Dashboards are important. Your NOC is an essential avenue for collecting and relaying information about your network, and combined with a finely crafted set of alerts there’s nothing that can get past you. Not only are dashboards effective, but they just look so stinkin’ awesome when done properly. In this post I’m going to focus on my ‘Dashboard Philosophy,’ which is all about efficiency, information, and design. A dashboard should display the most data possible in the space that you have, it should include pertinent information that summarizes your environment, and it should look good doing it. Let’s talk about what the SolarWinds Orion Platform brings to the table to help make our dashboards the best they can be.
- NOC Views
Using the NOC view feature is a must. These space-saving views allow you to combine multiple sub-views that can be set on a rotation. Creating one is easy: simply add a new summary view, edit it, then enable left navigation and the NOC view feature. Here you can enter an interval for how often the NOC view rotates between individual sub-views. If you aren’t using NOC views, you’re wasting valuable space on your dashboards! Enter NOC mode, full-screen your browser window, and bask in the glory of a massive canvas to display all your fancy metrics and charts. Rob Boss would be proud.
2. Network Atlas
Admit it, you both love and hate Network Atlas. It’s an incredibly useful tool that requires a bit of extra patience, but the results can be amazing once you get the hang of it. As Henry David Thoreau probably once said, “SolarWinds Network Atlas is but a canvas for your imagination…” or something like that. Check out this amazing example from THWACK user spzander:
Hungry for more? Here is some of my favorite THWACK content for tuning your Network Atlas skills and getting the creative juices flowing:
With the release of NPM 12.1 came a game-changing new feature… PerfStack. This new charting tool allows you to quickly and easily create attractive charts that contain the data you need while optimizing page space. PerfStack is what makes you, the monitoring professional, shine when an application owner is looking for a way to view monitoring data for their systems. Check out the original release notes for PerfStack here. Since its first iteration, the SolarWinds team has been putting a lot of work into this tool. With PerfStack 2.0, they have added support for many major Orion modules including VMAN, SAM, VNQM, NCM, and DPA, along with a pile of new features such as fast polling, syslog/trap support, quick links, and full screen mode (which makes a great dashboard). As of this post, the next iteration of PerfStack is available in the latest NPM 12.3 Release Candidate and includes… drumroll please… A PERFSTACK WIDGET FOR YOUR DASHBOARDS!
Here we have a node detail view… WITH PERFSTACK! You can do the same thing with any view type in Orion, including Summary Views (which means dashboards). For dashboard nerds such as myself, this is truly a good day. Sign up for the NPM RC program for more details and awesome sneak peeks at what SolarWinds is doing to improve tools like PerfStack.
This is really one of the most efficient ways to display a mass amount of information in such a small space. AppStack is a one-size-fits-all tool that will satisfy your devs, their managers, and your director. An efficient dashboard should have MAXIMUM information in MINIMUM space, and AppStack is the answer. Whether you only have SAM or you’re running multiple products on the Orion platform the AppStack widget gives you a flexible, filterable, and fun-tastic (I couldn’t think of another word that started with ‘f’) resource to add to your dashboards and NOC views. There’s not much more to say. It’s the perfect widget for my Dashboard Philosophy.
5. SWQL and Other Advanced Methods
Are you a dev nerd? Do you like to yell at code until it bends to your will? Are you ready to bring your SolarWinds deployment to an unreasonably awesome level? With a little bit of fidgeting and some help from THWACK, you can create your own charts, tables, dashboards, maps, and much more. Check out this post from THWACK MVP CourtesyIT, which has a master list of all the amazing ideas and customizations that have been posted in the community. Be sure to check out the section from THWACK MVP wluther: he’s got some great content specifically tailored to dashboards. One thing to always keep in mind when using more advanced methods… SolarWinds support may not be able to assist you with the bending of spacetime. Fidget at your own risk!
In my opinion, one of the most powerful tools for creating custom resources is SWQL, the SolarWinds Query Language. With it, data is your slave. THWACK MVP mesverrum makes it easy in this post, where he provides an awesome example of how to create your own custom SWQL tables.
Let’s put all this together and create a shiny new dashboard that follows the idea of efficiency, information, and design. We need something that doesn’t waste space, contains useful data, and looks awesome. Something like this:
First thing’s first… we’re using the NOC view, indicated by the black bar at the top with the circles in the upper-right corner that represent the various sub-views in rotation. We have a map from Network Atlas (upper left), a PerfStack project added as a widget (lower left), AppStack (lower right), and a custom SWQL table that displays outage information (check out mesverrum's post about it here).
And there we have it! Five useful tools that you can use to make your dashboards amazing. Be sure to post your creations in the community. Here are some threads for NOC views and Network Atlas maps. Now go forth and dashboard!