The Pain-free Way to Evaluate SolarWinds Products

The Pain-free Way to Evaluate SolarWinds Products

     Believe me, I get it. More than you know. Evaluating SolarWinds products, as a current customer, can be, well, downright unpleasant. And, of course, it has to be done Saturday at midnight. Am I right?! The process doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is now, which is why I wanted to open up this conversation. The following should help you evaluate SolarWinds tools and features without pain, failures, or mishaps.

First, let’s go over some of the common eval issues customers have been less than stellar about in the past.

  1. There’s no downtime allowed.
    1. Risk of issue and causing monitoring downtime.
    2. Configuration wizard causes services to stop and start.
    3. Floods of alerts.
  2. Evaluations are not allowed in the production environment.
  3. Bad experience in the past with upgrades.
    1. Left behind components.
    2. Issues with adding modules.
  4. Not understanding the compatibility matrix of existing products.
    1. This causes evals to be disallowed on the existing setup.
    2. This creates issues with legacy components that you didn’t know were there.
  5. Support states that evals should not be placed on customer production environment.

That’s a pretty daunting list, which is exactly why I wanted to get this conversation started. As a company made by and for geeks, we owe it to our customers to listen to their concerns and help them by talking through their issues. It’s the best way for us to improve this process.

Okay, now I’d like to walk you through the steps that will guide you to happily evaluating our products while regaining your confidence along the way.

Eval on a production environment

  1. Back up your SolarWinds and NetFlowTm storage (if installed) databases.
    1. The core SolarWinds database is commonly called “NetPerfMon.”
  2. Know your compatibility.
    1. Check the following two locations to assist you. (Evals are latest code).
      1. Upgrade product advisor online interactive tool.
      2. Compatibility matrix chart
  3. Download and install needed evaluation products.
  4. Document.
    1. Document the version of the eval you have installed and when you installed it. It is helpful to have this documented in case any issues occur down the road after uninstalling, etc. You can use this information for any support call or ticket you may create.

Eval on a virtual environment

Imagine you have your very own SolarWinds evaluation lab. Set up a standard VM server and apply the latest and greatest evaluation portion you want to trial. You’re not messing with your production environment at this point, so there is nothing to worry about.

“Wait,” I hear you say. “I want to test with my existing database and not have to rediscover, add custom properties, etc.!”  I have an answer for you as well:

Eval on a virtual environment with a production database

  1. Back up your SolarWinds and NetFlowTm storage (if installed) databases.
    1. The core SolarWinds database is commonly called “NetPerfMon.”
  2. You’ll have to move your backup to a new database name and reinstate it.
  • RESTORE FILELISTONLY FROM DISK='c:\NetPerfMon.bak'
      1. note the logical names of the .mdf & .ldf from the results, then;

RESTORE DATABASE NPMEval FROM DISK='c:\NetPerfMon.bak'

WITH

MOVE 'LogicalNameForTheMDF' TO 'c:\NPMEval.mdf',

MOVE 'LogicalNameForTheLDF' TO 'c:\NPMEval_log.ldf'

  • To restore the backup to the new database NPMEval.
      1. Example (restores a backup of a db called 'NetPerfMon' to 'NPMEval';

RESTORE FILELISTONLY FROM DISK='e:\mssql\backup\NetPerfMon.bak'

>LogicalName

>--------------

>NPMEval

>NPMEval_log

RESTORE DATABASE NetPerfMon FROM DISK='e:\mssql\backup\NetPerfMon.bak'

WITH

MOVE 'NetPerfMon' TO 'e:\mssql\NPMEval.mdf',

MOVE 'NetPerfMon_log' TO 'e:\mssql\NPMEval_log.ldf'


3. Know your compatibility. Your database is on your pre-existing version of SolarWinds software.

    1. Check the following locations to assist you. (Evals are latest code.)
      1. Upgrade product advisor online interactive tool.
      2. Compatibility matrix chart.
      3. Proceed to follow the upgrade path to get to your needed upgraded versions.


4. Download and install your evaluation copies.

5. Run your SolarWinds configuration wizard and point to the new “NPMEval” database that was created.

6. Evaluate with all your saved settings, etc.

Let me know about any cool tips and tricks you may have!  I’m sure there are awesome snapshots with VMs that will come out and play, as well.  My goal is to throw some options out there to get the discussion going. Evaluating the products and discovering how they work within your environment is a great way to test upgrade times and changes. It also helps with onboarding with your team.

Happy evaluating! And, as always, thank you for your time.

~ Dez ~

Anonymous
  • You could download and use an evaluation version for the VM in your test environment so you can test functionality.  When you install the bits you already have it will ask to license and then if you don't it gives you 30 days of usage.

    I completely feel you on the 50% cost for a lab environment when your a paid customer and maintenance renewer. (not an actual word.. lol)

    Perhaps this is something that you could bring up as a feature request or ask on the product blogs to bring attention to your PM's.  Perhaps something like a dev type install or something that could allow you to test within your environment.

    ~Dez

  • I appreciate your honesty greatly!

    ~Dez

  • Actually, we just ran into this.  No way are we going to eval on a Production environment.  We have way too many modules in play.  We created a Test/QA virtual environment and then instead of allowing a continous QA environment like Microsoft TechNet, we find that SolarWinds wants a 50% charged for cost plus maintenance to run what they consider a "Lab" environment.  Go figure....  Really, an additonal 50% to follow a best practice of having a QA environment?

    And you claim to be "from geeks?"  Not, that is from greedly capitalists.  If you have deployed products under maintenace, this should not be the case.  Especially when said customer environments find pre-release issues for you....  come on!!!

  • izzy_g is 100% correct.  deployment is easy.  i'm giving honest feedback, the sole item that prevents me from further product evaluation with Solarwinds is the constant, bothersome sales pitch.