One million elements per SolarWinds Orion instance. One million. Let that sink in for a moment. A new scalability milestone that’s surprising even to me. I’ve seen some amazing things since joining SolarWinds in 2007 as its products have scaled along with its users to address the challenges of businesses of any size. And believe it or not, this sort of long-term, continuous innovation in an existing product is rare for software. Along the way, vendors usually force their users onto “advanced” (i.e., clean-sheet technology do-overs), losing all their customization and data in the move. Instead, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) became the world leader in network monitoring software through regular user upgrades.
NPM, My How You’ve Grown
This would be remarkable on its own, but over the years, hundreds of enhancements and even entirely new feature categories have been added while performance has simultaneously improved. Orion and NPM were transformed from a dependable multi-vendor network monitoring tool into a platform for flexible and deep monitoring for advanced network devices and protocols, applications, databases, storage, cloud, and more. Many software products become slower and more complex over time, but the Orion Platform added these capabilities while simultaneously becoming more intuitive and able to scale to any business. But you already know why: because SolarWinds listens to the members of THWACK instead of building speculative features you didn’t ask to get.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to introduce a few dozen new features over the years at THWACKcamp and on SolarWinds Lab. So I thought it would be fun to look back at the technical history of NPM—the module that started it all. And yes, it’s true SolarWinds loves its acronyms, but with over 60 products spanning just about every need in IT, it makes it easy to keep them straight. And as a former admin, I like shorter filenames that don’t change all the time, too.
SolarWinds products are named for what they do. Say what you do, do what you say. It also saves users time. They don’t have to untangle marketing-meets-legal mashups like Clearanom With Enterprise DataPower Conveyor or something similar. You’d expect Network Performance Monitor to have the tools you need to keep your networks up and performing well, from network gear and routing to topology, mapping, and traffic in deep detail. And SolarWinds Service Desk would be… a feature-rich service desk. And because they’re both from SolarWinds, you’d expect them to be integrated. They are. So you’ll hear NPM, NTA, NCM, IPAM, SAM, SRM, DPA, WPM, and more because these acronyms assure clear communication on THWACK and reduce complexity for upgrades, training, and support.
NPM –> Orion –> NPM?
I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite, but NPM is special to me. As the original Orion Platform module, NPM has an interesting beginning, believe it or not—in SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset. In the late 90s, NPM was one of several workstation-based tools for basic SNMP device monitoring, switch port mapping, MIB discovery, subnet calculation, and more. It was overtaken by SolarWinds Orion, which was the original name of the new server-based, multi-vendor network monitor capable of doing a lot more. It was designed based on SolarWinds user requests.
Next, customers asked SolarWinds to help with NetFlow analysis (now NTA) and network configuration (now NCM), followed by a medley of new IT operations modules for application monitoring, databases, IPAM, VoIP, and more. NPM was the backbone of this platform along the way, but eventually it was time to let it shine. Orion became the common services platform included in all Orion modules, and NPM became an independent, mature module. Perhaps this change more than any other created the freedom in recent years to innovate quickly and help users tame the rapidly expanding complexity of the networks they manage.
I’ve loved these years at SolarWinds for many reasons, but there are two at the top of the list: the sharp humans of the THWACK user community and the steady advance of SolarWinds products based on your requests. And with the 2020.2 release, NPM and the platform it sits on are more fully operational monitoring battle stations than ever. The web UI speed increase and new remote installer enhancement in this release alone are awesome, and I can’t wait to hear what you’ll be doing by this time next year.
If you have a minute, take a look at the NPM release info graphic and let me know what you think. I’d love to know what your favorite upgrades have been over the years and hear about the “impossible” challenges they helped you overcome.