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Orion Platform: Preparing for the Upgrade to 2018.2

Starting with NPM 12.2, SolarWinds has embarked on a journey to transform your Orion deployment experience with fast and frequent releases of key deployment components. The first step was revamping the legacy installer to the new and improved SolarWinds Orion installer. The installer was able to deploy new or upgrade an entire main poller in one seamless session. The second iteration of the installer released the capability to do the same for your scalability engines. In this release NTA has been updated to utilize a MSSQL database, allowing us to happily say that the SolarWinds Orion installer is truly an All-in-One installer solution for your Orion deployment. For NPM 12.3, we have made tremendous scalability improvements that allow you to utilize even more scalability engines. As a result, your Orion deployment upgrades gain in complexity, so the installer team is providing additional updates to how you can stage your environment for minimal upgrade time.

Normal Upgrade Process

Using the All-in-One SolarWinds Orion installer, your upgrade process will look like the following.

Step one:

Review all system requirements, back up your database and if possible snapshot the Orion deployment. This will be especially important in this release, as the NTA Flow Storage database requirements have changed. Note: Flow Storage database refers to the database instance that stores NTA collected flow data. In previous versions this was utilizing a Fastbit database, but in this release has been updated to use MSSQL with a minimum version of 2016. An Orion database is the primary database that stores all polled data from NPM and other Orion products.

Step two:

Download the NPM 12.3 installer, selecting either the online or the offline variant according to your system requirements. Note: the SolarWinds Orion installer is

Step three:

Run the installer on your main poller and upgrade it to completion. If you have any other Orion product modules installed, the installer will upgrade this instance to the latest versions of those modules at the same time to maintain compatibility with the new Orion Platform 2018.2. If there are new database instances to be configured, that will be handled during the Configuration Wizard stage of the main poller upgrade. This release of the installer has a new type of preflight check that requires confirmation from you before proceeding. In the example below, is one for the NTA upgrade. Click for details to see the confirmation dialog and select yes or no.

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Configuration Wizard step for NTA:

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Step four:

If you don’t have any scalability engines, e.g Additional Polling Engines, Additional Websites or HA Backups you’re ready to explore all of the new features available in this version!

Scalability Engines

For those environments utilizing scalability engines or for those who are looking to try them out, this section will guide you through the process of deployment. Even if you have not utilized scalability engines previously, trying them out to test the scale improvements is incredibly easy. Like every SolarWinds Orion product, they are available for an unlimited 30-day free evaluation.

Deploying a fresh scalability engine is handled with the same installer that you downloaded for the main poller.

1. Copy the installer to your intended server and Click to “Run as Administrator”

Note: If you downloaded the offline installer, which is about 2 GB, the download process to your server can take some time and does not currently stage the scalability engine for faster upgrade. In the future, this is something we’d like to improve but is not an available feature for this release.  if you’d like to shorten the initial download of installer file to server, you can always use the online installer to set up your scalability engine. This installer file is about 40 MB so the download of installer file time to the server is much shorter. This will still meet offline requirements because when selecting the “Add a Scalability Engine” option, it will choose to download from the main poller to maintain version compatibility and does not require internet access. As always, the 40 MB scalability engines installer is also available for download from the All Settings -> Polling Engines page.

2. Select the “Add a Scalability Engine” option.

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3. Similar to the main poller upgrade process, at this point system checks that are specific to scalability engines will be run.

Note: Anything tagged as a blocker may need confirmation or action from you before proceeding.  If this is the case, address those issues and run the installer again. Things that are tagged as a warning or informational message are simply for your awareness and will not prevent your installation from proceeding. 

4. Select the type of scalability engine that you are looking to deploy, and then complete the steps in the wizard to finish your installation per your normal process.

Upgrading a scalability engine, is also handled through the same installer. However, this is where you have an opportunity to utilize our staging feature.

Note: If you were to proceed with your normal practice of putting the scalability engines installer on each server you need to upgrade, and then manually upgrading, that process will work perfectly well with no changes. Please read through the “Staging Your Environment for your Scalability Engines Upgrade” section below to see the alternative workflow that allows you to stage your environment.

Staging Your Environment for Your Scalability Engines Upgrade

For customers with more than a handful of scalability engines or with some distributed over WAN links, we noticed that they were occasionally experiencing extremely high download times from their main poller to their scalability engines. In addition, there was no centralized area where one could see the upgraded state of the scalability engines. Navigate to "All Settings", and click "High Availability Deployment Summary" and you will see the foundational pieces for an Orion deployment view.

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The Servers tab contains the original High Availability Deployment Summary content, and is where you can continue to set up additional HA pools and HA environment.

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Check out the new Deployment Health tab! You may not have heard of our Active Diagnostics tool, but it comes prepackaged with every install of the Orion Platform with test suites designed to test for our most common support issues. We've brought that in depth knowledge to your web console in the new Deployment Health view. With nightly run tests across your Orion Deployment, every time you come to this page you will see if there are any issues that could be a factor in the performance of Orion or your upgrades.

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You are able to refresh a check if you're working on an issue and wish to see an updated test result. If there are tests that you don't want to address, silence them to hide the results from the web console. Click on the caret to the right and you'll be able to see more details and a link to a KB article that will give you remediation advice.

On the Updates tab is where you will be able to stage your scalability engines.

The first page of the wizard will let you know if there are updates that are available to be installed on your scalability engines. At this point you've upgraded your main poller, so there are definitely updates available!  Click "Start" to get started!

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The second page is where we are testing the connection to each of the scalability engines. If we are able to determine the status of these engines, we'll give you the green light to proceed to the next step. Common issues that could prevent this from being successful could be that the SolarWinds Administration Service has not been updated to the correct version or is not up and running at this point. Click "Start Preflight Checks" to proceed.

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Similar to the Deployment Health tab, these are running preflight checks across your Orion Deployment. You'll be able to see all of the same preflight checks that were available through the installer client, except centralized to one view. If there are blockers present on this screen, you can still proceed in this flow if at least one scalability engine is ready to go, but please note down those scalability engines with blockers. You will need to address those blockers before an upgrade can occur on those servers. Click "Start download" to start the staging process.

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At this point, we are starting the download process of every msi needed to upgrade your scalability engines. In this example, I'm only staging one scalability engine, but if you  have multiple, you can see the benefits in time savings right away! All of the downloads will be triggered in parallel.

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Sit back and relax as we stage your environment for you. You can even open up RDP sessions to those servers with one click from this page.

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When everything has finished downloading, we will let you know which servers are ready to install. Click on the "RDP' icon to open your RDP session to the server.

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On your desktop, you should see the SolarWinds scalability engines installer waiting for you to click on and finish the upgrade.

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Visually you will run through the same steps that you normally would in clicking through the installer wizard. However, when you actually get to the installation part, you'll notice that there is no download appears in the progress bar. Finish your upgrade and move on to the next!

I hope you enjoy this update to how you can upgrade your Orion Deployment. I'm always looking for feedback on how we make this as streamlined as possible for you.

Comments

I am looking forward to this one. 

This would be high priority for me if we had SQL 2016.  Hoping to get it by the fall.

Let me know once you have your SQL 2016! I'd love to do another round of upgrades with you

Whoa.   Count me in.

The improvements on the installation procedure have been very welcome and make what was already something anyone can perform into something even simpler.

A couple of points:

  1. We still need some clarification over the database requirements and impact of NTA moving back into SQL Server. This is critical for users, as SQL licensing is a cost factor.
    1. Does the NTA data set need to be on a dedicated SQL Instance or can it be a separate database on the same instance
    2. Can this instance reside on the same host server
    3. What are the break points for different design architectures
  2. I suggest the High Availability Deployment Summary area is renamed to Scaling Engine Summary Area, as it is not just HA that is managed in this section now

serena​ That health tab looks like it is jam packed with good info! Will we see that on/for the main install too, or only for additional servers?

Never mind, a closer look at the screenshot appears to have answered my question... Looks great!

Yes sir!!!! Additional servers are covered too!

I definitely agree! Not to give any spoilers, but the next phase of improvements that will build on this centralized area will lead to me adding additional entry points and renaming some items. Love that thought process!

As to your NTA questions, jreves​ will be rolling out more in depth information over in his release candidate forum when ready, so more to come!

Were can i find more details about the Beta and specs for the SQL2016 server.

I would like to try this in our test environment.

If you would like to try the NTA beta to see the requirements with SQL 2016, join the NTA beta forum here NetFlow Traffic Analyzer Beta 

Hi Serena,

Where is the best place to post feedback/bugs?

I just tried to perform a test upgrade from 12.2 in my lab environment and the Upgrade advisor wouldn't let me proceed saying that the product license had expired and to click here to renew them, but I was running the lab in a 30 day eval and still had 28 days remaining - Not sure what happened there.

I spun up a new Lab VM for a fresh install, and when I downloaded the NPM 12.3 RC it won't let me add additional modules, telling me they are not compatible? Am I going to have to add the other modules afterwards?

Thanks

dgsmith80​ I think the RC versions require all licenses to be valid through the end of quarter, or something like that. I had a similar issue during the assisted upgrade, and they had to do some sort of temporary license magic.

Thanks wluther - Hopefully it's something they remove as I think the ability to dry run any upgrade in a lab or non-production environment is going to be crucial!

So just to confirm, if you try and install NPM12.3 RC using the online installer these are the options you are presented with in terms of additional modules:

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If I install NTA 4.4 RC1 I get the following:

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Call me crazy, but I was expecting to be able to install ALL RC products in one sweep, but it doesn't seem that will be possible?

dgsmith80​ I reckon I'll leave that one to the folks in the know... serenacobrien

I have noticed them more than not depending on what installer I use it may or may not pick up the other modules for install as well.

So this is a weird scenario that only occurs for release candidates in particular. When you download NPM 12.3 RC, you've proven that you are in maintenance and are in fact are entitled to the NPM RC. When you try to add additional products, you're selected the current, publicly available GA versions of the products which are on an older version of the platform. So, we don't allow you to install the new platform with products that are on the old. You can only install NPM RC on your new lab VM.

This scenario exists mostly because of legal restrictions on who we can provide newer bits. Prospects or people evaluating the product who are not current customers do not get to have RC bits, and thus that's why we have that house keeping in place.

The best scenario where you can take full advantage of the all in one installer is this:

Install a fresh VM with NPM 12.2, SAM 6.6 GA bits. Apply a valid license for both NPM & SAM.  The installer will verify that you are a customer entitled to the RC bits of both and will upgrade this system to the RC version of both NPM & SAM in one installation.

Without the license applied, you will have to download the RC enabled NPM installer, run it and then the RC enabled SAM installer and run it.

Yes, to be eligible for RC, we need to verify that you're in maintenance to the end of the quarter.

This is for legal reasons and thus can't be avoided. You can still just install individually for each RC, it just means that you have to run more install sessions.

Thanks, serena so because this is just a training/test lab I don't have a license I just use the 30-day trial test what I need and wipe it out. But it's good to know that if this were on a production system or a licensed lab I could upgrade with the AIO.

I went ahead and used the individual components for now just to test them out - the thing is you wouldn't have access to the RC if you didn't have a license as you can only download RC from the customer portal so that almost proves you have a license, but I guess there is nothing to stop someone putting those files online and that's most likely the reason, although it still only gives you 30 days so I'm not sure the legal standpoint really exists, for BETA maybe, but RC hmm. Odd but oh well.

Thanks for the clarification though

If you have something installed, it will upgrade that existing install to the latest that is compatible with the Orion Platform version that you're installing with the new product that you've elected to run the installer for.

Might be a dumb question. Are we required to have SQL 2016? In the government we upgrade as necessary and we are currently on SQL 2014 for our NPM and NCM installs. If it is required then I will have to request that our SQL server be upgraded in order to move to 12.3.

DUH! Never mind. If I had read more below this one, I would have found that SQL 2016 is not required unless you are using NTA 4.4.

Thanks anyway..... I look forward to the final release of 12.3

Hi hoppingubu although it isn't required for 12.3 you might take note that as of 12.3 SolarWinds have depreciated Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 for future releases. This is something to consider as you plan any upgrades/migrations

If we install RC1 would be be able to then install the GA or later versions afterwards or will we receive the notorious "you have a beta version" so restore your database and then continue?

Yes. Release Candidates are upgradable to later Release Candidates and the final GA release.

Also something many people forget is that RC is fully supported sonyou can log support tickets if you have a problem.

I'm really concerned about the SQL 2016 dependency for NTA 4.4.  I've observed that we can no longer bypass module upgrades in order to get just the one upgrade we want, because the new install logic upgrades everything no matter what.

So it looks to me like we need a calendar showing planned release dates of all SolarWinds modules, so that we can plan to upgrade what we can before the SQL 2016 requirement for NTA (and IPAM, I believe) hits.

Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding the process.

There is zero requirement to upgrade NTA to use MSSQL to upgrade to NPM 12.3, SAM 6.6.1, etc. etc. in this release. You can continue to use FastBit for NTA if you're not yet ready to upgrade your MSSQL server. This will likely not remain the case indefinitely, so I would still encourage you to upgrade your MSSQL server at your next available opportunity.

SQL 2016 has Hybrid Columnar Compression or whatever Microsoft refers to that technology as...
Oracle has shown this to be tremendously useful in large databases with tons of repeating data.

So look for even the core product to eventually move to that for efficiency..

Maybe that buzz phrase of techno jargon will be part of a future release of a new Solarwinds Data Warehouse that will let us track and graph LONG-TERM trends over five or ten years.  I know that info would be helpful for my job in planning appropriate WAN and Internet pipe sizes.

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