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Managed Service Provider (MSP) Deployment Options for Server & Application Monitor (SAM)

Level 17

Managing and monitoring a single IT operation can be a pretty complex operation, and we make lots of great tools to help simply that process, but what to do when you’re a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and you have multiple independent IT operations to oversee.

There are a couple of different deployment scenarios for MSPs to take advantage of our Server and Application Monitor (SAM) product, as well as its sibling products, including the following:

· IP Address Manager (IPAM)

· Network Configuration Manager (NCM)

· Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

· Netflow Traffic Analyzer (NTA)

· User Device Tracker (UDT)

· VoIP and Network Quality Manager (VNQM)

· Web Performance Monitor (WPM)

Centralized Deployment

The Centralized Deployment model is based on a single, centrally located SolarWinds server running SAM (or one or more of the other products listed above) and configured to monitor/manage nodes remotely.

SolarWinds Centralized Deployment.jpg

There are two ways in which remote nodes can be monitored from a central server.

The central server can connect directly to the remote nodes and a number of protocols and ports may be needed to support this. Two commonly used protocols are Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). An SNMP connection works well in this fashion for network devices, but WMI connections for servers are a bit more complicated because of the dependencies on Remote Procedure Calls (RPC). If the remote nodes are within the same enterprise, then RPC connectivity may not be an issue, but RPC is rarely capable of traversing a firewall connection. If you are managing a remote network via an always-on Site-to-Site VPN connection, then RPC/WMI may be possible across the VPN. Alternatively, enabling SNMP on the servers can provide a methodology for monitoring.

A second option is to deploy pollers to the remote sites. Poller remotability is useful when there is a large number of nodes to monitor on a remote network. This offloads the WMI or SNMP traffic from the site-to-site connection by performing those tasks locally and then relaying that information back to the central SolarWinds server. This information is sent directly to the instance of SQL Server supporting the main SolarWinds server, so there are also some firewall and port considerations with this method as well. As a result, this methodology is not well-suited to the MSP scenario, but may work well within a single multi-site enterprise. There are also latency issues with the database communication to be aware of as well.

Decentralized Deployment

The Decentralized Deployment model provides some advantages over the Centralized Deployment model by eliminating the challenges involved in supporting RPC/WMI or SQL traffic over a site-to-site network.

SolarWinds Decentralized Deployment.jpg

In this model, independent SolarWinds servers running SAM (or other products) are installed at the remote sites, and the Enterprise Operations Console (EOC) is used to provide a centralized, aggregated view of the individual remote sites. In addition, the EOC can be customized on a per-operator basis, so operators that are responsible for only some sites, can have their view customized to just those sites. The EOC can also be filtered by the particular SolarWinds products in use. For example, Network Administrators may wish to focus on the content provided by NPM, NCM, IPAM, and NTA, while Systems Administrators can be focused onto the information provided by SAM.

Hybrid Approach

Finally, if you’ve implemented multiple SolarWinds products in this family, you can also choose a hybrid approach. You can implement one or more products with a centralized model and others with a distributed model, and regardless of the model used, the EOC can connect to all of them.

The diversity of deployment options makes monitoring and managing independent customer sites a breeze for MSPs who implement SolarWinds products. For more information about the ways SolarWinds can help MSPs manage customer operations, please visit the website for SolarWinds Managed Service Provider Software.

Level 8

This is so great informations.

Level 13

To me this is not suitable for my clients.

I cannot have a site-to-site VPN with all clients, nor I can deploy a remote poller to each and every SMB (too expensive $$$). I would need a "poll concentrator" that would send data over SSL to a centralized server. Too few of my clients have an on site server to do the hybrid approach as described.

MSP for SMBs are not part of the target of this architecture description. The whole concept would need some overhaul...

Level 17

Greetings Phillip.

I understand your concerns, and challenges. I think that an important point of this discussion is that these options are available on a per-customer basis. While you may not be able to have a site-to-site VPN with all clients, you may be able to with some. Likewise, deploying a remote poller may not be practical for every SMB, but it is appropriate for some. Different clients will require different methodologies, and the key point is that there is flexibility in how a solution is approached for each customer.

Considering the idea of sending data via SSL to a centralized server ... the remote poller does send the data to the central server. While SSL is not an available option, it would be possible to use IPSec to secure that connection.

I definitely agree that not every client may be equipped for this type of functionality. The purpose of the article was simply to point out some options that do exist, where they can be used. Ultimately, though, to do any sort of monitoring/management as an MSP into a client's network is going to require some type of access, either via VPN or via a hole punched through the firewall. If the client can do neither, then remote monitoring/management probably isn't an available option under any circumstances.

Level 15

Nice article.  Very helpful and informative.  Thanks!

About the Author
I'm a Head Geek and technical product marketing manager at SolarWinds. I wrote my first computer program in RPG-II in 1974 to calculate quadratic equations and tested it on some spare weekend cycles on an IBM System/3 that I ‘borrowed’ from my father’s employer. After that I dabbled, studied, and actually programmed in just about every language known for the past 40 years; worked on a half-dozen different variants of Unix on 3B2s, RS6000s, HP9000s, Sparc workstations, and Intel systems; connected to CompuServe on a 300 baud modem; ran a FidoNet BBS on OS/2 on a 9600 bps modem; and started working with Windows when Windows NT4 was still the latest operating system. Along the way, I did a few years in database programming and database administration. I installed some of the first ADSL and SDSL Internet circuits in Texas, and then migrated into full-time Windows systems management, which had a lot to do with my interest in SUS and WSUS 10 years ago. This ultimately led me to EminentWare in 2009, and SolarWinds three years later.