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Monitoring Central Blogs

Product Manager
Product Manager

Background

 

Fire-fighting mode for DBAs can be stressful when they have co-workers and managers breathing down their necks due to application slow-downs and/or outages. Logic says something changed, but what? In a worst-case scenario, the database instance itself looks fine, nothing changed within the database and the SQL being executed was running fine before. Of course, the SysAdmin says nothing is wrong with the physical server or storage which makes it even more questionable. Hmm, could you be running in a virtual machine (VM)? Is your VM resource starved and competing with other VMs?

 

According to Gartner’s Market Guide for Server Virtualization[1], “Hypervisor-based server virtualization is now mature, with 80% to 90% of server workloads running in a virtual machine (VM) for most midsize to large enterprises.” Additionally, anecdotal evidence states 70% of all databases are virtualized. In fact, here at SolarWinds, 50% of our database instances run in a VM. For all the benefits of virtualization like cost savings and ease of migrating workloads, the abstraction of the virtual layer from the physical hardware can introduce some challenges.

 

And let’s not forget the elephant in the room, snapshots. Many DBAs I’ve talked to are at a loss as to why SysAdmins and IT ops perform snapshots of their database instance VMs, which in turn can cause performance issues, especially if a memory snapshot is invoked which renders the VM inactive while the memory is written to disk. Database backups are best left to DBAs who ensure referential integrity is maintained to recover a database.

 

Which Metrics Matter?

 

If you find yourself running your database instances in a VMware VM, what do you need to look for to see if the VM your database is running in has problems? There are many metrics available, so let’s review the usual suspects.

 

CPU Ready

 

  • This metric indicates the VM (and the database trying to run inside it) was ready to run but instead sat idle waiting behind other VMs contending to control the same shared resources such as physical CPUs or memory.

    For example, a vSphere host has six physical CPUs, and two VMs are configured to each require four virtual CPUs (vCPUs) before they can run. This situation means only one VM can run at a time. You can eliminate the VMs queueing behind each other by either moving a VM to another host or configuring both VMs to require three or fewer virtual CPUs.

 

    • The term “oversubscription” simply means you’ve assigned more virtual resources than what physical resources exist to run all VMs concurrently. It may seem a bit strange but reducing the number of vCPUs may dramatically increase its performance. Generally, oversubscription should not go above 5%.With the SolarWinds®Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) VM Option, an easy way to see how many physical CPUs your host server has is to view the Host tab on the VM CONFIG page.

 

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VM CPU Usage

  • Actively used CPU as a percent of total available virtual CPU in the virtual machine.

Host CPU Usage

 

  • Actively used CPU as a percent of total available CPU on the machine. If this number is high you might see VMs with high CPU ready and/or co-stop.
    • Active CPU is approximately equal to the ratio of the used CPU to the available CPU where: Available CPU = # of physical CPUs x clock rate.
    • When your database instance is running in a VM, with the VM Option, DPA automatically expands the data in the CPU tab to include this information along with other VM specific metrics.

 

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Co-Stop

 

  • The time a VM waits for a vCPU is due to scheduling (lack of resources). So basically, your VM can be waiting on physical CPU resources in use by other VMs. If you see high Host CPU Usage this is probably a sign there are too many VMs on this host and/or you need more physical CPU resources.

 

VM Memory Swap Rate

 

  • The “swap in” and “swap out” rates generally mean you have a shortage of physical memory on the host, so the memory is swapped out and in from disk.

 

VM Active Memory Usage

  • This is the memory in use as a percent of the memory configured for the VM.

 

Host Memory Usage

  • This is the memory usage on the host (consumed memory / total machine memory). If this is high (e.g., GT 90%) this could indicate host memory over-commit which could lead to high VM swap rates.

VM Memory Overhead

  • This is simply the amount of memory used to run the VM. Over-configuring memory (or excess vCPU for that matter) will unnecessarily increase overhead. That said, there’s memory needed by ESXi itself and the virtual machine (virtual machine frame buffer).

 

VM Memory Balloon

  • The balloon driver reclaims pages on the server considered less valuable. The crux of this VMware proprietary technique is to match the behavior of a guest OS. You should only see this when the host is running low or out of physical memory.
  • If you see the virtual machine your database instance is running in has a certain percent of memory claimed by the balloon driver, look for memory swapping which could affect your VM’s performance. However, if you don’t see any swapping issues you don’t and won’t necessarily have a performance problem.

 

VM Disk Commands

  • Number of disk commands executed is an indication of how busy the disks are. That said, unless you see large queues developing and commands start to be aborted there isn’t a problem.
  • If you see aborted disk commands, then your storage is severely overloaded and can lead to serious application response issues.

 

VM Disk Usage

  • Available if you aren’t using a NFS datastore, it will show the average disk I/O rates across all virtual disks on the VM.

 

VM Read / Write Rates

  • VM disk read rate is the average amount of data read from the disk each second during the collection interval. For a VM, this is the rate at which data is read from each virtual disk to the virtual machine.
  • VM disk write rate is the average amount of data written to disk each second during the collection interval—simply the rate data is written to each virtual disk on the VM.

 

Host Disk Device Read / Write Rates

  • The host disk read-and-write rate is the average read/write rate across all disks/LUNs on the host. The rate represents the read/write throughput at the host level across all disks/LUNs and VMs running on the host.
    • If the database instance has I/O performance issues, you may have another VM on the same host causing the delays. Compare this metric to the physical I/O rate from the database instance. If the Host rate is higher, then it’s likely another VM is the problem. Otherwise, the VM your instance is running in may be causing too much of a demand on the underlying physical storage.

Host Max Disk Latency

  • This is the highest latency value across all disks used by this host.

 

Host Disk Latency

  • Read latency is the average amount of time to process a read command to a disk to the host (across all VMs). High disk latency indicates storage may be slow or overloaded.
  • Write latency is similar to read and is the average amount of time to process a write command from the specific disk across all VMs.
    • Disk Write Latency = Kernel Write Latency + Device Write Latency
  • Expected disk latencies will depend on the nature of the storage like read/write mix, randomness and I/O size along with the capability of the storage subsystem.

 

In addition to these metrics being found in DPA, you can execute the “esxtop” command from your VMware ESXi host or look at various utilization metrics from the VMware ESXi console. SolarWinds Virtualization Manager also reports on all of these metrics and more in a friendlier format with both historical and real-time data.

 

esxtop screen capture.pngESXi Screen 2.PNG

 

 

Sample Nightmare Scenario Avoided

 

As I mentioned when I started off, a nightmare scenario could be when everything associated with the database instance seems fine—nothing changed. Since we’ve covered the essential VM metrics you should be monitoring, let’s walk through a hard-to-find problem for a database instance running in a VM using SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) with the VM Option. In the 2019.4 release of DPA, we expanded the VM option to go beyond the basic resource metrics to include additional HOST metrics and to make note of events, as seen in the DPA CPU tab in RESOURCES.

 

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* Example of event logging in DPA 2019.4

 

 

Let’s walk through our sample “nightmare” scenario.

 

  • Problem ticket open for poor application performance response time
    • Users complained the morning of Monday, December 2 “around 8 a.m.” they experienced abnormally long wait times.

 

  • No outages were recorded from the IT Ops group

 

  • You go to DPA to look at the Database instance supporting the application
    • You notice a longer than normal wait occurrence on December 2, and the machine learning anomaly detection flags this time as a critical wait time delta from what is normally expected at this time of day.

pastedImage_5.png

 

 

  • You then look at the tab ADVISORS for additional data for this day.

    1. As it turns out, a specific query accounts for the top amount of execution time.
      pastedImage_12.png

  • You select this query to find out more about it and what occurred at the time. From the QUERY DETAIL page, you see the longest wait time was for memory/CPU from which you click on the green bar for memory/CPU to explore further by going down to the hour.

    pastedImage_13.png

 

  • Once you get down to the hourly view, you see a noticeable spike in wait time in the morning hours when the application response time issue was occurring.
  • As you scroll down the page to the end where VM metrics are shown, you see the new co-stop metric where there’s a corresponding spike. By hovering over the annotation dots, you see during this time the VM was being moved via vMotion from one host to another.


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  • Just as with snapshots, vMotion events can have a negative impact on the performance of the VM the database instance is running in. Without visibility into the virtualized infrastructure, it can be time consuming to find the culprit of poor performance. 
    With DPA, you can easily line up all of resources for a specific time to pinpoint the problem as seen below.

    pastedImage_17.png

 

Summary

 

With VMware’s 500,000 customers and tens of millions of VMs, virtualization is here to stay. Since many database on-premises to cloud migrations involve virtualization, e.g., Azure VM, many of the same challenges existing on-premises will exist in IaaS environments. DBA’s don’t have to be virtual admins, but they do need to be aware of the environment their database instances run in and the impact those environments have on database performance.

 

That said, I’ve discovered many DPA customers have no idea there’s a purpose-built option for VMware that can be added to the product. It’s easy to see if you have the option by looking for the VIRTUALIZATION tab on the home page.

 

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*  This all-in-one view lets you line up all your resources in a single view to look for problems on a specific date and time.

 

Our goal at SolarWinds is to listen to our customers which is why we’ve enhanced the VM option for DPA. If you are a DPA customer, be sure to utilize our THWACK® feature request page to request and vote on feature enhancements. 

 

 

 

 


[1] Gartner Market Guide for Server Virtualization, Published 24 April 2019, ID G00350674

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Product Manager
Product Manager

Background

This blog initially started out as an examination of how SolarWinds uses Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) within our own production environment. It now includes not only how our DBA uses DPA, but how other business units within SolarWinds use it and why. It isn’t surprising to find people in IT operations and application development using DPA, since our own customer studies have shown a high number of people outside of the DBA role use it, too.

Recent product-specific studies for DPA showed a high number of DevOps/IT Ops and AppDev roles using the product and an eye-opening, broad customer census exposed even more. In the 2019 THWACK Member Census, we asked over 2,200 IT professionals to select their primary job role and only 2.4% selected DBA. Interestingly, when we asked respondents if they managed or monitored databases, 42.7% said yes.

This brings to light the discussion of the “accidental DBA” and some interesting changes in IT organizations. First is the growth in number of DevOps people who handle database-related tasks. Second is the importance of databases as the platform for most mission-critical applications and why everyone has a keen interest in their availability and performance. And last, but not least, the number of DBAs is going down according to Computer Economics, who has seen the percentage of DBAs relative to total IT staff drop to 2.8% in 2017 from 3.3% in 2013. Our own Head Geek, Thomas LaRock, wrote an article pointing out the number of DBA jobs has stagnated for almost 20 years. On the flipside, Gartner pointed out that DBMS (Database Management Systems) revenue grew an astounding 18.4% to $46 billion in 2018.

Armed with this information, I decided I’d investigate the SolarWinds DBA team and see if any of these trends held true.

Let’s Start With the DBA

As I mentioned, I initially thought I’d interview the DBA team here at SolarWinds to see how we “drink our own champagne,” since I knew DPA was used by our internal IT team. As it turns out, the “DBA Team” is one person. I guess for a company that did $833 million in revenue in 2018 I expected an entire DBA organization, not just one hardworking DBA. But maybe this isn’t the exception?

I learned a lot from our DBA about how she can keep track of over 250 Microsoft SQL Server databases running on a mix of physical and virtual machines. My biggest takeaway from talking to her was that DBA’s don’t “monitor databases.” They want to be alerted when there are problems and they need a product to help them quickly find and resolve problems when they arise. They also want a product to help them optimize their databases proactively.

The first thing we discussed was “what’s important and who is it important to?” Here are the top things SolarWinds uses DPA for and the primary users:

  • - Overall database health: DBA and IT Ops
  • - Debugging after deployment: AppDev and DBA
  • - Ad-hoc trouble shooting: DBA and AppDev
  • - Capacity planning: DBA

After I learned about the overall database environment (250+ SQL Server databases), I wanted to understand specific, real-world use cases of DPA in action.

DBA Usage Scenarios

So how does the DBA at SolarWinds use DPA? First, she sets up alerts, so she can immediately be sent text notifications from DPA if something goes awry. DPA has had alert notification for a while, but the 2019.4 release made it even easier via a “drag and drop” interface, making alert customization simple. Second, DPA is the first place she goes to when she gets notified about something going wrong, whether it’s an alert, phone call, email, or a help desk ticket opened and assigned to her.

Scenario 1 of 2

In this first real-life scenario, our DBA was alerted to an “assertion check fail” pointing to possible corruption. The SQL Server instance itself created a hard-to-decipher stack dump and the only noticeable thing she could pick out of was the process ID.

With this in hand, she went into DPA to the specific time the event occurred in the SQL Server instance. Since DPA provides both real-time and historical data, she was able to drill down to find 1) the session ID executing this query, and 2) the SQL script running and the database. After speaking with the developer who ran the query, she determined it was a problem with SQL Server itself and asked the developer to refrain from running the query until they got the problem resolved by Microsoft.

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*Screenshot the SolarWinds DBA used to find the culprit of the stack dump SQL Server generated.

Scenario 2 of 2

This second use case brings to light how important DPA is for establishing the overall health of a database and for capacity planning. Our DBA could not stress enough how important it was for her to know the baseline of a database instance and associated queries. From the baselines DPA develops, with the help of machine learning, she can know what a typical day looks like and the behavior of typical database activity. This allows her to spot both anomalies and trends.

Regarding capacity planning, she uses DPA to monitor the utilization and performance of applications and make note of trends she uses for future capacity requirements such as new or additional servers. Luckily, SolarWinds does a quarterly two-week freeze on new applications and changes, and this two-week period gives her a chance to go through DPA reports and proactively tune the environment. DPA’s anomaly detection powered by machine learning is a great way to graphically see the biggest opportunities for proactive optimization.

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*This resource tab in DPA is a favorite of our DBA because it gives her a good overview of server resources being used.

Our DBA believes DPA will be even more useful as SolarWinds starts to migrate databases to Azure PaaS. As she stated, being on top of performance issues like poorly written SQL and poor performing tables doesn’t go away, and the cost of making mistakes, especially those consuming resources, can lead to spikes in usage charges.

Application Development and DPA

As I mentioned at the beginning, I learned a lot about how DPA is used at SolarWinds and the various people and departments using it. The application development (AppDev) team is one of the bigger teams in need of the data DPA provides. Why? Because they, along with our DBA, are constantly deploying changes and want to see the difference.

For example, is the SQL query running slower or faster than before? As previously mentioned, some people are “accidental DBAs,” so if the query they implemented ran fine on a QA instance but in production performs poorly, they need to know why. Case in point, this exact scenario happened recently and was due to a missing index DPA quickly pointed out. As our DBA stressed, for someone not very experienced with index recommendations, the tuning advisors in DPA can be a life-saver.

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*One of the most popular DPA pages used for before and after is also the one used to look at overall waits and is great for seeing changes in before and after performance.

Finally, IT Operations

At SolarWinds, IT Operations (IT Ops) is where the buck stops for overall system availably, and just like our DBA, they make extensive use of alerts. Depending on the alert, they may send a priority 3 email when something has reached a certain threshold. But if SQL Server were down, they would send an email as well as page Opsgenie, which then goes to the primary person on call and posts a message on Microsoft Teams. The IT Ops group also has certain alerts integrated with SolarWinds® Service Desk to automatically open tickets.

But what about databases and their health…does IT Ops care? The answer is yes because they rely on the DPA integration with SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) to find the cause of performance issues on servers or when someone complains about application performance. Since DPA and SAM integrate with the SolarWinds Orion® Platform, you can navigate seamlessly between the products.

For example, they used the SAM integration to track a CPU spike on a server to a SQL Server database instance in a critical state. In this case, they immediately reached out to the SolarWinds DBA because they could tell the issue with the server was related to the database. However, if the DBA is unavailable, they rely on the suggestions and recommendations in DPA to diagnose the problem and take action or provide further documentation for either our DBA or AppDev.

Just as DBA and AppDev look for signs of abnormality, IT Ops looks at historical trends to find issues that may correlate to database issues. The integration of SAM and DPA makes this simple.

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*IT Ops uses this page in Server & Application Monitor to see trends and then drill down and isolate the root cause. SAM’s integration with DPA makes this simple.

Summary

As stated in the introduction, the role of the DBA is changing and many people without a DBA title are involved with the performance of database applications. With the movement of database instances to IaaS and PaaS implementations, the ability to optimize, find, and resolve performance issues doesn’t go away. In some ways it becomes more important due to the potential impact on OpEx (aka your monthly Azure bill).

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4 6 2,470
Product Manager
Product Manager

Change control. In theory it works. However, there’s always one person who thinks the process doesn’t apply to them. Their justification for going rogue may sound something like, “There’s no time to wait, this has to be done now,” and, “This is a small change, it won’t impact anything else,” or maybe, “This change will make things better.”

But at the end of the day, those changes inevitably end up crashing a service, slowing application performance, or even worse, opening new vulnerabilities. The call will come in, something’s broken and magically no one will know why on earth it’s happening and, they certainly won’t be able to remember if any changes occurred…or who made a change. There goes the rest of your day, looking for the root cause of an issue created by one of your own coworkers.

Recently, Head Geeks Thomas LaRock sqlrockstar and Leon Adato adatole hosted a THWACKcamp session on this exact topic. In their scenario the culprit was “Brad the DBA.” At SolarWinds, we understand this all-too-common scenario and have a tool designed to help.

SolarWinds® Server Configuration Monitor (SCM) provides an easy-to-use and affordable way to track when server or application configuration changes are being made, who’s making the changes, and what the differences are between the old configuration and the new configuration. It detects, tracks, and alerts on changes to things like hardware, software, operating systems, text and binary files, Window Registry, and script outputs on Windows® and Linux® servers.

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Additionally, SCM is an Orion Platform-based module, meaning you can quickly correlate configuration changes with infrastructure and application performance metrics in a single view. Helping confirm or illuminate the possibility of a configuration change being the culprit.

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These capabilities help provide you with the visibility needed to not only remediate issues faster but, also hold non-process-abiding team members accountable for their actions. If you’re tired of the shenanigans created by your colleagues not following the change control process for your servers and applications, check out a free, 30-day trial of Server Configuration Monitor. And just for fun, if you have a good story of how “Brad” broke your day, feel free to share below!

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4 7 1,289
Product Manager
Product Manager

PASS Summit 2019 is here and SolarWinds will be at the conference, booth #416, November 5 – 8 in Seattle, Washington.

We’ll be showcasing the latest release of SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (DPA), including our just announced support for Azure® SQL Managed Database Instance and SQL Server® 2019. No matter if you’re currently using DPA for your cross-platform database performance monitoring, or if you’re a “casual DBA,” stop by our booth for a demo to see the great new features we’ve added to this release.

And if you’re currently using any other SolarWinds products capable of integrating with the Orion® Platform, such as Server and Application Manager (SAM) or Virtualization Manager (VMAN), ask us how DPA seamlessly integrates with other products to give you a complete end-to-end view of your database applications.

Lastly, we’ve got two SolarWinds-sponsored events at the conference you should put on your calendar. One is the first timer’s reception we’re sponsoring Tuesday, November 5, from 4:45 – 6 p.m. in ballroom 6E at the convention center. The second is our presentation “SQL Server Performance Analysis Powered by Machine Learning,” Wednesday, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. in room 618 at the convention center.

Stop by and say hi. In addition to product demos, we’ll be giving away some cool swag.

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0 0 271
Level 9

Synthetic user monitoring is a technique that simulates user transactions—or common paths on websites—so the administrator can watch for performance issues. These transactions are meant to represent how a user might be experiencing the site. For instance, is a potential customer getting an error when they add an item to their cart? Is a specific page loading slowly or not loading at all? These are things that can affect your bottom line and result in unplanned fire drills.

Synthetic user monitoring should not be confused with Real User Monitoring. Real User Monitoring captures and analyzes transactions from real users on a site. It helps understand load times for your pages from browsers in their actual locations.

These approaches provide different perspectives on web performance. Each have their benefits, but today—in honor of the release of Web Performance Monitor 3.0—we’re going to focus on situations when synthetic user monitoring is a good choice.

Find Performance Issues Before They Cause Problems for Your Users

IT infrastructure monitoring tools are great at telling you if a server or a service is up or down, but users might still be frustrated even if these things look OK. Synthetic user experience monitoring tools let you see if an overall transaction is working (can a user purchase something from your site?) or if a certain step is having trouble (when I click “buy” my payment processing is hanging). Once you’re alerted, you can go into troubleshooting mode with the specifics of what your users are seeing to minimize the impact. Plus, you can continuously run these tests from multiple locations to ensure things are working where your users are. 

Benchmark Your Site’s Performance to Identify Areas for Improvement

As mentioned, synthetic user experience monitoring tools can watch your websites from multiple locations at frequencies of your choice. Seeing this data over time can help you identify areas to optimize going forward. Waterfall charts can be particularly helpful to pinpoint performance bottlenecks over time.

Monitor the Performance of Critical SaaS Applications From Inside Your Firewall

Most companies rely on third-party SaaS applications to run some aspects of their business. For instance, your sales team may be using a SaaS CRM solution to drive and track their daily activities. It’s critical to know if your coworkers are having issues getting what they need. While you don’t own the app, you’re the one they’ll come to when they have issues. A common scenario is setting up a transaction to make sure a valid user can log in successfully and be alerted if it fails.

Knowing about failures or performance issues before your users can save you time and frustration. Synthetic user experience monitoring can help when it comes to websites and web-based applications. How have you used it? Comment below and let us know.

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6 13 2,344
Level 9

Are you an administrator who’s supporting a small environment, and haven’t yet had the time or budget to invest in a centralized IT monitoring toolNo doubt you are tired of coworkers showing up at your desk or calling about an outage you weren’t yet aware of. If an enterprise-class solution would be overkill, but you don’t have the budget to purchase a licensed solution, ipMonitor Free Edition might be able to bridge that gap. 

ipMonitor Free Edition is a fully functional version of our ipMonitor solution for smaller environments.  It’s a standalone, free tool that helps you stay on top of what is going on with your critical network devices, servers, and applications—so you know what’s up, what’s down, and what’s not performing as expected. 

ipMonitor Free Edition at a Glance

  • Clear visibility of IT network dev !ice, server, and application status
  • Customizable alerting with optional automatic remediation
  • Simple deployment with our startup wizard and alerting recommendations
  • Lightweight installation and maintenance

ipMonitor Free Edition is an excellent starting point to more robust, centralized monitoring. It is designed for network and systems administrators with small environments or critical components they need to focus on, and can support up to 50 monitors. Monitors watch a specific aspect of a device, service, or process. Example monitors include: Ping, CPU, memory or disk usage, bandwidth, and response time.

Interested in giving it a try?  Download ipMonitor Free Edition today.  If you have any questions, head over to the ipMonitor product forum and start a discussion. 

Are you an administrator who’s supporting a small environment, and haven’t yet had the time or budget to invest in a centralized IT monitoring tool[MJ1] ? No doubt you are tired of coworkers showing up at your desk or calling about an outage you weren’t yet aware of. If an enterprise-class solution would be overkill, but you don’t have the budget to purchase a licensed solution, ipMonitor® Free Edition [MJ2] [WK3] might be able to help you bridge the gap.


[MJ2]Link to free edition PDP

[WK3]https://www.solarwinds.com/free-tools/ipmonitor-free

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2 0 399
Level 9

Have you adopted Azure cloud services into your IT infrastructure? And do you know how much you paid last month and for what? And what about forecasting? Are you able to forecast your Azure spending in the current month? If the answer is no, don’t worry, you are not the only one. Unfortunately, Azure billing is really complicated with more than 15,000 SKUs available, and each have their own rate. But SolarWinds is here to help you! We’re proud to introduce a brand new free tool in our portfolio!

Cost Calculator for Azure is a standalone free tool that can help you discover how much you are paying for your Azure cloud services. It is as easy as it could be – you put the credentials of all your Azure accounts into the tool, so it can do all the work for you, telling you how much you really pay and for what specifically. This tool is designed to help all budget holders and SysAdmins of any sized-business who are responsible for cloud resources in their companies.

Cost Calculator for Azure at a glance:

  • No installation
  • Support
  • Show cost of all assigned Azure accounts and their subscriptions plans. There is no need to have more instances and work with Excel spreadsheet to have an overall number.
  • Show spending in current month, last month, last quarter, or year? Still not enough? You can set up your own timeframe that fits you.
  • Find orphaned objects
  • Consolidate all spending and show the final expense in users‘ preferred currency.
  • Filter spending

As you can see, Cost Calculator for Azure is a lightweight and easy to use tool that can help make your IT professional life a little bit easier thanks to better forecasting of your Azure cloud spending. And the best thing comes at the end – Cost Calculator for Azure is available completely for FREE!

So, why don’t you give a try? Click the link below to download your Cost Calculator for Azure free tool by SolarWinds. No installation needed.

Cost Calculator for Azure – Download Free Tool

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0 1 328
Level 14

Hello fellow data geeks! My name is Joshua Biggley and I am an Enterprise Monitoring Engineer for a Fortune 15 company. I’m also fortunate enough to be a remote worker on part of an amazing team. One of my favourite career achievements was to be named Canada’s only SolarWinds THWACK Community MVP in 2014.

I joined the THWACK Community in 2008, shortly after moving to beautiful Prince Edward Island on the East Coast of Canada. I’ve attended THWACKcamp for at least one session since its inception 7 years ago, but have been a regularly attendee for the past 4 years.  Humble brag moment -- I had the opportunity to join Leon Adato (@adatole) and Kate Asaff (@kasaff) for THWACKcamp 2016 in presenting the session Troubleshooting with SolarWinds - The Case of the Elusive Root Cause. Leon has been a friend and (short-lived) colleague since 2014 and Kate has quite literally saved my bacon in one of my biggest challenges as a Monitoring Engineer. Sharing the THWACKcamp stage with these two superheros was beyond awesome!  Last year, I was humbled to have my team and I win the Carmen Sandiego Award at THWACKcamp 2017. Our team is entirely remote engineers and having our work recognized for both the high-performance technical and inter-team collaboration we embrace was a highlight of my year.  Will 2018 be able to top it?

I think these two sessions will give 2017 a run for its money, even if I don’t win another THWACK award!

Day 2

Oct 18 @ 10AM CT

What Does It Take to Become a Practice Leader?

Too many organizations view monitoring, alerting, and event management as a necessary evil. It is often relegated to the “All other duties as assigned by your supervisor” category. As organizations mature, finding monitoring engineers becomes a challenge. It’s not just about someone who knows how to use the SolarWinds products you own (you are using SolarWinds products, aren’t you?) but finding someone who can explain why monitoring, alerting, and event management are so important. They need to explain to their peers, their management, and the business why monitoring needs to be a practice not an afterthought. They need to be a data geek. They need to be a storyteller.

Patrick Hubbard, Phoummala Schmitt, and Theresa MIller bring decades of experience and, more important, are recognized leaders in the industry. Discovering how they went from junior analyst to practice leaders will help me understand explain to others how to make that journey. As a practice leader in my full-time job as well as freelance work, being able to help others understand that they can be leaders is crucial to the health of monitoring as a practice. My colleagues and I have worked very hard to elevate monitoring to the respect it deserves. In 2019, we will be starting an internal Community of Excellence that focusing on monitoring, alerting, and event management plus my very favourite new focus -- observability!

Day 1

Oct 17 @ 12PM CT

Observability: Just A Fancy Word for Monitoring? A Journey From What to Why

Observability and high-cardinality data are sultry words to any data geek. Observability was introduced in the 1960s as part paper written by Rudolf E Kálmán entitled “On the General Theory of Control Systems”. If the status of a system can be known simply by examining the outputs of that system, the system is considered observable. In recent years, the idea of observability has been embraced by systems engineers as applications have moved from bare-metal to virtualized to containerized to serverless. Instead of monitoring the things that allow your system to do what it does, we’re now measuring how the system does what it does without much concern for why.

Of all of the sessions as THWACKcamp 2018, this is the one I would want every engineer, every application developer, every CTO --- OK, pretty much everyone who is involved in building, supporting, and managing any critical application anywhere -- to watch. Application Performance Management is coming to every organization. If you deliver any services through an application, APM provides the insight and observability is the methodology for measuring those insights.

Do I sound a little passionate about observability?  What?!? Only a little?!? Observability is my new passion. I recently wrote a white paper that defined an APM strategy and the foundation was observability. This idea of observability is probably the most important shift in our industry in 20 years. Unnecessary hyperbole? Maybe, but I think there are seminal moments in every industry and this focus on observability is going to be one of them. I’m Canadian, would I steer you wrong?

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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.

  1. 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​:

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Hungry for more? Here is some of my favorite THWACK content for tuning your Network Atlas skills and getting the creative juices flowing:

10 Hidden Gems in Orion Network Atlas

Using Custom Properties to send messages to your NOC using Network Atlas

The “Show us your Network Atlas Maps” thread

     3. PerfStack

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!

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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.

     4. AppStack

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.

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     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.

     Results

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:

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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!

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Level 12

You’ve been asking and we’ve been listening.  We are excited to announce that the newest member of the SolarWinds product family, Log Manager for Orion, is now available for trial.  Built on the Orion Platform, Log Manager provides unified infrastructure performance and log data in a single console. No need to hop back and forth between your infrastructure and log monitoring tools.

Through platform integration with Network Performance Monitor, Server & Application Monitor, and other Orion based products, Log Manager closes the gap between performance and log data.  With Log Manager you get:

  • Log aggregation
  • Filtering by Log Type, Level, Node name, IP Address, and more
  • Keyword, IP address, and Event ID search
  • Interactive log charting
  • Color-coded event tagging

To learn more about Log Manager, visit the Log Manager Thwack Forum or to try for yourself in your environment, download a free trial.

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Level 9

Are IP requests for virtual machines overwhelming your current IP address management practices?  You are not alone. In a June 2016 survey of IP Address Manager customers[1], 46% of respondents stated that virtual machines were creating challenges for managing IP addresses for their company.

Independent author Brien Posey explores this topic in the whitepaper “Overcoming IP Address Management Challenges in VMware Environments.” A challenge with virtual environments is that their dynamic nature can quickly lead to depleted address pools if IP addresses are not quickly de-provisioned. Utilizing DHCP services is a less than ideal solution, as IPs can be tied up by lease expiration dates. Using manual processes for provisioning IP addresses is another option, but this can be slow, error-prone, and limit the dynamic scaling of virtual environments. DNS records obviously must also be updated in tandem.

A solution to overcoming these IP address management challenges is fully automating the process of provisioning IP addresses and updating DNS records. VMware developed vRealize® Automation (vRA) to automate tasks in virtual environments. However, as Brien discusses, vRA was not designed to be a comprehensive IP address management solution, thus the need for third-party solutions to fill this gap. SolarWinds® IP Address Manager (IPAM) helps overcome this limitation by providing a plug-in for VMware® vRealize Orchestrator (vRO). The plug-in provides actions and workflows critical for managing IP addresses and DNS records. These actions and workflows integrate with vRA and enable the creation of blueprints to automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of VMs.

To learn more about this topic, please read Brien Posey’s whitepaper, and attend the live webcast coming up February 21, where our very own IPAM Product Manager Connie Dowdle will take you through a demonstration of the plug-in and the latest and greatest that SolarWinds IPAM 4.6 has to offer.


IP Address Manager customer survey, June 2016, survey result


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1 1 418
Level 9

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Reliable, recoverable backups have always been fundamental to a well-run data center. But the technology we use to accomplish that goal keeps reinventing itself. The old systems never quite go completely away, even as newer options come onto the scene. Too often, this results in a complicated mix of tools and media that can be a real headache to manage.

At one point, tape was the only storage medium, and the ubiquitous Iron Mountain® trucks hauled loads of tapes from place to place on a regular schedule. While those trucks haven’t gone away, today, they’re supplemented with disk and cloud storage.

Do you remember the simple days, when physical servers were the only thing needing protection? Traditional backup products were designed for this world, but increasing adoption of server virtualization led to new market leaders, like Veeam, with a virtual-first approach. Then laptops and an array of mobile devices needed protection.

Then came the cloud and SaaS applications. Every vendor sought to update their offerings to cover new use cases, new devices, and new storage options. Complexity multiplied, and prices went up and up.

Where does that leave you today?

In November, we surveyed the THWACK® community on server backup, and learned a lot. We heard from more than 500 of you that backup is too complicated, too time consuming, and too expensive.

Here are the top backup-related pain points our survey respondents listed:

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We also learned, not surprisingly, that you’re using a diverse mix of products that represent every era of backup history. The largest section of the pie was “other”.

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We believe there’s a better way. We decided to approach the problem with a few guiding principles:

  • Simplicity – One backup product for physical and virtual servers, for one price that includes software and storage. No add-ins or options, no hidden costs.
  • Ease of use – One web-based console to see all backup status at a glance, and drill down as needed.
  • Reliability – Easy to deploy, clean, efficient dashboard. Our customers tell us it “just works.”
  • Powerful technology under the hood – Innovative features working in the background to make backups and restores fast and efficient.

The result of this approach is SolarWinds® Backup, a cloud-first backup service designed for IT pros who are tired of spending hours every week managing their backups. While it’s a new offering from SolarWinds, the product has been in use for years among the MSP community, and is already trusted by thousands of organizations. Here’s what a few of them have to say:

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- Justin Cremer, IT Professional, Libra IT

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- John Treanor, IT Professional, Satellyte Technology

More customer comments and insights can be found on TechValidate®.

To learn more about SolarWinds Backup and begin your free trial, check out the Product Blog post. Find out how simple backups can be.

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Product Manager
Product Manager

We just can't have anything nice, now can we?  Oh, well. We knew there would be new vulnerabilities and ransomware attacks in 2018. However, this time hardware is the culprit, and patching is not going to be a cure-all for the situation. Consider yourself warned: expect more slowdowns in 2018.

Stop and think about this for a second: as the days progress, we are literally learning how much this new vulnerability impacts us. Anyone who says they have the full solution is not being honest with you or themselves. What I would like to do is help you to see how you can use the tools you likely already have to make you more aware of past, present, and future vulnerabilities and threats. That said, let's move on to the importance of using SolarWinds tools to do just that.

SolarWinds® Patch Manager will allow you to update your Windows® machines to their Microsoft® patches. If you are currently using this product, you should already be scheduling and looking for these. I discovered that there can be some issues with third-party Windows antivirus or you might get the BSOD. Read more here, because the awesome chart helps clarify these issues and how to prevent them from happening to you.

Further, Patch Manager will allow you to schedule and report on your Windows devices regarding updates. The reporting is key to showcase your compliance and, in this case, start your baseline. Plus, just because you update your devices does not mean you are 100% in the clear. Updating your third-party packages is an added bonus with Patch Manager, a fact that is often overlooked though desperately needed.     

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitoring (SAM) will help you validate your business, yourself, and your vendor support for any degradation that patching may have on your applications. This is something you will want to have in place as soon as possible. It allows you to see any anomalies that may present themselves to your applications after the patching is applied. And because SAM is multi-vendor, you’ll be able to address even broad-scale hardware issues. The avid SAM users among you will likely know even more tricks for using the software, and I encourage you to share your knowledge in the comments to help us all be more aware in terms of application-centric monitoring.

SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM) comes helps when there are firmware upgrades\updates that need to be applied to impacted network devices. It also helps you to roll these out. There is a compliance reporting function built into NCM that will assist with audits automatically. Remember, this incident is ongoing, which makes NCM’s ability to import very helpful. In fact, you can plug into firmware vulnerability warnings provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This puts you even further ahead of future vulnerabilities.

SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is all about the baseline. If you have ever been to one of our SWUGs, you have heard me preach endlessly about baselines and their extreme importance. However, I understand that sometimes you need black and white in front of you to truly understand this. The mindset I’m currently following regarding this vulnerability looks something like this:

  1. Patched and we have our checkbox
  2. Monitoring our application performances
  3. Ready for updates to needed network devices
  4. Monitoring the common vulnerabilities database
  5. Waiting for any anomaly that may present its ugly face (my favorite)

We can now show that we have implemented the patching to put a Band Aid® on the issues that could present themselves. However, as I’ve already mentioned, this is not a full fix. A hardware option would be the best solution, but is obviously not available to billions of devices at this time. YOU ARE THE THE FIRST RESPONDER!

Using NPM in combination with the other tools that I have outlined allows you to verify the patching and the results. Also, if there are ticks or drops or spikes that do NOT match your current baseline, you can share that solid reporting and documentation with your vendor to work out the possible issue, which makes you part of the solution. Is there anything better than working at the edge of technological advancements to create countermeasures to vulnerabilities? NO. The answer is a solid NO.

If you don’t already have it in place, set up threshold alerting and monitoring on critical devices that are housing your applications. That helps ensure that you are alerted to anything out of the ordinary, allowing you to get things back on track. It also shows your team and other departments that you are fully invested in the integrity of application uptime and performance. Also, if you have DevOps, you really need the documentation and baselines to prove that perhaps the performance issue is not the in-house application, but an actual patching issue. That, right there, can save a lot of unneeded cycles through rabbit holes.

Please let me know if you have additional ways to protect and help through these beginning stages of 2018 vulnerabilities. The ideas we share could literally help the many of you who act as a one-person army fighting your way to the top!

Thank you all for your eyes,

~Dez~

In case you’d like more information on any of the products mentioned above, check these out:

SolarWinds® Patch Manager

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor

SolarWinds® Network Performance Monitor

SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager

Other resources:

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3245606/security/intel-x86-cpu-kernel-bug-faq-how-it-affects-pc-mac....

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/business/computer-flaws.html

Check out our Security and Compliance LinkedIn® Showcase Page for ideas on how to socialize this content: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/solarwinds-security-and-compliance/

Follow our Federal LinkedIn page to stay current on federal events and announcements: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/4799311/

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Level 14

Looking back through previous content, I came across this post by Jerry Eshbaugh.

SQL Server Two Ways - SAM AppInsight for SQL and Database Performance Analyzer

I read through it again and realized it still resonates in a big way. I’d like to add this foreword and bring it up to speed given some recent changes. SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) wait-time statistics and resource metrics were recently added to the Performance Analysis view (lovingly known as PerfStack) in the Orion® Platform. I believe this addition gives IT professionals the end-to-end visibility they want. I know we all tend to exist in silos, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want greater upstream and downstream performance metrics.

Now you can easily see if your database performance is impacting application response time, and if storage latency is causing longer I/O related database activities. Also, you can view existing dependencies and what relates to what. These customizable dashboards are way cool!

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you have a couple of ways to do so:

  • If you own just DPA (without any Orion products), you can now download a standalone DPA Integration Module (DPAIM) from your customer portal as part of your existing license. That’s right! It’s free. You will be limited to DPA data only, as there are no other modules running to collect application, server, storage, and network data, etc.
  • If you already have another Orion product and are on the latest release, DPAIM may be installed (it comes with Server and Application Monitor for example), or you can install the DPAIM module from your customer portal on your Orion Platform.
  • If you aren’t ready to commit to a download, you can check out oriondemo.solarwinds.com and try out the Performance Analysis view. This might be a good start to play around with, but remember, it is demo data. Things may not line up exactly. Some of the data might be invented. The best way to get the most out of the PerfStack dashboard would be to look at your own data with it, which is infinitely more interesting!

Let us know what you think about it!

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0 1 328
Level 14

Jogging is my exercise. I use it to tune out noise, focus on a problem at hand, avoid interruptions, and stay healthy. Recently, I was cruising at a comfortable nine-minute pace when four elite runners passed me, and it felt like I was standing still. It got me thinking about the relationship between health and performance. I came to the conclusion that they are related, but more like distant cousins than siblings.

I can provide you data that indicates health status: blood pressure, resting heart rate, BMI, body fat percentage, current illnesses, etc. Given all that, tell me: can I run a four-minute mile? That question can’t be answered solely with the data I provided. That’s because I’m now talking about performance versus health.

We can also look at health metrics with databases: CPU utilization, I/O stats, memory pressure, etc. However, those also can’t answer the question of how your databases and queries are performing. I’d argue that both health AND performance monitoring and analysis are important. They can impact each other but answer different questions.

“What gets measured gets done.” I love this saying and believe that to be true. The tricky part is making sure we’re measuring the right thing to ensure we’re driving the behavior we want.

Health is a very mature topic and pretty much all database monitoring solutions offer visibility into it. Performance is another story. I love this definition of performance from Craig Mullins as it relates to databases: “the optimization of resource use to increase throughput and minimize contention, enabling the largest possible workload to be processed.”

Interestingly, I believe this definition would be widely accepted, yet approaches to achieving this with monitoring tools varies widely. While I agree with this definition, I’d add “in the shortest possible time” to the end of it. If you agree that you need to consider a time component in regards to database performance, now we’re talking about wait-time analysis. Here’s a white paper that goes into much more detail on this approach and why it is the correct way to think about database performance.

We can only get to the right answer regarding root cause if we’re collecting (measuring) the right data in the first place. Below is a chart with some thoughts on data collection requirements. Adapt as needed, but I hope it provides a workable framework.

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Remember: don’t stop with asking “What can we do?” Take it to the next level and instead ask, “What should we do?”

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Level 10

There are many decisions in life where we come across the question of build or buy. A new house. A business. An application. Monitoring software. Regardless of the object of discussion, answering certain questions can act as gates for helping us along the path to the right solution—for us as individuals or as companies.

Take database monitoring software for example.

  • What are the requirements? What are the “must haves” vs. “nice to haves”?
  • Does a monitoring solution exist that at least meets minimum requirements?
  • Is there a competitive advantage to be realized by building?
  • What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the build vs. buy options?

Requirements

Regarding requirements, be sure to get input from all of the stakeholders who will be involved or will benefit from the monitoring solution. This will include DBAs, developers, management, and application owners at a minimum, but may also extend to other IT disciplines (system admins, storage admins, VM admins, etc.). Be as thorough and detailed as possible when defining requirements. Be realistic on the “must haves” and try not to throw in the kitchen sink. Take into account best practices when defining requirements. There is a lot of good content out there on how to define requirements, so no need to be exhaustive here.

Does It Already Exist?

After requirements have been defined, the journey can begin. A quick Google® search will likely yield a number of alternatives for consideration. Some things to look for are:

  • Features that match requirements
  • Testimonials
  • Trusted reviews
  • Customer reviews
  • Satisfaction with the product and support
  • Specific strengths and weaknesses of the monitoring solution

In addition to the above research, evaluations are likely in order. All of the key boxes might get checked, but taking the candidate solutions for a test drive can go a long way in determining a good fit. This phase will likely involve talking with sales representatives from the vendors. This is a great opportunity to get additional information you may have missed during your research, or answers to questions that come up during evaluations. Restricting candidates for evaluation to three can save time and effort.

Competitive Advantage

Determining if there will be a competitive advantage by building monitoring software is a bit nebulous. Database monitoring tools in general are fairly mature for the major RDBMS vendors. Only databases without a significant install base are likely to not have any commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) monitoring solutions available. Still, if you don’t find a solution that meets your minimum criteria, you may be looking at a build scenario. In fact, many great startups resulted from needs that aren’t met by COTS products.

TCO

Purchasing perpetual COTS licenses is usually straightforward, in my experience. Costs to consider are the list price, the initial purchase/negotiated price (usually some percentage of list), and then maintenance (normally somewhere around 20% of list price due annually).

The TCO for building a solution is a bit more ambiguous. Costs to consider include development of the product, potential integration with other technologies, security, administration, opportunity cost (associated with not monitoring) while developing, and maintenance of the product when new versions/drivers are released on the target RDBMSs. Software development being what it is, a contingency factor of at least 20% should be built into the cost for rework, bug fixes, course adjustments, etc. And hey, if you do succeed in traveling the happy path during development, that’s cost reduction that can flow directly to the bottom line.

Conclusion

The decision to build vs. buy is a key one. It’s tempting to go down a path because it’s something that can be done. However, answering the questions listed here should help those making the decision to identify what should be done.

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Level 11

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Software Advice (a Gartner® company) recently published their FrontRunners™ quadrant, an assessment of the best help desk software for 2017. I’m excited to announce that SolarWinds® Web Help Desk® not only made the list, but was identified as a leader when compared to the total 460 help desk and IT service management solutions that were evaluated. That’s right—Web Help Desk was recognized as one of only three leaders in this category, and to top things off, it was positioned as the greatest value for small businesses among the entire field!

About the FrontRunners Quadrant

The FrontRunners quadrant for help desk software, which is powered by Gartner Methodology, offers a data-driven, comparative assessment of the capabilities and value these products provide for North American small businesses. In true form, the outputs of this assessment are displayed in a “sister” quadrant to that of the iconic Magic Quadrant, which is synonymous with the Gartner name. The top 20-25 solutions fall into one of the following four categories: Leaders, Masters, Pacesetters, and Contenders. Chief among them, however, are the Leaders, which offer the greatest breadth of functionality and serve the widest variety of customers.

Independent research, by companies such Software Advice, is key to helping small businesses make informed decisions about the right choice in software. These types of decisions become critical to supporting business needs and driving productivity.

A Special Thanks to Web Help Desk Customers

Software Advice’s evaluation of Web Help Desk relied heavily on the reviews and ratings from our customers as part of its scoring system, which in my mind, makes this achievement so much more meaningful. Take a look at some of the comments we received that helped us land such high marks.

“Simple, quick setup. Very easy to use. Found nothing it's lacking.”

    - Perry Johnson, Network Administrator, Periscope

“It has the potential to be the best helpdesk software on the market, and currently is really good”

    - Jeremy Mayfield, IT Director, American Cement Company

“Web Help Desk has the features we need to make our support experience painless for our end users.”

    - Ross Burdick, Network Support Specialist, Aberdeen Public Schools

“A helpdesk product that integrates with SolarWinds? Yes, please!”

    - David Whittaker, Systems Administrator, Bird Stairs

“A very robust ticketing system, with a lot of customizable options.”

    - Erik Stallings, End User Support Manager, World Travel Holdings

“Web Help Desk has really taken our ticket and tracking system to a whole new level!”

    - Jon Billiau, Sys Admin, Industrial Control Repair

Follow the leader

Interested in seeing firsthand why Web Help Desk is a leader in the space? Download a free, fully functional 14-day trial today and see for yourself!

The content for the FrontRunners quadrant is derived from actual end-user reviews and ratings as well as vendor-supplied and publicly available product and company information that gets applied against a documented methodology; the results neither represent the views of, nor constitute an endorsement by, Gartner or any of its affiliates.

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Level 9

We’ve been listening to our SolarWinds® IP Address Manager (IPAM) customers who have ventured down the path of cloud automation, and we would like to share with you a new solution from SovLabs. It’s geared toward solving end-to-end IP address management for vRealize Automation (vRA).

The issue

vRA is widely used to provide self-service automation for infrastructure provisioning. One of the gaps in self-service is finding the next available IP address to assign to a new virtual machine. This requires a workflow that involves changing tools and manually looking for an address, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.

How does SovLabs help?

The SovLabs® vRA Integration Pack for SolarWinds consists of IPAM and DNS integration modules for VMware® vRealize® Automation based on the new SolarWinds IPAM API. The modules bring a simplistic approach to integrating SolarWinds IPAM with vRA. Combining IPAM with the SovLabs vRA Integration Pack enables a fully automated method of obtaining and releasing IP addresses as well as DNS record creation and removal as the cloud environment dynamically scales.   IP subnets can now easily be shared between vRA deployments alongside existing tools/devices with little fear of IP address conflicts.

SovLabs IPAM and DNS modules eliminate the pain of building and managing custom workflows by simplifying the integration between SolarWinds IPAM and vRealize Automation using a software-driven approach.  The modules share a built-in template engine that allows for dynamic data to be injected into endpoint definitions and configurations. Need to customize the comments field for IPAM records using vRA metadata?  Here’s an example of how to dynamically generate the comments using vRA properties via the SovLabs Template Engine configured on the SovLabs SolarWinds IPAM endpoint:

This comment template:

Reserved by {{ownerName}} on {{creationDate}} via vRA {{plugins.vCAC}} using blueprint {{blueprintName}} (NIC# {{SovLabsIPAMProfile.nic}})

Is rendered and inserted as a comment during VM provisioning/IP assignment:

Reserved by fred@sovlabs.com on 2016-10-07T14:23:38.360 via vRA 7.3.0 using blueprint Win2012R2 Prd (NIC# 0)

Getting started

To get started, create a SolarWinds endpoint, then create/link to an IPAM profile and DNS configuration, and finally associate to the blueprint – all directly in vRA.

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For more information on the SovLabs vRA Integration Pack for SolarWinds and to request a free trial, visit the SovLabs website or email info@sovlabs.com.

The SolarWinds, SolarWinds & Design, Orion, and THWACK trademarks are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates, are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and may be registered or pending registration in other countries. All other SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos may be common law marks or are registered or pending registration. All other trademarks mentioned herein are used for identification purposes only and are trademarks of (and may be registered trademarks of) their respective companies.

© 2017 SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Level 10

SolarWinds THWACK® community has grown to become one of the largest and most active communities for IT professionals, expecting about two million unique visitors this year alone.

We see it as a great opportunity to have a conversation and to connect.

IT is changing all the time. That’s what makes it such an interesting industry. SolarWinds® solutions have been changing, too. In addition to our traditional product line, powered by the Orion® Platform, SolarWinds now offers a remote monitoring product line for MSPs, and a portfolio of cloud monitoring products for DevOps teams building cloud-first applications.

This makes it more important than ever that we have a space to connect with customers and with the IT industry. This is that space.

Monitoring Central complements our two other blog communities on THWACK: Geek Speak, where you can read opinions from industry thought leaders, and the Product Blog, where you find out about product updates and new releases.

Monitoring Central is a new space to talk about all things monitoring.

We invite you to participate, ask questions, voice your opinions, and actively participate in this blog. For example, write a comment below suggesting any topics you would like to hear about.

We look forward to the conversation.

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