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Manage End-of-Life Information for Your Devices with NCM!

Level 18

As described in this blog post, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager v7.2 has reached Beta status. In the meantime, we have been working on further enhancements and improvements. One of the features we focused on is the possibility to attach end-of-life information to nodes managed by NCM. This blog post decribes the new version of this feature, available in NCM v7.2 Beta 2. To participate in the Beta program, simply fill out this survey and you will be sent the download links for the Beta. (If you already subscribed, you don't have to do it again.) Remember, Betas cannot be installed in production and you cannot upgrade the Beta to any other future versions.

NCM-EOL-Summary-Page.png

Why Do I Need to Know the EoL Status of My Devices?

As described in , this is important for planning purposes; both budgetary and operational. Your organization may also be a subject of policies that require running up-to-date equipment. Please take a look at the referred post for more details.

As you can see in the picture above, the End-of-Life management screen is accessible directly from the NCM menu bar. The main grid provides an overview of various device attributes that help the user assign the End-of-Sales and End-of-Support dates (together called End-of-Life dates). By default, the nodes are grouped by matching type.

Assigning EoL Items to Devices

Matching the EoL information to devices is not an easy task. To address it, we have developed this End-of-Life feature that works in the following way: When user wants to assign EoL information to a device, NCM will search its EoL database and suggest a few possibilities to choose from (ordered by a rank). The user will then choose the best match himself. To make the choice easier, NCM will supply additional information such as node details, custom properties, link to vendor's EoL website (if available) etc. If there is no suitable EoL item, the user can enter his/her own dates. Another option is to mark the device as ignored by the End-of-Life feature. (Applicable e.g. to some special devices.)

Each night, NCM will process its EoL database and try to find the suggestions for devices with no EoL information assigned. (This can also be triggered on demand.) The EoL information for a particular device can be in one of the following states (called matching type😞

  • Suggested Dates Found -- NCM found suggestions for EoL information and expects the user to choose one of them.
  • Suggested Dates Assigned -- User already assigned one of the suggested EoL items to this node.
  • Custom Dates Assigned -- User entered his own EoL dates.
  • No Suggestions -- NCM has not found any EoL candidates for that device.
  • Ignored -- For some reason, user does not want to manage EoL info for this device.

Show me the Workflow!

Typical workflow will look as follows:

  1. Go to the End-of-Life management screen (see the picture above) to check if there are any devices with suggested dates found.
  2. Select one or more nodes and click "Assign Dates".

    NCM-EOL-Summary2.png

  3. On the Assign page, you can select one of the suggestions or enter your own EoL dates.

    NCM-EOL-Assign.png

  4. You can also easily select more nodes that will be assigned the same EoL dates. By default, devices of the same type (same SysOID) will be pre-selected.

    NCM-EOL-Add-More-Nodes.PNG

  5. You may enter a comment explaining your choice or any other information you want to attach.
  6. Click Assign.
  7. The devices you just processed can be found in the "Suggested Dates Assigned" category.

    NCM-EOL-Summary3.PNG

You can take the same steps for devices with no suggestions, too. There will just be no options to choose from.

NCM stores the assigned EoL dates in the database, so that they are not overwritten when NCM generates suggestion next time. However, the user has the option to delete the EoL dates manually.

How Do I Create a Report?

You have the possibility to create the report by adjusting the information shown in the main grid and exporting the result in Excel or CSV format. Let's explore the flexibility that you have:

  • You can change the grouping. (Default is matching type.)

    NCM-EOL-Group-By.png

  • You can add or remove columns.

    NCM-EOL-Add-Columns.png
  • You can filter the information. The EoL dates have a few predefined filters to make the reporting easier.

    NCM-EOL-Filter.png

Last but not least, we have a new resource that can be placed e.g. on the summary page:

NCM-EOL-Resource.PNG

15 Comments
Level 14

I love it. But do you have EoL information for the juniper devices as well? We have more Juniper switch(EX2200 & EX3200) and routers (SRX650 & SRX210 & SRX220) than Cisco.

Level 18

Yes, Juniper is also supported.

It would also be nice to filter systems that are past EOL or EOS.....not just "Next 30 Days".

Radioteacher

Level 11

What if the EOL device is a stack of 600 ports? I can't seem to figure out how to report on # of ports that are needing replacement. EOL info is in NCM database, but details like # of switches in the stack, # of ports is in NPM database.

MVP
MVP

I have to say, this feature is pretty bad right now, takes a ton of time to work with.   First I should say that working with this on a "per-device" basis seems to be the totally wrong way to go.   I would think it should work on a "per-model" basis.

In your EOS Lookup page where you assign EOS dates, you have devices with "No Suggestions", those with "Suggested Dates Assigned", those with "Custom Dates Assigned", "Suggested Dates Found" and "Ignored".   From what I've seen, if you go and assign dates to some items that had suggested dates, they would be both in the "Suggested Dates Assigned" matching type, AND the "Suggested Dates Found" matching type.   So if I want to go looking for nodes that I haven't assigned dates to yet that have suggestions, there is no category to do that with!  So I have to filter through, node by node, to find the nodes without dates assigned to them and assign them.

No problem you say, I'll just sort by "Machine Type", so I can find all of a certain device type to assign dates to.  Let's say I click on "Cisco 881 Router", it takes me in and gives me two EOS notices, both with a "Low" reliability.   In the "more details", it gives specific model #'s that are off sale, but there is no way for me to know if mine are a match easily!   All I see is "Cisco 881 Router".  I know in the "Hardware Details" section of the "Node Details" page you have the actual model # of the device, not just the product family, having that info is crucial here.  One version of a device family might go off sale while others are still valid.  And the ability to sort by this model # would be very useful.

And, once I've accepted or assigned a date to a particular model #, that should be inherited by all devices with that model #, even if the device is added in later.   If you still want to retain the approving it on a device-by-device basis, there has to be a way based on my previous acceptance of a models dates to easily assign that to others of the same model?

Your suggested dates tend to be pretty bad also.  Quite often the higher rated suggestions turn out to not be the correct one.  Instead a red or "low" rated one is the correct one.   It's almost as if you aren't using the actual model # in determining the dates, but instead doing some sort of pattern match on the "Machine Type".  I would think for it to achieve a "high" or green rating it should have to have a correct match on the exact model #.

Also, if you have suggested 500 wrong dates for fairly new items that won't go off sale for 5 years, do they have to be stuck in my "Suggested Dates Found" section?   I know I can "Ignore" them, but what would happen if I do that and at a later date they actually go EOS?  Will it pick that up or will it continue to ignore them?

And I hate to bring it up at this point, but what about modules that go into other items?   Like the HWIC-1GE-SFP for instance, goes in quite a few of the ISR routers, but has been EOS for awhile and will be EOL in the future.   I haven't seen anything to identify those, even though it would probably be a great idea to have them identified.

Then on the "End of Support Devices" frame on the main page.  Lets say you have 4 things listed, two that have been EOS for years, one that is EOS in the next month or so, and one that is going EOS in five months.   You want to see the two devices that are already EOL, so you click on it.  It takes you back to the "End of Support & End of Sales Lookup" screen and shows you all 4 devices rather than the two you wanted to see.   Not a big problem if you only have a few, but if you have pages and pages of them, it would be nice if it did trim down the results for you based on what you clicked on.

Finally, no EOL?  WTF?   I know most shops I've been in tend to use devices until they are dead, unless you are able to point out that they are either already EOL or going EOL and should be replaced.   EOS dates are ok to have, the end of software maintenance is definitely more important.  I would say knowing what devices are EOL would be critical...

That's all I can think of for now, will probably stop trying to use this feature until there are some major revisions...

Level 14

I am using the new RC. But none of my Juniper nor cisco devices are supported.

Level 14

+1

Level 18

Hi Craig Norborg,

In NCM 7.3 we introduced identification of the devices based on part numbers, which is exactly what you refer to as "exact model #". The majority of Cisco devices (with EoL announcement) should be covered, but there may still be certain models that are missing. Please feel free to report these. Let me comment on your particular concerns.

In your EOS Lookup page where you assign EOS dates, you have devices with "No Suggestions", those with "Suggested Dates Assigned", those with "Custom Dates Assigned", "Suggested Dates Found" and "Ignored".   From what I've seen, if you go and assign dates to some items that had suggested dates, they would be both in the "Suggested Dates Assigned" matching type, AND the "Suggested Dates Found" matching type.   So if I want to go looking for nodes that I haven't assigned dates to yet that have suggestions, there is no category to do that with!  So I have to filter through, node by node, to find the nodes without dates assigned to them and assign them.

I'm not sure I understand. Every node/device is exactly in one of the states you mentioned. If you have a different experience, please open a support ticket.

No problem you say, I'll just sort by "Machine Type", so I can find all of a certain device type to assign dates to.  Let's say I click on "Cisco 881 Router", it takes me in and gives me two EOS notices, both with a "Low" reliability.   In the "more details", it gives specific model #'s that are off sale, but there is no way for me to know if mine are a match easily!   All I see is "Cisco 881 Router".  I know in the "Hardware Details" section of the "Node Details" page you have the actual model # of the device, not just the product family, having that info is crucial here.  One version of a device family might go off sale while others are still valid.  And the ability to sort by this model # would be very useful.

That's what I mentioned at the very beginning -- group according to part number. Make sure your inventory has been updated.

And, once I've accepted or assigned a date to a particular model #, that should be inherited by all devices with that model #, even if the device is added in later.   If you still want to retain the approving it on a device-by-device basis, there has to be a way based on my previous acceptance of a models dates to easily assign that to others of the same model?

Thank you for your feedback. That would be a feature request.

Your suggested dates tend to be pretty bad also.  Quite often the higher rated suggestions turn out to not be the correct one.  Instead a red or "low" rated one is the correct one.   It's almost as if you aren't using the actual model # in determining the dates, but instead doing some sort of pattern match on the "Machine Type".  I would think for it to achieve a "high" or green rating it should have to have a correct match on the exact model #.

The green items should be 100% reliable. You are right -- if matching based on part number isn't available, then we try to do a pattern matchich on machine type and other information.

Also, if you have suggested 500 wrong dates for fairly new items that won't go off sale for 5 years, do they have to be stuck in my "Suggested Dates Found" section?   I know I can "Ignore" them, but what would happen if I do that and at a later date they actually go EOS?  Will it pick that up or will it continue to ignore them?

Once ignored items will stay ignored forever, i.e. until you "un-ignore" them manually.

And I hate to bring it up at this point, but what about modules that go into other items?   Like the HWIC-1GE-SFP for instance, goes in quite a few of the ISR routers, but has been EOS for awhile and will be EOL in the future.   I haven't seen anything to identify those, even though it would probably be a great idea to have them identified.

This extenstion would be a feature request.

Then on the "End of Support Devices" frame on the main page.  Lets say you have 4 things listed, two that have been EOS for years, one that is EOS in the next month or so, and one that is going EOS in five months.   You want to see the two devices that are already EOL, so you click on it.  It takes you back to the "End of Support & End of Sales Lookup" screen and shows you all 4 devices rather than the two you wanted to see.   Not a big problem if you only have a few, but if you have pages and pages of them, it would be nice if it did trim down the results for you based on what you clicked on.

The solution (after you are on the "End of Support & End of Sales Lookup" screen) is to change the filter (e.g. on the End of Support) column to whatever you need.

Finally, no EOL?  WTF?   I know most shops I've been in tend to use devices until they are dead, unless you are able to point out that they are either already EOL or going EOL and should be replaced.   EOS dates are ok to have, the end of software maintenance is definitely more important.  I would say knowing what devices are EOL would be critical...

Do you want to be able to mark devices "EOL"? Or do you mean by "EOL" something else?

Regards,

Jiri

Level 18

Have you updated the inventory?

MVP
MVP

Ok, let's take your comments one by one.  I think it might have changed, but when I was assigning dates to items, they were both in "Custom" or "Suggested" dates assigned AND still in either "Suggested Dates Found" or "No Suggestions".    I think that behavior has changed though...

But, in response to your "group according to part #",  "Machine Type" is not part #.   For instance, if I go into one of my devices it tells me that its a "Catalyst 2960 (1 node)".  Below it has a number of suggestions, the first one for an IOS - which I don't believe your EOS doesn't even look for IOS (ie: software) that is EOS, just hardware right?   If you only do hardware, why have IOS's listed in your suggested EOS dates.   If you are doing software, why isn't the IOS listed up by "Catalyst 2960"?  I'm guessing software isn't done, which should probably be another feature request at that.   But, let's say I think the 2nd or 3rd one's in your list look good, if I click on the link and go to that page, it lists a bunch of model #'s (like WS-C2960-24TC-S), not something simply like "Catalyst 2960".   "Catalyst 2960" or your "Machine Type" field is simply a product family, not a specific product.   No problem, lets go to the page for that particular node.  (NOTE: having to go to the product page is a bit annoying, the relevant info to assigning EOS dates SHOULD be on this page).   So, you go up to where it gives the node name, in this case "128B2ndflr"...  

EOS1.png

So, you click on where it says "1282ndflr"... and you find out that it is not an active link to the device!!   Very annoying, if you're going to make me go elsewhere to get information vital to my task, at least provide a link to it!    So, you open up another browser window so you don't loose you place, go somewhere that you can search for nodes, put the name in there and bring up the page with the node info.    Here it tells you that the "Model" is a WS-C2960-24TT-L", so you now have to go back to the Cisco page where you find out that yes, it is EOS soon, so you can fill in the info.    Why isn't the model # on the "Assign EOS date", to me that's even more important than the "Node Name".    The "Machine Type" is rather useless though.   For that matter, I've been trying to find this model #, like WS-C2960-24TT-L somewhere so I can add it to reports and I have yet to find it.  It's obvious that you have it, but where is it in the database?

EOS2.png

Suggested dates, I swear I found one green one where a yellow or red one was the right answer, but I am having problems finding anything that is green. Even though we have a bunch of stuff that is older on our network.  I'll try looking for a better example.   I should think this should be fairly simple to test though, make a bunch of dummy devices for each part # out there and see how good your own suggestions are.  I haven't been impressed.   Once again, I would tie each suggested date to a specific part #.   ie: not "Cisco 2960" but WS-C2960-24TT-L.      I should be able to either rate, or ignore, your suggested dates for that product.   I shouldn't have to ignore the product, esp. since ignoring a product is "forever" or until I un-ignore it.    I would think if some of your customers were to do this, and you had a way of processing that as feedback to you if the customer allows it, that you should be able to refine your EOS  info very quickly to make it more relevant.    ie: if tons of customers make the same feedback on a suggested date, either rating it badly or ignoring it for a product, or the opposite - saying it is definitively the date for a particular product, that you should be able to incorporate that and send it as updates to customers in later updates for the product.

Once again though, if I say that one "WS-C2960-24TT-L" is definitely EOS on a particular date, I would like for it to either automatically assign that date to others of the same exact model #, or prompt me for making it such.   Even if it means making it a green selection that would be better, though not ideal.

The EOS info on modules would be a nice thing to have, not to mention EOS on the software on the device (ie: IOS / NX-OS / etc).   Should definitely be a feature request for this I would think.   Maybe even have your product be able to warn us when an IOS is deferred?   Just suggestions.

As for your suggestion "The solution (after you are on the "End of Support & End of Sales Lookup" screen) is to change the filter (e.g. on the End of Support) column to whatever you need.".   Why should I have to do that?  Below is a screen cap to make sure we're talking about the same thing.   If I click on the second row (have to click on the "2 devices" which seems a bit odd), I expect it to take me to a page with just those 2 devices, but instead it takes me to a page with all 4 of them.   It already has a filter that says "End of Support: Next 6 months".   If I change that to "Next 3 months" or "Next year" it doesn't matter, still has the 4 items.   Not a huge deal with only 4 items in the list, but if I have a ton more it will be very annoying.   I think if I click on something that says "2 devices" I should get 2 devices...

EOS3.png

Mark devices EOL?  No, I'm just saying as a network administrator that while having EOS info is "nice", that's not really what I'm looking for.   Look at the way Cisco handles it.   They don't call it just "End-of-sale" and they don't expect their customers to stop using products just because its EOS.  They call it "End-of-Sale" and "End-of-Life" because they realize that the EOS date is simply announcing that the product won't be supported at a later date.  EOS is probably one of the least important dates that I can think of.   The only time EOS came into play for me is when I worked in a government environment where they had "approved" network configurations that was VERY specific about part #'s, configuration, IOS's, etc.   Once a configuration was in stone, they would ONLY purchase those products for that lifecycle.  If a product went EOS, they would purchase enough product to make sure they not only had enough to deploy for the next X years, but enough to use as spares should that X years stretch out past the EOL date.  So yea, they would have a warehouse full of network equipment, servers, memory, etc that might not ever get used because it just sits there as spares.  Enough of that though.

Most of us network administrators listen enough to the EOS date to know when to stop buying a product and move onto the newer and better product that Cisco is offering.  Quite often this new product is either the same price, or less, so continuing to purchase an older product up until the EOS date isn't something we'd normally do.   So, if we find out that the EOS is coming in a year for a product, we probably look to start evaluating and purchasing the next generation of gear.   What do we do with the product in the field?  It stays there, probably up until the EOL date and maybe even past that.   So for us, while knowing the EOS date is used in purchasing decisions, its the EOL date that is the important one to us.   The dates that fall in-between can also be important, but we can infer those off the EOS and EOL dates.    Dates such as when you stop getting regular software releases or releases for software vulnerabilities are good to know.  Dates when you can't put it on a service contract anymore, or get any failure analysis are also good.   But EOL, the last date you can get anything replaced via warranty or service contract support is probably the most important.  After that date you are on your own, better have a spare handy if you're going to keep it in the field.    For the bosses who handle the budgeting, that's the date they'd better at least be budgeting for replacement hardware and have some on hand.   Do the bosses care when it is EOS?  Maybe enough to make sure the guys who order the hardware are switching to the new generation rather than ordering something that will go EOL so soon, but beyond that, probably not...    But everyone wants to know when product is EOL...

Oh, and in case I didn't stress it enough already, everything should be focused around the actual "Model #" like "WS-C2960-24TT-L", not the "Machine Type" (ie: "Cisco 2960")!!!!!

Level 14

Yes sir. It is simply did not work all of our 1.500 devices.

Level 18

Craig Norborg,

I'll reach out to you offline as I would like to discuss your feedback in detail.

Just two points:

  1. Starting NCM 7.3, the primary criterion to find the proper EoL/EoS data for your device actually is the Model #. We call it "part number".

    EOL-Part-Number.png

  2. Take a look at the following EoL announcement by Cisco. Which date do you consider the "EOL date"?
    End-of-Sale and End-of-Life Announcement for the Cisco 2800 Series Integrated Services Routers - Cis...

Thanks,

Jiri

Level 12

Where do the suggested dates come from? Surely the is no plug in to a Cisco API so my guess is that there are dates prepopulated in to the NCM database already there upon installation? cvachovecj

Level 9

It would be great if this thread wasn't abandoned. It is 2019 and I'm using NCM 7.7 and this is still a nightmare to use.

I'm considering just creating custom fields for each item and building my own report.

I'll echo what has been said above -

* Where are you getting these suggested dates? They are almost always wrong. I'm having to double check all of the suggested ones and correct them.

* I still don't have the ability to manually set the Machine Type which is maddening because all of my Cisco ASRs and FEXs are just coming back as "CISCO"

* What on earth is "Suggested replacement part"? Sometimes it suggests a component, sometimes it suggests a newer version of the device, sometimes it suggests nothing but I don't seem to be able to set it.

* Finally, why isn't there a Purchase Date on here? Wouldn't that make more sense?  Wouldn't it make more sense for me to put in the info I know (like the date I purchased it), then pair that with the Model Number, and use that to extrapolate 1 year (for warrenty coverage), 4 year (support), and EOL data (SW patching) from there?

Level 12

dark235​ Any improvements you would like to see, I recommend that you create the Feature Request so that others can add their support for it. Network Configuration Manager Feature Requests

If you would like to talk about some of the issues you are seeing, we can connect offline and go through that.