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Test/Development Licenses

Test/Development Licenses

Disclaimer: I know that there are other threads on this but I wanted to update it in this new Idea space.

I would really like to have Test/Development licenses for SolarWinds products, at least for the products that we have purchased.  These licenses could be restricted to just a few nodes (like 10ish).

The reasons for this would be having the ability to do the following things in a non-production environment...

  • Testing upgrades
  • Testing different configurations
  • Learning the SolarWinds products for SCP (SolarWinds Certified Professionals)
    • In the case of SCP's I think they should get access to test licenses for all of the SW products to keep current
  • Creating a small training environment
  • Creating a demo environment

I am sure there are other reasons that I have not already thought of, please share if you have them and vote on this idea if you like it!

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157 Comments

It's a mix of closed (can't say), open (adb) and home brew code all put together. Windows Agent on the server and ICS (rooted) on the phone.

Level 13

Thanks!  Just knowing things were (probably had to be) done by hand/in house is useful info.  I've done some *very light* android development before and at least I would feel better about...rationalizing ...about putting something together knowing someone else went the same route.

Level 9

I have been able to get 30 day eval licenses for our products. Solarwinds has been very helpful to us in this area. I have to explain to them why I need an eval license every time but it's worth it because I cannot test any upgrades, etc. without it.

That being said it would be a big help to us and everything if something "official" was offered. It would save time and effort if eval licenses were available for at least limited situations.

ex. You could get a 30 day eval license for test/dev purposes if you aleady have the licensed version in use. Or you are running a demo and you need time to do a POC or product comparison, etc.

Level 13

{gives Leon Adato an awkward hug}....I too have implemented and supported The BMC, The OpenView, and also The SCOM.  They have such pretty brochures and they promise the world and on a few special places they can....but at a price.  I too have ....fooled around .... behind their backs with The Free-ish Options to try to escape them but it never ended well so I always had to crawl back to Them.  Keep living free of these things, brother. Fight the good fight!

(Drops arms and steps back. Looks distantly off to the right hoping to see something majestic. There is a desk, an long unused "bouncy ball" exercise chair, and a brown wall. The moment has passed.  There is a quiet sobbing somewhere down the hall that's too close for comfort).

Ignoring The Free-ish Options, there is definitely a *massive* difference between the costs of The Tools mentioned above and Solarwinds tools.  I think part of the issue is how they're sold/bought and then supported later.  These tools traditionally cost so much to buy and implement that there is usually a team of people assigned resources/a project/vendor consultants/etc. just to determine what tools and licenses should be bought.  Vendors come in and set things up in tiny dev environments and IT evaluates their claims and features as best as possible with hopefully the best of intentions.  In the end you can easily end up spending, after discounts, 250k-1 million+ dollars up front, depending on how much of the suite/dream/process your company wants to implement, if you count the internal cost of servers, etc. or: how much "stuff" you have to monitor.  Then add yearly support as a percentage of that. I'm not counting the cost of staff.

In my experience there is always major overkill in what is purchased up front in order to handle all the unknowns and the "growth potential" (when hopes and dreams and interest of both IT and management are at their highest) vs. what the system eventually grows into after deployment (once it has to be is supported, hopefully be more than 1 person).  Usually a LOT of products and licenses go unused and are uninstalled/reclaimed once people realize that xyz feature takes a lot of *real* time and effort from many individuals to properly support.

Given all that...

You asked "Which of those use cases would you DEMAND be free or ridiculously cheap, and which of these should merely be discounted"

From the options you listed above (I couldn't think of more to add) I'd say that these are the options I'd regularly use a secondary system for:

1.  "upgrade and patch testing" and "watching the watcher" are the only areas where I find I where really wish I had a secondary system that mimics my prod system in basic functionality and installing a 30 day expiring system is a moderate pain to set up or not a great option.

2. " Device or design testing" is another area I would like to be "always available" but setting up a 30 day expiring system isn't that much of a big deal (to me).

Specifically: (and if some of these already exist in some form, I apologize for my ignorance!)

"upgrade and patch testing": I will never be able to trust *any* software enough (free of vendor provided, sorry ) to upgrade and patch a prod system without testing it on a secondary system.  I've posted in this thread somewhere below as to why.  TL;DR: I don't want to have that stress and need the CYA when things go wrong in production.

I think the costs of Orion *are* relatively cheap considering the other available options. I think the problem lies in the need to purchase upgrades after the initial purchase because some companies don't purchase things *with ease* after the initial purchase is made.  Given this, there may be a niche for licensing options, which are basically just expanding the licensing structures/options:

A: Allow for an "enterprise" license class, similar to the "unlimited" license classes that are available.  What I think it should cost: The costs of this don't matter (sort of), as it is the initial purchase and costs are usually less of a consideration when purchasing the initial bundle. Calling it "Enterprise" is basically an "easy" button and just a marketing term but can be useful to get all the bells and whistles without having to nitpick all the other license tiers and individual costs.  What you could get: Several NPM independent installations (unlimited installs, with unlimited licenses for each? whatever, just more than 1 NPM install)  with all the current and future modules, the EOC, and maybe throw in LEM and some other products.  Hell, maybe make it "All SolarWinds products, unlimited licenses".  It may cost a lot but that's not the point.  Above I said this is usually overkill BUT it would make getting everything you need easier up front and then it could be paired down to what people need/use at a later date.

For the rest of the people who are past the initial purchase stage or purchase things in stages/as-needed:

B: Have some supported paths for an upgrade to the "Enterprise" license(s) above.  Cost: whatever it needs to.  These are customers who have financial backing to grow larger and for IT who doesn't want to nitpick every license option.

C: Have some sort of special "High availability" license that would necessitate a second (identical) Orion system.  Maybe? have it include the HA components that Orion supports today, and maybe some consulting help setting it up?  This assumes that the secondary system can be patched and tested independently than the primary system, which I think today the HA components don't allow for (systems must be identical).  Cost: Cheaper than purchasing a secondary Orion system *with all the same modules as the primary system* and the HA stuff. This would be to more cheaply upgrade to HA OR to get a secondary system. These are customers who have financial backing to grow larger, but may fall into a range of the admin who wants a secondary system and needs a "better" reason for management (HA) to allow for the purchase one.

E: Have a "hobbled" license (a "hobbler" license class?  ... "hoblit"?), that converts a 30 day trial into a "normal license" but severely limits on devices + alerting etc. to make it suitable only for upgrades and device testing. Maybe each module has it's own hobbled license in it's own special way.  Cost: Make the hobbled licenses as cheap as possible depending on purpose, then this license can be upgraded (per module?) to a "real" license if the tester/developer/etc. needs it for heavier testing or ....monitoring. Given the normal costs of Orion + modules this seems odd to go lower in price, but it might give customers a "paid for" option for xyz niche as well as give SolarWinds some piece of mind (and some $) that the product is licensed.  It might allow for reasons to give management that this system needs to be "unhobbled" and allow them to creep up to a "full" license.  Maybe call this a "development" license , but I'd love to tell people we "need to consider upgrading our Hoblits".

"watching the watcher":  A great thing to have, but can usually be scripted if you want to just "git r dun".

What I think it should cost: *If* it were a separate product and not a secondary NPM/Orion system and used for just the purpose of watching Orion, I'd think it should be free with purchase of NPM.

Kinda like the "upgrade buddy" but a windows service with some specialized checks for SolarWinds metrics beyond "ping" and the ability to send an email/run a script for notification.  It would be a bare bones thing that watches any known things that would indicate Orion is not working properly that Orion could not self monitor via built in's or templates.  This list of metrics should not be too long.  If there were a known issue that caused Orion to have issues, this free tool could hopefully be quickly patched/modified/scripted? to watch for that condition until it could be fixed in the core product/s.

Soooo simple (probably not, but doesn't it *sound* simple?!).  Basically: it's not a second Orion system, just a vendor supported (and pre-configured) option so people don't have to find or build some other option.

Level 13

Thought of another one that may be worth considering...aren't you as excited about hypothetical licensing options as I am?!

"Upgrade" or "Disaster recovery" licenses that are basically short term "eval extender" licenses that can keep a trial system alive for s short period of time..  Maybe these are the same license key but have different names, maybe they actually have different features...doesn't matter for the discussion below.

The idea:

- You install a 30 day trial and upgrade it up to your prod system levels.  In order to plan ahead, your "trial" is put in a separate physical location...or something.  Basically it's not put in as a *real* trial on some cheap VM/desktop but is put in as a "real" secondary system on a system powerful enough to emulate your primary system (best case scenario).

- The 30 day trial dies, like it should.  It stays dead.

- Time passes

- A "disaster" or "upgrade opportunity!" occurs, say the primary server crashes irrecoverably, or the building gets hit by a meteor or, more likely, a new upgrade is released.  basically anything that would take "some time" to rebuild the production primary system OR the primary system is down for an extended period, OR you require testing of new upgrades...

- You go back to the trial install (which is still dead, but the server is "up"...or can be powered up quickly) and apply an "Upgrade" or "Disaster Recovery" license to it.  The trail install re-activates and you can either resume monitoring from the secondary system OR apply patches and test...

The licenses would have the following properties in order to make everyone "happy enough to think about using them":

- The licenses are bought like any other license.  The price of these is *really low* or you get a handful (like 4 or something) to use every year with your purchase/renewal of your normal licenses, and the number of these gets reset every year on renewal (you don't accumulate them if you don't use them).  Each license is also tied to any product you already purchase, e.g. If you buy NPM and xyz device license, you get 4 "Upgrade" licenses for NPM at the xyz device level.  If you buy a SAM license for xyz monitors, you get 4 SAM "upgrade" licenses for the same xyz monitor count.

- The licenses are managed through the same portal the normal licenses are managed through.  Nothing special about them.

- When you apply the license the 30 day dead trail install, it *revives" it for a secondary period of time, say, 15 days.  This time is short enough to upgrade and observe the system with, as well is long enough to use in a Disaster recovery scenario.  Since you have 4 of these licenses, you can keep applying/extending the license until your pool runs out.

- When your license pool for a product runs out, you can appeal to SolarWinds for more or buy more.  If you try to game the system you essentially only get to game it for a short time until your rep sees you are continually asking for extensions (just like today I would assume).

- If SolarWinds releases a LOT of patches for a particular product for a year, they can just gift everyone a few more upgrade licenses for the year.

- If you are one of those people who patch everything and try all the RC's. etc. you could buy more upgrade licenses or work something out.

Since the trial install is "full featured" for 30 days, you essentially have a backup system....IF you built it to be one for your needs.  People (me, at least) are unhappy having to talk to a rep or deal with doing something as simple as a few upgrades or to test out new functionality and re-installing the 30 day trail system.. It seems if there was a way to bring up the trial system in "full feature" mode for just a short time this would fill the gap, and might not cost a lot in terms of licensing since you can't really use these licenseextensions to do any real monitoring unless you have a long term DR situation.  It may also appease those wanting eval license extensions because you can just give a few out.

It may also be easier to buy "Disaster recovery" licenses as a line item...maybe these do more than just extend (a few special features specifically for DR?), or they're just standard 90 day extensions, etc...  Buying upgrade licenses seems a little bit annoying which is why I think you should get a reasonable amount (like 4...maybe 6?) per year with purchase of each product.

The only "gotcha" I can see with this is, as someone who maintains Orion:

- The 30 day trail install "base" system will NOT be pointed at your prod Orion database(s). To use it as a DR option (or a "full test Upgrade option) would be to point it to a copy/restore of the prod database because your primary is down.  There may be a need to have a quick process or tool to make this "easy" (for DR specifically).  For upgrade testing it might just need to have a documented/supported "simple" or "do-able" process like a way to de-activate some features on this secondary system when doing upgrades (e.g. don't ping all 10,000 devices after/during an upgrade, don't turn on alerting for the upgrade system until you're ready).

Level 8

Every vendor I have worked with, offers some type of trial. SW should do the same.

This would be great, although nothing has stopped me downloading free 30 eval copies, taken a snapshot of the live database and got the server guys to spin up some VM's and SQL server and fire it up.

That's a great workaround!!!

This would be very useful to us for testing, but also where we are testing Solarwinds Beta products. We can then ensure our test server is always on the latest version to iron out any bugs or changes.

We're currently an NPM SLX customer plus other modules and active maintenance  so we have invested in solarwinds significantly.

I agree that a test version should be made available. A long eval doesn't address the issues that a test environment would.

In standard software development there is always a "train."

At one job they called it Dev - Model - Testing - Production

The application is built in Dev - a limited environment for building purposes - Solarwinds does that for us

Once it if vetted in Dev the code is moved to Model where further testing and development is completed before moving to the customer - Solarwinds does this for us

Testing - this is where the customer gets involved - At this point we need (we as in the customer using the product) an environment that duplicates production - at a lower volume - this is where we test out ideas, apply service packs/hotfixes/upgrades - before moving into our production environment.

I don't think this level is necessary for all environments - and of course there is the possibility of abuse, i.e. someone has a license for 100 and needs to monitor 105 so they ask for a "test" environment in lieu of purchasing. But I think a license key for a test environment is certainly something that Solarwinds Account managers should be able to provide to customers that they feel they can trust and truly need such a thing. As so many have responded here many of us have large elaborate deployments of Solarwinds and are not going to fudge a test zone just to get an extra 10 or even an extra 100 nodes.

Personally I have built a box just for testing Beta versions, but those are "disposable" and for a limited amount of time so I don't develop on that platform and of course I don't test out upgrades on that either.