The ones and zeros are barely dry from the first PerfStack release, and already we have slew of new features and improvements lined up that we're eager to get feedback on.
- SNMP Traps
- Data Explorer
- Additional Metrics Support
- Alert Visualization
- Usability Improvements
When PerfStack was initially released, a surprising few key metrics were noticeably absent. Chief among those, was the surprising lack of Syslog data. In this release of PerfStack we rectified this injustice, bringing Syslog into the PerfStack fold. For any node sending Syslog data to Orion you will find a new 'Syslog' metric tile under the 'Status, Events, Alerts' category. Simply drag that tile to the chart area, and voila! Syslog data charted over time broken down by severity level. As with all metric tiles within PerfStack this metric tile is dynamic and will only appear Nodes which have been configured to send Syslog data to the Orion server. If this tile does not appear for nodes you believe should, verify that Orion has received Syslog data from the device using the web based syslog viewer within the Orion web interface.
Hovering your mouse over the charted area will show the total number of syslog messages received at the top of the legend for the time shown below the vertical marker, as well as a breakdown of each severity type contributing to that total beneath it.
Not to be outdone, the inclusion of SNMP Trap data has also been added to this release of PerfStack. Much like Syslog, SNMP Trap data is broken out by severity and is available as a dynamic metric tile for any node which is configured to send SNMP Trap data to Orion. The SNMP Trap metric tile can be found under the same 'Status, Events, Alerts' category as Syslog, when a node is selected from within the metric palette. If this tile does not appear for nodes you have configured to send SNMP Trap data to Orion, verify that Orion is receiving those SNMP Traps from the device using the web based SNMP Trap viewer, accessible from within the Orion web interface.
When hovering your mouse over the charted area you may notice your mouse cursor has learned a new trick, changing to crosshairs. Holding down your mouse button while dragging across the charted area allows you to lasso a specific time period of interest, such as a sudden spike in resource usage. The selected area is then the focal point of your project, while the rest of the chart area surrounding this time period becomes visually de-emphasized through color desaturation. while the colors remain bright and vibrant within the selected area. This easily allows you to focus your attention on the area selected area without visual distraction from the surrounding area. This selection process occurs across all charts within the PerfStack, making it easier to visually correlate what else occurred during the same time period.
Once a time period has been selected, new options appear next to the selected area. Clicking the [+] icon highlighted above, zooms into the selected time range where you can view high fidelity detailed data collected during that time period. Similarly, clicking the [-] icon allows you to zoom further out to spot trends, or return to your previous perspective after having zoomed in. Any time after having made a selection, clicking the [X] icon will cancel the selection and return focus to the entire viewable chart area.
Great! So now you know how many Syslog messages and SNMP Traps were received from any of your devices, along with their respective severity. You can even zoom into a specific time frame and cross correlate this data against other metrics from the same or different entities monitored by Orion. That's some super powerful stuff! But you know what would make this data even more powerful?
What if you could actually view the full details of those Syslog or SNMP-Traps from within PerfStack itself? That would assuredly accelerate the troubleshooting process and aid in reducing time-to-resolution; both of which are key tenets of PerfStack. Well that's exactly what we've done!
To get started, select a time period in the chart area, the same as described above to zoom in or out of the chart. Next, click the top paper & magnifying glass icon from the options displayed to the right of the selected area. This action will cause the Data Explorer tab to be shown in the left pane, where the Metric Palette normally appears. Switching between the Data Explorer and the Metric Palette is simply a matter of clicking on the appropriate tab.
Within the Data Explorer, all Syslog or SNMP Trap data is listed in the chronological order it was received. Each line represents a single message, beginning with its severity and ending with the date and time the message was received. In between is a brief preview of the message body. To view the full message text, simply expand the row.
If your devices are sending a lot of Syslog or SNMP Traps to Orion, it may be difficult to sift through all the noise and focus on what's truly important, even if you select the tiniest window of time. Since this just so happens to be another key tenet of PerfStack, we added filtering and search to the Data Explorer. This allows you to do things, such as show only Warning or Critical messages that were received during the selected time period, while filtering out the excessive noise generated by Informational and Debug messages.
And BOOM! Just like that, the problem is found. If SolarWinds was a leading US based office supply company, right now you'd probably feel compelled to blurt out 'That was easy". The magic doesn't end there either. This same functionality that's available for both Syslog and SNMP Traps can also be used to view the details of Orion Events. So if you aren't afforded the opportunity to configure devices to send Syslog or SNMP Traps to your Orion server, you can still give this new feature a whirl by adding Orion Events to your PerfStack and following the instructions outlined above.
Additional Metrics Support
In addition to Syslog & Traps, PerfStack 2.0 includes support for a variety of additional Orion product module metrics in this release. Given the feedback we have received since the release of PerfStack 1.0, we know these will all be extremely welcomed additions.
Universal Device Pollers
That's right, I said Universal Device Pollers! Unquestionably the single most often requested feature request I receive for PerfStack has been adding support for Universal Device Pollers. With the release of PerfStack 2.0 in the NPM 12.2, I'm proud to announce you can now add Universal Device Pollers to your PerfStack projects no differently than any other metric. Universal Device Pollers for both Nodes and Interfaces are supported, and appear under their respective entity type. When you select an interface for example, which has Universal Device Pollers assigned, the 'Group' names as defined within the Universal Device Poller Windows application will appear within PerfStack as new metric categories. In the example below I have a Universal Device Poller Group I've defined in the Win32 application called 'Cisco Switch', which I've assigned to interface 'Fa0/1' on 'lab-transi-sw1'. Similarly, I have a Node based Universal Device Poller called 'sonic Current CPU Util' which is assigned to 'stp-nsa2400'. Please note that for Universal Device Pollers to appear in PerfStack, they must be of type 'Rate' or 'Counter' and that 'Keep Historical Data' must be enabled.
Network Insight for F5 & ASA
PerfStack 2.0 also includes support for NPM's Network Insight for F5, and all new Network Insight for ASA. These metrics appear under their own distinct categories or node entities and are treated no differently than any other metric within PerfStack. Please note that Network Insight for ASA is still under active development, so the number of metrics seen represented in PerfStack for Network Insight for ASA is neither exhaustive nor representative of what will be reflected in the final shipping product.
Voice & Network Quality Manager
A party just isn't a party unless you invite your friends, so in this release we invited VNQM to join the fun by bring metrics for IPSLA operations into PerfStack. IPSLA Operations appear as their own separate entity type within PerfStack. If however, you find it easier to search by source router instead you can select that node entity and click the add related items button and all IPSLA operations running on that router will appear listed in the entities list. Select the IPSLA operation you'd like to see more information about and the list of all available metrics for that operation appear listed in the metric pallet. From there you know the drill; just drag and drop them onto the chart area and voila!
Network Configuration Manager
Also joining the party is NCM, allowing Orion users for the first time ever to visually cross correlate configuration changes to the impact they have on the network. When combined with NTA you can easily see the effect your recent CBQoS policy change is having on the flow of traffic from the moment the change was made. PerfStack also makes it easy for you to not only determine exactly when a change was made, but by whom. Similar to Syslog, Traps, and Events, selecting a time period from the charted area and clicking the Data Explorer button reveals detailed information about the configuration change that occurred, such as the username of the individual who logged into the device and their IP address.
Visualization of alerts in the premiere release of PerfStack displayed only the total aggregate of all alerts against a given entity, as well as how long all alerts had been active against that object. While useful, you were unable to determine what those alerts were which triggered, or how long each of those alerts remained active. A lot of that important detail was obscured through aggregation, making this particular area of PerfStack ripe for improvement.
In this release of PerfStack we preserved the same total alert aggregate that was available in the first release, but then extended the chart to show the names of the alerts which triggered along with their individual durations. No longer are you left wondering what alert was triggered against the object, or fumbling through other areas of the Orion web interface to track down that information. You'll also know at a glance when the alert triggered and for how long, in a manner which allows you to visually recognize patterns of reoccurrence and correlate specific individual alerts against other metrics collected by Orion.
Occasionally it's necessary to share your PerfStack findings with others who may not have access to Orion, or archive those findings in a ticketing system for historical purposes beyond your defined retention period. For some, this information needs to be imported into other systems for change back, show back, billing, forensic analysis, or correlation with other non-Orion tools in the environment. Previously, your only recourse was to export data for each metric individually via the Custom Chart View, or write your own series of custom queries against the SQL database backend to obtain the raw values behind these charts. In this PerfStack release however, those days are behind us.
After adding all metrics of interest to your PerfStack project, simply click the new 'Export' button located in the top menu. This will export your project's content to a Microsoft® Excel friendly comma separated value (CSV) formatted file,which is then downloaded to your local machine via your browser.
Double click the file to open in Excel, or upload the file to Google™ Docs to open in Sheets. Inside you will find all the raw data which made up the charts in PerfStack. Each series of the same chart is represented as its own set of columns, complete with the entity and metric name, date and time the data was collected, and its value. If your PerfStack project contained multiple charts, the values for each chart are grouped together in the CSV file the same as they were visually laid out within PerfStack itself. Simply put, the detailed raw data for the second PerfStack chart is directly beneath the end of the series for the first chart data contained within the CSV file.
The logical layout of the CSV file makes it easy to visually recreate similar charts to what was seen in PerfStack, using the native graphing tools included in Excel or Sheets. The format of the raw data is also well suited for import into 3rd party reporting solutions like Domo or eazyBI. With the data contained in logical layout and an open format, the possibilities are limitless.
Not everyone who used PerfStack initially realized that whatever they created could be easily shared with others, simply by copying the URL and sending it to them. Since this is one of PerfStack's most powerful capabilities, we felt it needed to be promoted to the top menu, alongside other important functions like saving and loading a PerfStack.
Just click this 'Share' button and the dynamic PerfStack URL is automatically copied to your clipboard and ready to be pasted into an email, instant message, helpdesk ticket, etc. and shared with others.
Links to PerfStack
Getting to PerfStack in previous releases meant leaving what you were looking at and starting the troubleshooting process over from the very beginning again in PerfStack if you needed to correlate symptoms with their root cause. For example, if users are complaining about the performance of SharePoint, a logical starting point might be to go to the Node Details view of the SharePoint server in Orion. But what if you then wanted information from the Hypervisor this virtual machine is running on, the storage array, or the SharePoint application being monitored by SAM? Well, you'd probably navigate to PerfStack, add the problem node, and then its relationships, before eventually plotting metrics in the chart area for correlation. This sounds tedious just explaining it and we knew we could do better.
Within the 'Management' or 'Details' resource located on the details view of virtually any entity type supported by PerfStack, you will find a new 'Performance Analysis' link. When pressed, you will be taken directly to PerfStack and the entity object you came into PerfStack will be pre-populated in the entity selector, along with any of its related items. In addition, the chart area will pre-populate with relevant metrics associated with the entity you came in from.
For example, if you were to click on the "Performance Analysis' link from the 'Node Details' view of your SharePoint server, you would be taken to PerfStack where the Node, it's volumes, interfaces, etc. are already listed in the entity list, and metrics such as Status, CPU/Memory utilization, response time, alerts, and events are all pre-populated for you. These metrics are dynamic based upon the entity type you enter from, ensuring they are always relevant to what you're investigating.
Links From PerfStack
We didn't stop simply at having links into PerfStack from other views in Orion. We knew that there were occasions when users viewing data in PerfStack needed additional information only found on entity details views, such as MAC addresses, serial/model numbers, etc.. WIth that in mind, we included direct links to the Details view of any entity shown within PerfStack's entity list. Simply hover your mouse over the entity name, the same as you would to add related items or to remove the entity from the list. There you will notice a new link icon, which when clicked will open a new browser tab that will take you to the details view for that entity.
Drag & Drop Entities
We all know you can drag and drop metrics onto PerfStack's chart area to visualize virtually any combination of metrics desirable, but what if I told you that you could drag and drop entire entities into the chart area? Would that blow your mind? Well that's exactly what you can do now with PerfStack 2.0!
Utilizing the same logic derived from 'Links to PerfStack' referenced above, relevant and dynamic metrics associated with a given entity are pre-populated and charted when an entity is dragged into PerfStack's chart area. Simply click and hold your mouse on the drag handle which appears to the left of the entity name when hovering your mouse. Next, drag the entity into the chart area. This will then populate the charted area will the same metrics that would appear if you had entered PerfStack through the 'Performance Analysis' link on that entities Details view, saving you precious time in the throes of troubleshooting.
Full Screen Mode
WIth the initial release of PerfStack we received a lot of feedback from customers wanting to add PerfStack to a wallboard in their NOC. The first issue these customers ran into was a bug where PerfStack did not respect session timeout values defined for the user account. I'm happy to announce that this issue has been resolved in PerfStack 2.0, allowing you to have PerfStack running and updating indefinitely if so desired, without ever timing out your session.
Next on their wish list was some ability to declutter the UI of extraneous elements which were unnecessary for a non-interactive display. This would allow them to maximize the viewable area for data being displayed in the charts and legend. Being the accommodating bunch that we are, a newly added button was added to the top right of PerfStack, just above the chart legend. When clicked, all UI elements except the chart and legend are removed, placing PerfStack into fullscreen mode. To exit full screen mode and return to normal mode, just click the button again or remove all metrics from the chart. Note that this button will only appear when one or more metrics are plotted in the chart area.
Links to Saved PerfStacks
Sharing is great when you're collaborating on a specific issue with a group of individuals, but what if you as the Orion Administrator want to create custom PerfStack dashboards to share with your users? This can be accomplished with other custom Orion views fairly easily, and PerfStack function no different.
To begin, first start by creating your custom PerfStack and including all metics you'd like represented in the chart. When complete, save your changes and click the 'Share' button. You should now have the URL to your saved PerfStack in your copy/paste buffer. Next, go to [Settings -> All Settings -> Customize Menu Bars] and edit the menu bar for the user/s you'd like to have access to your saved PerfStack. At the bottom of the page click the 'Add' button, give your link a name, and paste the saved PerfStack URL into the URL field of the 'Edit Custom menu Item' dialog windows that appears. From there, click 'ok' to save your changes and drag your newly created menu item from the 'Available Items' column to the 'Selected Items' column to add this to your menu bar.
When users which are assigned that Menu Bar login, they will now see a link to your custom saved PerfStack in their navigation. This allows Orion administrators to quickly share custom saved PerfStacks without emailing or instant messaging links to users. Similarly, you can now also use the 'User Links' resource in a similar fashion to provide your users links to custom saved PerfStack dashboards.
This represents an incredible amount of awesome jam packed into a single release, and I haven't even mentioned Real-Time polling yet! Let us know what your thoughts are so far on PerfStack 2.0 in the comments section below. We'd love to hear your feedback!