Introducing 5 New Orion Platform Content Exchanges

Updated Content Exchange Space

The superpower of THWACK is the shared experience of the community members. There is no one right way to learn something. Over the last few years, SolarWinds has helped make everyone’s experiences better by extending the Orion Platform. I’m pleased to announce that we have five new spaces joining the Reports Content Exchange for the Orion products.

I’ll cover each of the new Content Exchanges in detail, but first some throwbacks…

Organizing our Collective Knowledge

Over the years, the management of shared content has gotten complex in a community the size of THWACK. Given the depth and breadth of the products in the SolarWinds® portfolio, it was only natural people would share content when and where it was appropriate to help a fellow community member. Overall organization of the content was secondary to assisting the community member posing a question.

This principle hasn’t changed, but with so many products and so many pieces of content spread liberally around THWACK, it was finally time to prioritize organization. Now, if you’re looking for an alert, a custom query widget, or a custom HTML widget, you’ll have one place to go. Selfishly, this started as an idea to make cataloging the resources easier for us community moderators. However, the more we thought about it, adding these new Content Exchanges made sense for the community members as well. Having the shared content organized so we can leverage the native search, tagging, and filtering made sense for everyone.

Alerts

Alerts in the Orion Platform can be as simple as “this router is down” or as complex as “when this server is in a warning state and CPU is showing a value under 10% or memory consumption is reporting a value over 90% and this scenario has existed for at least 30 consultive minutes, but only during business hours and only for servers in the web farm group.” Saying the alerting engine in the Orion Platform is flexible is an understatement. But with this flexibility can come complexity. Walking someone through the steps to build a complex alert can prove tedious. It’s much better to just share the alert (or alert triggers, which are also a supported content type).

One process power users have used to their advantage for many years is the ability to export alerts, move them from their development or staging systems, and import them into their production environments. What was less convenient was sharing those alerts with people outside their organization. That ends today.

Remember, for some of your team members, the alerts they receive are the primary way they interact with your Orion Platform instance. For those people, it’s critical for your alerts to trigger on the proper scenarios, to have logical escalation processes to expedite resolution, and to provide the proper information. Allowing our community to share their own well-defined and detailed alerts is just one way we’re doing everything we can to help you on your monitoring journey.

You’ll find many different types of alerts in the Content Exchange, so be sure to check the tags to see if they’re applicable to the Orion Platform products you run. Before today, you could find many of these examples in the Alert Lab, but now they’re collected in one place for easy searching, filtering, and consumption.

Custom HTML

I already mentioned flexibility in the Orion Platform products, and nowhere is it more obvious than when building your own classic dashboards. One of the oft-overlooked widgets you can place on a page is custom HTML. If you have even a passing knowledge of HTML, you can customize your environment in a plethora of ways.

Some community members have gone above and beyond by leveraging public APIs, making breathtakingly interactive HTML widgets designed to pull, organize, and visualize data from the platform itself. I’m amazed by what THWACKsters have come up with for these widgets, and they now have a single home where you can find them all. With this new Content Exchange, you don’t need to be a web developer to get your Orion Platform pages to pop.

Do what I did when I was a customer: take an example from the community, tweak it to your purposes, and then share it again (giving a link to your original inspiration for proper attribution and thanks to the original author). This was one of the ways I leveled up my own monitoring game.

Previously, these widgets and samples were posted in various product forums, the Orion SDK forum, or inside of replies to a thread. Moving them to their own space just made sense.

Custom Queries

I have spoken, written, and espoused the benefits of learning the SolarWinds Query Language (SWQL) for a long, long time. SolarWinds LabTm #91 was devoted to learning the language syntax and using it to customize the way data is presented in the Orion Platform. Presenting your monitoring data in easy-to-consume ways makes it more beneficial to all your audiences.

The Custom Query widget is one way to get the monitoring data you want displayed in a way that makes sense to those who use the Orion Platform. These widgets can be as simple as a list of raw data or as complex as searchable tables with links, hover-over capabilities, icons, and more.

In the past, these queries lived all over THWACK, but they primarily lived in the product forums and the Orion SDK forum. Now that they have their own space, it’s a great time to peruse the queries the community is providing.

Something Old, Something New

Alerts, Custom HTML, and Custom Queries have been on THWACK for years (even if they weren’t collected into respective spaces). But recently, the products have been maturing at an alarming rate, and taking advantage of these new(-ish) features can be quite a learning curve for new users and veterans alike. To lessen this sharp uptick, we decided it would be best to have examples where everyone could learn together. Thus, I present to you the Modern Dashboards and Scripts Content Exchanges.

Modern Dashboards

Since the release of Modern Dashboards in the 2020 release of the Orion Platform, they’ve become an increasingly popular method of organizing and presenting data. If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, any single Modern Dashboard is a complex beast. From the types of widgets to the customization options unique to each of them and the formatting options for each of the presented data fields, it can get overwhelming in a hurry.

Community members have spent time going over the step-by-step way to build a dashboard in posts, but wouldn’t it be easier to just import an example and work from there? This was the genesis of the idea behind the Modern Dashboard Content Exchange.

Using either SWQL Studio or a PowerShell script, you can export and import Modern Dashboards to your own systems. If you’re running the most recent version of the Orion Platform, it’s nearly as easy as clicking “import” or “export” on a toolbar. Find one you like, download it, and kick the tires a little bit. We’ll be looking forward to your own sharing.

Scripts

You knew you weren’t going to get through this post without me talking about PowerShell scripting, right? Well, you’re both right and wrong. I’m not going to talk exclusively about PowerShell.

One of the benefits of the Orion API is the flexibility of the scripting languages available to interact with it. Since it’s all based on RESTful APIs, there are few limits to the languages you can use. My preference is PowerShell, but if you’re more comfortable with Python, Go, C#, or (fake gasp) Perl, you can share your scripts in this brand-new Content Exchange.

This isn’t a replacement for the GitHub samples— it’s merely an extension of it with more real-world scenarios. I’ve always considered the GitHub space as a primer for scripting with the Orion API, whereas this Content Exchange is for the actual work community members are doing.

Sharing is Caring

What’s so great about sharing your content to THWACK? It’s been said all of us are smarter than any one of us. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been in my career without the THWACK community members helping me along. When I was banging my head on my keyboard because I was just missing that one thing, there was something in the Content Exchange to fill in the gap.

I took this knowledge, improved on an existing piece of content, and then shared my files (always linking back to my inspiration). I guess I could sum it up with an old saying: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” THWACK is all about the fishing and not the fish.

And before you say, “my (alert/HTML/query/dashboard/script) isn’t good enough to share,” let me stop you right there. THWACK is a living, breathing community, and things are constantly going through evolutions. We learn by working through these things iteratively and collectively. Remember just a moment ago when I mentioned missing that one thing to get something to work? Your file might be the one thing, so please don’t hesitate to share.

Achievements

Aside from helping the community at large, there’s an opportunity for shameless self-promotion. There are two achievements earned for your THWACK profile as you share content. Does this give you an opportunity to brag about yourself? Yes, yes it does.

Popular File Achievement Master of Upload
Popular File Master of Upload

In summary, I want to welcome you to the new THWACK Content Exchanges, and I look forward to your contributions.

Content Exchange Links

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