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HIDDEN GEMS IN ORION NETWORK ATLAS

Level 12

Orion Network Atlas, is a great utility for creating custom network diagrams. The tool is considered “Semi-Automated” Network Mapping Software. It uses the discovered network data in Orion and allows users to design physical and logical topology diagrams by dragging and dropping of nodes in to the design canvas. It automatically builds connections between nodes, using the Connect Now functionality and has the ability to bring up the designed map onto the Orion Web Console.


While Orion Network Atlas has been around for some years now, there are some areas in the product which you may not know existed. This blog aims to expose those features, and help you in creating informative network diagrams and at the same time help you with better presentation.

VARIABLES OBJECT DISPLAY - LABELS

Variables3.JPG


As an Orion Admin, you may want to display added information (like Device type or IP Address) of your important nodes being represented on your Orion Web Console. This helps in faster troubleshooting of an issue, if something goes wrong. With Orion Network Atlas you have the ability to add variables as labels on to your Atlas Maps. These variables parse real values automatically once displayed on your Orion Console.

Custom Properties values can also be represented on the map.

In the side example, I displayed Node name, Machine Type, IP Address for all my objects and for my Dell SonicWall firewalls displayed my Custom Property – Asset ID on the Orion Console. Below, how I achieved it

  • I drag and drop the nodes (interesting) on to the drawing canvas, changed my default Label to the following variables
  • ${caption} – Returns the node name
  • ${machinetype} – Returns the node manufacturer
  • ${ip_address} – Returns the IP Address of the node
  • Asset ID ${Assettag} – This is a custom property field, created in Orion and returns the entered data on the console.                                                                                                                  

OrionView3.JPG





TIP: The best way of replicating the same variables across other node objects, is by copying the assigned variables from one node object label and pasting it to the others. Another way, for applying variables to other nodes is by pasting the copied variables to other label objects Label Properties page (Right-Click – Properties).





UnDP STATISTICS VALUES


Ever wondered how to display UnDP statistics value on your Orion Map console? For example, in the past you may have had performance issues with a particular device and now you want to actively monitor the temperature of this router on your Orion map console.

The first step to achieve this is by defining and creating an UnDP for monitoring temperature for the device. To know how to create a custom UnDP, please follow this video

Once you have created your UnDP (in my case, ciscoEnvMonTemperatureStatusValueFahrenheit), you will see it automatically visible under Custom Node Pollers section of your Node(s). Simply drag this UnDP variable on to your map and change the label to the following macro ${CurrentValue}. The result is illustrated in the screenshot below


P.S: This capability was introduced in NPM version 10.6.


   UnDP3.JPG       UnDP5.JPG

VARIABLES OBJECT DISPLAY - TOOL TIP


For a large map, displaying additional information using labels may not be ideal and could make your maps looks clumsy. For this reason, you may want to display additional information for your map objects as Tool tip. To achieve this, first

  • Log into your Orion Console
  • On your Map resource select "Edit".
  • On the  right side of the page click on "Customize Map Tool tip"
  • Enter appropriate variables (Custom Properties & UnDP variables can also be added) into the laid empty boxes
  • Click submit and hover over your nodes on the map.


TIP: In order to view the available variables you can use in Orion, Check out the Appendix A section of  SolarWinds Orion Network Atlas Admin Guide (Page 49 onwards)



BACKGROUND OVERLAY


Many users bring in network diagrams designed in Microsoft Visio as background images in Orion Network Atlas. The most common way to bring background images into Atlas is by selecting the Home tab in the Toolbar and using the Background Image button.


Atlas Toolbar.JPG

Orion Atlas has another trick in its sleeves to bring in background images. Simply perform a Print Screen of your required image and paste it into your Atlas design canvas. With this flexibility you can bring images on the fly without having to save, search and upload images. Another use-case would be if there is a need to bring in specific vendor device graphics into your design and assigning the imported graphics to your particular Orion Node object. Below steps will help guide you to accomplish this task

Hpswitch.JPG

  • Copy the desired graphics to the Clipboard
  • Right-click on your Atlas design canvas and select the paste option
  • Choose "Paste the image from the Clipboard as a new object"
  • Give this new object a unique name
  • Right-Click this new object and select Properties option
  • Under the Status tab, drag and drop your desired Orion node object (in this case, I drag Orion node 172.25.113.250 and dropped it into assignment field)
  • You now have Orion node 172.25.113.250, assigned to the imported object.



HP1.JPGHP2.JPG


QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR (QAT)

QAT.JPG

Brandon Shopp, has written a great blog on this subject. You can find how to use this tool bar to your advantage here


MAP RESTRICTIONS


As an Orion Admin there might be a need, not to visibly display map objects to all users in your organization. For Security reasons, you may want to restrict the display of objects in your DMZ to your NOC users.To enable and set up these restrictions, follow the below laid out steps

map properties.JPG

  • Log into your Orion Console as Admin.
  • Go into the Orion Website Administration page (Top right corner and click on Settings)
  • Click on Manage Accounts under User Accounts resource.
  • Select the User account you want to add map restrictions to
  • Find "Add Limitation" Button and click on it
  • Select the appropriate Limitation type from the available list ( in my case, I choose the Radio button "Group of Nodes")
  • Select the list of nodes you want to limit viewing and hit on submit
  • Next, Launch and Log into Orion Network Atlas
  • Bring up the saved map or the map being designed and right-click the map and select Map Properties
  • Select the radio button "Remove nodes that users do not have permission to View"

I hope you have learned some powerful features Orion Network Atlas brings and that you will try out these functions to help you in creating better network diagrams which suits your environment. We are actively working on improving our software, this is evident with the improvements we are bringing into Network Atlas with NPM 10.7. In case you missed what's coming in with NPM 10.7, check out Rob Hock's blog post

Survey: To bring further improvements into the product, we need to understand how you use Orion Network Atlas in your organization and what are the features you hope to see in future releases. For this reason, we would appreciate your time in taking the survey (Button below) and making a difference.

Take-Survey-Button-updated.png

32 Comments
Level 10

Even though I slammed Atlas down in the 2014 survey it's not because I don't like it, but more because it is impossible to use and I wish it would replace Visio but is worse than MS Paint.  I normally use Google Draw because it's always online, easy and I don't always have access to Visio.

Level 12

Sevier. Thank you, we are looking for honest feedback from our users. Once again, thanks for taking the survey.

Level 10

I agree. Atlas is clumsy to use but useful. I would much prefer to use Visio somehow directly since I use it for everything else everywhere else. It would be nice if you could just add some custom properties to an object in Visio and have Orion pick it up and use it. There are a number of good open source Visio parsers nowadays too. Check out OpenOffice/LibreOffice for some good examples. I would also personally like it if Atlas would gain the feature to use custom SQL like other areas of Orion.

Level 12

Thank you Jwhitten, we appreciate your suggestions and will be taken into consideration.

Level 11

Albeit there are plenty of spelling mistakes but I have been as honest as I can with that survey..

I do like the network atlas but the lack of development is apparent considering you can get better utils via open source mediums that just work better. Now I dont really know about the whole visio related editing but I more interested in actual core features like the link utilizations and being able to change the color of a node dependent on not only ICMP but CPU and Mem.

I think the ability to change some of the custom variables colors would be good aswell even though it attempts to do this it doesn’t work which is a crying shame..

pastedImage_0.png

As you can see the DISK usage is in a critical state and instead of displaying the desired color it shows the mark-up language.. To let you know I have raised this before so I am treading over old ground.

This application does need alot of TLC to bring it in line with competitors and I do hope it gets the attention it deserves, because I dont really want to buy the NTM as that seems to be getting lots of dev..

Well thats all I could think of...

Level 12

Ashley, thats some interesting feedback. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Are you looking for setting custom threshold values for status color change in Atlas ? (If you have a vision on how the workflow should work, please share)
Level 11

So you have different colors for the Nodes when they are in a Warning and Critical state right..

So I would like to be able to define the CPU and Memory usage to change the color of the Nodes dependent on predefined metrics for example..

CPU -

WARNING - 80%

CRITICAL - 90%

instead of changing the color of the Node completely it just changes the Background.

If the ICMP thresholds are breached then this should change the color of the Node also but to a more severe state i.e. the entire NODE goes to a Yellow or Red color.. does this make sense? if not I will do some drawing for you to hopefull clear it up

Level 12

Ashley, I want to be cent percent sure on what you are trying to achieve I believe you know, when you right-click a node in Atlas and go into Properties page - Under "metrics" you have the option to set threshold for 7 performance metrics

Capture.JPG

What you are asking is to extend it for UnDP variables and other performance variables ? A drawing would clear doubts

Level 11

Ah yes I know what you're talking about, This only shows when you have the child status enabled on the Map if you know what I mean.

We dont actually use the child status's as we find that on the NOC display you cant see them very well.. please see below.

{I HAVE EMAILED YOU THE SCREENSHOT AS I DONT REALLY WANT IT ON HERE}

It would be easier for the Node ICONs themselves to change color.

Level 12

Gotcha! thanks mate

Level 11

Could you accept the friends request as I am unable to mail you without that friendship being there

Level 11

I hope from the screenshot you can see what I am Aiming for..

To be fair there needs to be some proper drive into getting the Network Atlas to a good working level to compete with other products but I am willing to stick it out and this post/survey seems to be pushing in the right direction

Can I ask? Are you actually planning to perform an overhaul of Atlas?

Level 12

Thats to early to mention. At the moment, we want to gather inputs from as many users as possible and study them carefully.

Level 11

Yeah I can understand that, I hope that when the States wake up and get into work they will have a read.. I could see Leon Adato having alot of great ideas

Level 10

What version of Network Atlas is needed to use Variable Object Display - Tool Tips? We have 1.10.1.29 and I don't see any way to set it up.

Level 12

Jim, your version should be capable to perform the activity. As laid below. If you need help to setup let me know, we can communicate via email

Capture.JPG

Level 10

Sorry for the delay. As usual things got in the way. I've been all through Network Atlas and never found a screen that looks like the one above. I would email you directly but I'm not sure how.

Level 12

Its not in Orion Atlas. You can see this option under Map resource (Edit) on your Orion Console. Email me at cliton.godinho@solarwinds.com

Level 12

It's mentioned in the post that you've "changed my default Label to the following variables"

${caption}

${machinetype}

${ip_address}

etc

I've looked in the Atlas settings but cannot see a way to do this? Am I just mis-understanding this point whereby you mean that you amend the standard label to include the variables once added? & not the default setting that picks up on the node name?

Cheers,

Daniel

Level 12

Hi Danielgilbey

You are right with the standard label. Once you drag and drop a node item from the left pane to map, the default representation is the Device Status Icon + the host name or IP Address. Click on the Host name or IP Address label, delete the contents and replace them with the required variables. Next log on to your Orion web console and call the saved map. You should be able to see real values to the inputted variables.

Cliton

Level 12

Hi Cliton, yeah... that's pretty much what I thought but appreciate the clarification around that

I've implemented the use of variables on several maps & find the use of variables on these immensely useful.

Cheers,

Daniel

Level 15

Overall I find Atlas has some really good features that are not available with any of the other Orion resources (customizable thresholds for everything).

However, I would like to use the dynamic baseline values in my map as the thresholds for changing the child status of an object.

I use this for latency in NPM, but the map does not honour this and uses either the global threshold, or I have to set a hard number as the warning/critical threshold for each and every node.

I too would like to change the default action for labels in Network Atlas.

I find the default behaviour of adding labels to everything I drag on the map a real pain, especially when adding interfaces with descriptions of 40 to 60 characters. It ends up making the maps very messy and I don't want to see this on the map.

Especially since this info is available by simply hovering your mouse over the interface icon.

My delete key gets a real workout when making maps and really slows down the process of adding interfaces to the nodes.

Just my 2 cents.

Level 8

So I've long been wondering about display of utilization. Why is that a requirement that both ends of the link need to be managed to display utilization. For example, how can I display utilization of my ISP uplink? Obviously, I don't manage my ISP's router, but displaying utilization of that link is probably more important than displaying utilization of any link preceding it in my network. How do I do that? So far, I have not been able to add a link that is attached to only one node.

Level 7

I been wondering the same as n742804, why is it necessary to manage both sides of a link.  We have several links that are to other venders and it would be nice to see their utilization.

Also, is there a trick to being able to monitor multiple links between managed objects properly?  I have two devices that have resilient links between them, I want to monitor both links separately. If I manually or automatically connect the two devices only one line is drawn and it combines both the links but then only shows the utilization of which ever link is highest.  I would rather have it show two separate links and show the utilization for each separately.

Level 13

I never thought about modifying my labels like that so everything would be dynamic... It's been a pain updating my maps manually, so this has helped alot Thanks @cliton1981!

I beta tested some SW products like NTM, and although they still don't do what I need, I appreciate the ability of Network Atlas to let me build much of what's desired.  Certainly the simple and smaller views that show critical infrastructure for a given site or application or process make great sense.

But I'm waiting for that one product that'll automatically discover the network and display what I want, instead of far too much or not quite enough.

One reason I monitor links on both sides is to ensure I know when one side's down and the other side's up.  An example:

1.  A pair of VSS-paired Cisco 6509 distribution switches (HA for a hospital) have a two-port port-channel to every access layer switch down stream, and four 10G port-channeled links upstream to a pair of core 6509's.

2.  The access switch downstream could be a 3650 or 2960 switch stack, or a 4510 chassis.

3.  Suppose I monitor only the port-channel on the Distribution switch, and no physical downlink ports on it, and no uplink ports on the Access Switches or Core switches.  Maybe I get fancy and even monitor the upbound port-channel on the Access switches and Core switches.

A GBIC on the 6509 can partially fail in a way that it will receive traffic from the Access or Core switch, and send traffic out TO the other switch, but the other switch won't see the light from the faulty GBIC on the Distribution switch.

OK, not a problem so far--the Access switch or Core switch is still up and running on the other GBIC in the port-channel.  But you've lost half of your resilience, and half of the throughput capacity.  And you received no alarms to let you know about it, since you're only monitoring the port-channel, which is still Up on both switches.

All it takes is for that one remaining GBIC or fiber pair to fail and you've lost the entire access switch--maybe supporting a whole wing of a hospital.  Granted that there are a total of four uplinks to the core, so it'll take losing three more ports to the Core switch pair (unlikely--I hope!), but you still want to know when one of those ports is down on one switch and not on another, right?

By monitoring both physical ports in the port-channel on both switches, instead of just monitoring the port-channel (or instead of only monitoring the physical ports on just one side), you'll get an alert when a GBIC fails in this manner.  Now you've got notification and time in which to replace the GBIC or troubleshoot the fiber strands--without causing an outage to users.

This also applies if you're only monitoring the ports on one side instead of on both sides.  In my experience it's not that rare for a GBIC/link to fail like this--I bet I've seen it half a dozen times across 750 switches over five years--far too common an occurrence IMHO.

To combat this II built a Critical Interfaces Basic or Advanced Alert in NPM and added in the physical interfaces that connect all switches to each other and to routers.  The result:  I have a LOT less downtime because I know when one of the links is down.  There's no more discovering one link was down only AFTER the other link also fails.

Level 10

Old post appreciated, but lack of support and development render's Network Atlas of very limited value.

Level 12

adding vendor images - superb, I am so gonna work out that feature

Level 8

Dear Scott Dawson,

I agree with you. I have been making use of logical and physical network mapping software starting with ManageWise NetExplorer in the 1990's.  (Google image search ManageWise NetExplorer Autodiscovery.)    https://goo.gl/c9Q06b​  I own licenses for several SolarWinds products and I have several high level Atlas maps integrated within Orion.  I also have licenses from other vendors which bundle other similar mapping technologies.   The one area where they all fall down is in the amount of labor it takes to keep them updated.    While spending the money on the software is fine (hint to SolarWinds), maintaining the network maps is never the "hot" project.   Enough time is never allocated to maintaining these maps.  As our network rapidly changes, the maps become outdated.

As one begins to investigate means to enhance automation of location discovery, one inevitably looks at low cost fixed asset GPS tracking.   The problem with this is that GPS signal accuracy drops significantly in most buildings.  If one has ever used Find my Friend, one knows how inaccurate the location can be when someone is in a building.   While GPS repeaters exist, that is a dead end.  In the USA a FCC experimental license is required.  Even with such a device, the triangulation itself doesn't really work.    Ideally, I would be able to affix low cost and secure asset tracking device to a physical piece of inventory such as a switch, router, printer or PC and then I tie that tracker to a device in my database.   The physical location automatically populate in my maps for me; or, in the very least, discovery could give a very close approximate of the location as well as notify me when it thinks the location has changed.      FWIW, I do have thousands of asset trackers in place at this very moment.  Most of these are running Windows embedded and have cellular, GPS, and WIFI.  

I get my hopes up when I see product offerings such as some of the newer cloud based trackers.   I have yet to find anything which does what I'd like. 

In the early 2000's I had an all-Nortel network, and their Enterprise Switch Manager automatically mapped and displayed every Nortel product on the network with beautiful maps.

Better still, the product was bundled with other functionality that enabled you to find a VLAN and automatically have every switch and port that VLAN was on highlighted in a different color.  There were Multi-Link Trunk Manager tools, Security compliance tools, etc.  And it all tied in with Nortel's excellent Device Manager GUI, which was robust, fast, intuitive, and fully functioned.

I'd hoped Cisco would buy these best of breed tools from Nortel and incorporate them into their own internal systems.  Another dream in the dust . . .

These were good products; I miss them.  And SW has no replacement/competitive applications for them.

Level 10

this has to be most ignored product ever, surverys, thwack posts have lead to nothing... its the b!@#tard child of the suite of the products that we have here

we have such a great of set maps and would like to delegate the rights to respective people to update (without having node admin). however all we get its a feature request and it goes into the Ether. this has been requested since 2009 on thwack posts, yet nothing.

About the Author
Sr. Systems Architect / Administrator, working for REI Systems, Inc.