Isilon v8 and NetApp devices
  • Application Performance Monitor (APM 1.0), which can provide deeper insight through integration with Server & Application Monitor into your custom .NET applications on Microsoft IIS.

But those are just a few samples of what has come out recently. The truth is that SolarWinds updated 28 different products on 13 separate days.

Now maybe you might argue that this update or that feature isn't compelling for you. That's fair. But hopefully you can see how these updates would be important to more than a few folks. And if you look closely not just at what these updates contain, but at the progression of improvements over the years, you'll see a pattern emerge: a pattern of SolarWinds taking releasing a new technology or technique (such as NetPathTm network path analysis or PerfStackTm performance analysis dashboard) and then incrementally improving it over the course of subsequent months, and integrating it into other tools and modules (such as when NetPath was integrated into PingdomRegistered website performance monitoring; or the inclusion of database, container, and log data in PerfStack,).

This picture becomes even more clear if you take a moment to look at the "what we're working on now" section of each product forum on THWACK.com. This is where you can see the road ahead. When combined with the historic view I just offered, it becomes a powerful testimony to the SolarWinds commitment to continued improvement and excellence for every product we produce.

What's my point? Hopefully by now you can see the real value that these releases have for your company, or team, and your monitoring. Value that should make the relatively small discomfort of upgrading pale by comparison.

If you'd like to see a comprehensive list of exactly which features and improvements were released for each product, check out this document. You can also check out the detailed release notes for each product by visiting this page in our Customer Success Center.

  • Its very exciting that we have free upgrades, but we do pay substantial software maintenance each year, so technically free would be pay once and never pay again for upgrades, then its 100% free.   However, this aside, you did recognize the fact not all organizations can keep up with your demands on required hardware and software.  it was like pulling teeth with no pain medicine to get SQL 2016 or higher.   I ended up with 2017.   I am excited to install it but I still vote for a Virtual appliance where its self contained.   Where you build what you need in it and we no longer are tied to server requirements and software licensing.  Building it on a nie linux platform where there is a upgrade process but does not require the customer to shell out big dollars for something like SQL, when SolarWinds is the only product running on it.  Our main DB for example is SAP which run on HANA in the SAP Cloud.  My Rockwell Automation runs on its on version of SQL which will never be the latest version just based on how industrial control systems work, and another reporting tool runs on Oracle.  My main SQL production server simply supports SolarWinds.  The return on investment for SQL is hard to justify.  The new features are amazing, but I feel there needs to be an alternate way to deliver them to customers.  The Cloud based monitoring tools which i have looked at are so limited compared to orion.  I do not believe this is a sufficient solution as an alternative.   A virtual appliance would be the better alternative.  

  • Yes, we hit that once before on our older additional web server and fixed it by upgrading to the latest .NET Framework across the board.  These new additional web servers have been verified for .NET versions, and they seem to have the latest other Microsoft KB updates also.  Comparing windows update on the main engine and new web servers show the same 3 December updates waiting and no others.  The issue persists. (Case 00212178). 

  • In my case, my dependency issues are related to compatibility issues between the 2012r2 main engine that has been around a few years, and brand new 2012r2 web servers we are trying to connect to it.  We get errors just trying to edit a node on the new servers due to some incompatibility that hasn't been identified yet.  I don't have an objection to the OS upgrade in itself in this case.  Still, an appliance model might resolve my current issue.  Well, that current issue, I have multiple other issues waiting in the wings to fix before we get around to a full upgrade.

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