10 Orion Platform Connected Use Cases You Should Know


Part 1 IT environments are getting increasingly complex and can often straddle on-premises gear, private cloud, public and/or multi-cloud, and SaaS environments... oh, and it’s a moving target. Your legacy applications may have to reincarnate in one of these forms with minimal disruption. And when things go wrong, you need all the help and pointers you can get to identify the root source of the problem and what it’s impacting. Because so much is entangled, it’s crucial to get the important context and insights and understand the dependencies even with those tricky intermittent issues.  This is why a platform-based approach is so powerful, as a true platform is not just about co-locating modules on the same browser but connecting and integrating these to get the big picture. In a way, troubleshooting IT can feel like solving a jigsaw puzzle without the benefit of the picture on the box and with missing pieces. The more pieces you have (or fewer gaps), the clearer the picture will become. This is the power of the SolarWinds® Orion® Platform, where it’s a collection of functionalities designed to solve specific problems—and this is often the motivation for the initial purchase—but when combined together with the connective tissue of the Orion Platform smarts, it amplifies their power and, as Aristotle once said, (although, he may have been misquoted) “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” One of the reasons I thought about doing this was in a moment of reflection on when I was new to SolarWinds, just before the coronavirus madness kicked off, I had the privilege of being on the stand at a mask-free Cisco Live! in Barcelona. I was enthusiastic to show many of the customers visiting the stand our popular NetPathTm functionality and a surprising number of them said something like, “That’s really cool, how do I get that?” Most of these were customers who already had Network Performance Monitor (NPM) installed and, so, in fact, had it already but didn't realize what they were missing... and we certainly don't want that. I thought it would be fun to do a round-up of some examples of how the Orion Platform shared services facilitates this interaction and collaboration of its modules to support useful connected use cases. This is not a complete list, but some examples you may already know about. They may serve as a refresher, or if you’re new to the Orion Platform, will be informative. As I touched on the NetPath example at Cisco Live! it would seem like a good place to start. This is a fantastic feature of the Orion Platform network modules dealing with health and performance, traffic, and configuration, and when all three are present, the combined effect really adds up. Whether we're talking transport networks in the real world or information networks, it’s crucial to be able to answer the following questions:
  1. Is the path healthy and operating normally?
There should be no parts in the network—cables, switches, routers, etc.—that are defective and thus obstructing the operation of the path. With NPM, which is about health and performance of the network, the NetPath feature uses advanced probing to detect the network path (or paths) from a source computer to a destination service, even when traceroute can’t. This reminds me of the “get directions” button on Google Maps, where you can see the route end to end and borders don’t matter.
  1. Is the path overutilized or bandwidth being wasted?
If there’s a “traffic jam,” we need to be able to drill down and see which applications are causing the congestion. When NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA) is present, NetPath uses NTA to drill down into what’s saturating the bandwidth and affecting the slowdown.
  1. Which applications and users are saturating my bandwidth, is it productive traffic, and who are the perpetrators?
NPM can answer the health and performance questions end-to-end, NTA can answer the WHAT (applications) are saturating the path questions, but when it comes to the WHO, we need to map the offending users and devices to the misused path—Netflix bingers, boxset downloaders... whatever. This is where User Device Tracker (UDT) comes in the picture to root out these bandwidth hogs. Another great example of an Orion Platform module collaborating around a problem with multiple layers. User Device Tracker delivers automated user and device tracking along with powerful switch port management capabilities, so you can stay in control of who and what is connecting to your network. When combined with NPM and NTA, UDT provides user contact info and the switch port location of the high bandwidth user, allowing you to either tell the user to reduce their bandwidth usage or remove them from the network.
  1. Are configuration changes a cause of problems?
When a street plan is changed—traffic light sequences, one-way streets, etc.—perhaps it improves things or makes them worse. If the latter is the case, maybe we want to revert to the old plan or use a better one. IT networks are the same. When we change the configuration and it makes things worse, we need to identify this and revert. When Network Configuration Manager (NCM) is present, we can see when a configuration in the network service path has changed through integration with the NetPath feature and correlate this to a positive or negative outcome. In the next part, we’ll continue our look at how Orion Platform modules cooperate to solve problems. We’ll broaden our look beyond the network space into servers, cloud, and more. See you in part 2 and part 3!
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