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Level 11

What NPM Tips and Tricks do You Have?

My last couple of posts on How to Avoid "Monitoring Spam" and How to Monitor Effectively have been received well, and have facilitated some really useful conversation around monitoring and alerting in NPM. For those of you keeping score, I had asked how many people monitor link saturation, and unicast or multicast routing tables. As expected, just about everyone came back with emphatic "yes, yes, doubly yes!" responses to the link saturation question. What was a little surprising to me is how many people aren't monitoring unicast routes. This may be a case where the routing is stable enough, with no redundancy or points where route flaps are likely to occur, but it did catch me off guard a bit.

Not surprisingly, multicast route monitoring seemed to be a corner case for most people. Unless you're in certain industries (stock trading, multi-media streaming, etc.) the reality is that most of us have limited exposure to multicast in the form of a handful of standard addresses (OSPF, RIP, VRRP, etc.) and mostly that takes care of itself.

Today, I'd like to continue with these previous themes and ask for any little tips or tricks that the community has to share. Things that may be obvious to those of us who have used the products for a while, and those things that even a seasoned veteran might not know about are all fair game. Even things that don't completely stay within the Solarwinds product line will work (how many of us have Splunk integrated into our dashboards, for instance?).  The goal is to see just how many cool things are being done with NPM that might help the community at large.

The depths of the Orion ecosystem are filled with so many "nerd-knobs" that I'm certain there are hundreds of little things I've personally never seen or touched, but that might prove invaluable to me if I knew about them. Sure, we could all search around on Thwack, but it's a bit like the old joke about needing to know how to spell a word in the dictionary before you can look up how to spell it: we don't necessarily know what to search for.  We don't know what we don't know.

28 Replies
Level 11

Spin up a VM to test the latest version(s) of the Orion products out to make sure they work as expected in your environment. Granted, you won't be able to see if they change/break something custom or specific in your production version of Orion but at least you can get a feel for the latest version of the product before upgrading your production environment.

It's also a great place to mess around with products from Solarwinds that you don't yet own and want to evaluate, test, or are just curious about when you have some spare time and since all of the products can be demo'd for 30 days free, it makes it even easier.

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I tend to rail against "VM Sprawl" but in this case I think it's a good use case. 

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This is a great way to test things.  I have my VM team spin up a system, and I go so far as to detach and copy production DB to NPMTest DB.

WARNING: know your environment.  this may cause duplicate polling and overhead in environment.

Install SQL or NPM if need to use eval SQL.

Reattach production DB and copy test db to new system and attach to the SQL on new system.  Then I delete most of the nodes, only keeping basically one of each kind.

If installed NPM, run config wizard again and point to test DB and tell NPM that this polling engine is primary.

assign nodes to this polling engine.

now you can "test" with an environment very close to your prod.

I'd say this is a bit of work for someone in a small shop who doesn't have time to devote to SQL, but still, it's a good tip and helpful for sure.  We do the same thing with test databases, but on the same (admittedly beefy) named-instance installation of the database.

If you're running certain storage (we use Netapp as an example) it's also pretty easy to clone the VM housing the DB by spinning up a new machine based on last night's snapshot.

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Greetings,

Greetings,

hi sir Chrystal, Could I as ask some question about the reporting on my Solarwinds NPM. Is just that I customized an Advance report using report writter after I save it, and I believe it seems to be good and working because every time I Execute the SQL Query and Preview, it displayed the desire report to be pullout by the Query on to the database it self. but the problem is that my when I view my customized report in the Solar Winds Orion Web Console my Customized report named(Node Duration Summry) is there but it do not show any report only "No activity to report" what i see. Although it show report information in Report Writter and when it comes in Web is None? What suppose to be the problem on this? Please Help me. Thanks you very much. Please reply ASAP. Please also see the attached files. Thanks

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Sorry nikkodumapit, but this is not a help forum discussion.

In any case, try unchecking the "group historical data by days" button on the General page in Report Writer.

Save the report again and check from the web page to see if it now displays data.

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Level 10

Being a some what noob at Solarwinds the one trick I plan to use is to start studying and go for the SCP.  ihave used other monitoring systems and this job has actually given the opertunity to be the SolarWinds guru I want to take that and ride the wave for as long as I can. Getting SCP will be a great starting step for me to start finding all the "nerd-knobs." The second step is doing what I am doing and follow the Thwack Comminuty because I have seen quite a bit of informative post and replies to post.

Thank you, Thwack Comminuty for share your knowledge, findings, frustrations, etc...

Level 15

I missed the discussion on route monitoring, but I did submit a feature request years ago for something very simple and easy to integrate into NPM that would help alert on routing changes here.

Using maps is an excellent way to streamline your monitoring and status of whole portions of your network or infrastructure.

See my idea here.

In addition, you can customize many different thresholds for each object on an Atlas map, to change the status based, on these custom values.
Very cool stuff if you have the time to review and customize everything.

Bump for my 2 feature requests from back as far as 2009.

I see Solarwinds adding all sorts of new bells and whistles to V11, yet the basic functionality of their product is not being looked at.

<rant on>

Simple things like Manage Nodes seems to be ignored in favour of new features.

2 Examples:

I want to see all interfaces which are down in the Manage Nodes interface:

I select "Show Interfaces", but there is no Group by: Interface Status available, only Node Properties.

So trying to delete down interfaces is an impossible job.

The old orion system manger used for managing nodes allowed one to view all interfaces by status, which would make selecting interfaces to delete a cakewalk.

In addition, using the search function in the Node Manager does not allow searching by interface status, which would allow one to remove down interfaces.

Also the search function does not honour any "Group By" selections, so one is not able to search within a predefined group.

This is a basic function which should be part of NPM, but has never been implemented.

The headings for any Custom Property in my Manage Nodes page use the following syntax:

Nodes Custom Properties <CP Name>

I have a CP named "Region". It is a 2 letter field, but yet in order to display it in the Manage nodes page I need a column wide enough to display the whole name.

I have to scroll horizontally thousands of pixels to view all my CPs if I want to use them for sorting.

And of course when one scrolls far to the right, the node name is lost in the viewing pane.

In my mind, these are very basic functions that are used every day by SW users, and should be addressed by Solarwinds as useability issues with their core product before considering adding new features, especially when this functionality existed in previous versions and was removed in newer versions.

Unless you have used the older versions, you would never know how easy it was to perform basic functions like this using the Win32 app.

When one must manage over 3000 nodes and 65K interfaces. these types of issues result in 100's of hours of additional time spent compared to the older versions. I am in the process of an upgrade from an older version to NPM10.7 and this is really impairing my ability to complete the migration in a timely manner.

Basic product stability and functionality must come before new features.

Function over form wins in my book every time.

</rant off>

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I think a lot of the map customizations and whatnot are really where it's at.  You make management happy with big, shiny, candy-like displays of "das blinkenlights" but at the same time can see at a glance trouble spots.  Plus, you get an excuse to get a large display for after-hours gaming.  Win/win. 

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Level 21

While not incredibly advanced, we have a bunch of reports that other departments like to have in Excel format so I have created links to those reports in Orion that include the URL to the report with the added &dataformat=excel at the end so when they click on the link it automatically exports the report to Excel for them.

I thought I was the only one

This was a requirement when we switched from our IP spreadsheet to IPAM but I don't think anyone bothers anymore.

If only I could have a single report template and include SQL filter values in as URL parameters in the link...

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Yeah, the lack of filters is sad as it would allow for much more dynamic reports.

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Greetings,

Hi Sir, Could I as ask some question about the reporting on my Solarwinds NPM. Is just that I customized an Advance report using report writter after I save it, and I believe it seems to be good and working because every time I Execute the SQL Query and Preview, it displayed the desire report to be pullout by the Query on to the database it self. but the problem is that my when I view my customized report in the Solar Winds Orion Web Console my Customized report named(Node Duration Summry) is there but it do not show any report only "No activity to report" what i see. Although it show report information in Report Writter and when it comes in Web is None? What suppose to be the problem on this? Please Help me. Thanks you very much. Please reply ASAP. Please also see the attached files. Thanks

0 Kudos
Level 7

I would agree with ZackM that learning SolarWinds DB is a very important thing to do.

As a hosting provider, one of the big challenges that we faced with SolarWinds/NPM was the lack of multi-tenant capabilities.

In order to solve our problem, we built a DotNetNuke frontend and a web services API that can push devices and alerts into SolarWinds as well as allow customers to view the data as well.

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Most assuredly agree w/ Zackm and Mobilenow!  you can really gain a good deal of flexibility by being familiar with the DB.  many of my custom reports need to use stored procedures because the report writer cant send things like case statements, etc..but it sure can call a Stored Procedure.

Also a good way to make your maps "live documentation" in conjunction with the NCM DB (also using SPs to get data back and forth so you can put dynamic ${macros} on maps so it is updated automatically.

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I'll 3rd that.

I don't use the report builder for anything other than to link a report to the GUI with the checkbox for allowing the report to be visible.

After that my report is entirely custom SQL.

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My DBA team is starting to salivate... I can feel it from here.

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Level 15

Our biggest thing here is that we have friendly "competitions" surrounding the SQL database. My co-worker is old-school unix, so he by nature hates the GUI

Stored Procedures and custom Views created in the DB save us countless man hours and, in my experience, working directly in the DB can really expand your knowledge of the architecture of NPM overall.

I highly recommend every SolarWinds engineer to challenge themselves to learn more SQL. I am by no means a DBA, but I can pull every bit of data you can get from the website, and I can do it faster 90% of the time.

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My favorite is using the power of Solarwinds Orion as a cmdb to provide asset life cycle compliance or "suspect" reports. For example once we identify the proper way to provision or decommission nodes,interfaces,IP's,etc then I can run a report that returns anything outside this range. Examples like:

  • interfaces admin up but no description or vise versa
  • nodes in production with no asset tag listed
  • IP's assigned returning no reverse DNS or no comments
  • IP's listing as transient for more then 30days
  • subnets provisioned with no vlan ID or descriptions

etc

Once you get them down to a manageable level then combine them into larger combined reports.

Any additional ideas for suspect reports?