We recently upgraded to Solarwinds 9.5, which features the new Network Atlas in place of the old map making tools, and we have been struggling to adapt to it. I thought it might be useful to share some of my thoughts and frustrations. Some of this may just be an error on our part, some of it might be useful feedback toward future versions.
1 - It is an exe installer that comes from my Solarwinds install.
Why isn't it an MSI package? It's basically impossible for us to edit an exe installer to do things like include additional files. That's not particularly convenient with an MSI, admittedly, but it would still be greatly preferred. It also would force us to blindly guess at command line switches to the exe installer to try and figure out how to do a silent/scripted install for automatic deployment.
The first change we'd probably make is to have the package automatically set-up to talk to our solarwinds installation, instead of defaulting to "localhost." If I can only get the installer directly from the installation, it may as well know where it came from.
We previously edited the MSI for the log forwarder utility because it insisted on opening up its configuration program interactively during the install, making automatic deployment impossible. We killed that, and included our own local config file in the MSI, and it was much more useful for us. Would like to do something similar to the mapmaker install to include a script we are using to sync files on user's machines.
2 - It takes a very long time to start.
Well over a minute before it is open. It seems to be doing a fair amount of network traffic, so our current best guess is that it is grabbing a bunch of images from the MapStudioFiles table in the database, or something. Haven't bothered to use a network sniffer to study exactly what it is doing, but it really is shockingly slow.
3 - Can't select background images from DB
All our old background images from the old maps got put into the database during the upgrade to the new version. But, when a user tries to select a background image in Network Atlas, it just pops open an open dialog box to select a file on the local file system. WTF? Why is all that in the database now, anyway, if it is impossible to get at? If a user wants to use the same background image on multiple maps, is there really no way to avoid a bunch of pointless copies in the database? Is the useless storage of all those background images part of the reason why it is so slow to start up?
4 - Excellent support for WMF
Which would have been a questionable design decision over a decade ago. Seriously, we can't use SVG or some other sensible format? So far, we haven't had success at convincing Network Atlas to use SVG. SVG is actually supported by modern tools and libraries. Trying to do anything automatically with a WMF is a major PITA. (If all our icons could be SVG's, I could trivially add support for viewing them to my utility for browsing images in the database. Adding support for WMF's to it would just make me cry.)
5 - Schizophenic access to maps
If I go to "Open Map..." from the shiny button in the upper-left, I can only get a map from the local filesystem. In the pane at the left which has all the network nodes and whatnot, I can double click a map to load it from the filesystem. Both operations are accomplishing the same thing - loading a map. But this questionable UI design decision makes the user go through seemingly completely unrelated processes in different places in the UI, do do a signle conceptual task.
Currently, we are using a setup where the files for icons are sync'd from the main server when a user tries to start Network Atlas, so we can create icons in the *_up.wmf, *_down.wmf, etc., format, rather than letting Network Atlas color the background on its own. We have been trying to just put our images directly in the database, but we've had difficulty getting things to actually show up in network atlas when we put them in the MapStudioFiles table. Clearly, the path in the FileName field doesn't map directly to how things show up in the UI, which is bewildering and frustrating.
So far, the only thing that we particularly like about the new maps system is the linked background map feature. It eliminates a periodic vbscript we were using to refresh a background. Also, it supports PNG backgrounds, so we can finally have nice drop shadows on our weather forcast map, which just looked bad in the old GIF version we were using with 9.1
I have also been working on a tool for browsing, downloading, and replacing images in the MapStudioFiles table of the database. If people express an interest in it, I may clean it up a bit and eventually toss it on the content exchange. It can view JPG/GIF files stored in the database as a live preview, but not WMF's (or the OrionMaps themselves).
Well, those are some of the specific issues that have come up in conversation here today. Would love to hear what other people think of this.