The first presenter up for Network Field Day 3 was a familiar face to many Tech Field Day viewers. Solarwinds presented at the first Network Field Day and has been a sponsor of more events than any other. It’s always nice to see vendors coming back time and again to show the delegates what they’ve been cooking since their last appearance.
We started our day in the Doubletree San Jose boardroom. We were joined by Joel Dolisy, the Chief Software Architect for Solarwinds and Mav Turner (@mavturner), the Senior Product Manager for the network software division. After introductions, we jumped right into some of the great software that Solarwinds makes for network engineers. First up was the Solarwinds IP SLA Monitor. IP Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a very important tool used by engineers to track key network metrics like reachability and latency. What makes IP SLA so great as opposed to a bigger monitoring tool is that the engineer can take the information from IP SLA and use it to create actionable items, such as bringing down an overloaded link or sending trap information to the third-party monitoring system to alert key personnel when something is amiss. One of the sore spots about IP SLA from my perspective is the difficulty that I have in setting it up. Thankfully, Solarwinds thought of that for me already. No only can the IP SLA Monitor show me all the pertinent details about a given IP SLA configuration, I can even create a new one on the fly if needed. IP SLA Monitor allows me to push the configurations down to a single router, or to multiple routers as quickly as I can select interfaces and metrics to track. It’s a very interesting product, especially when you know that it grew out of a simple way to manage Voice over IP (VoIP) call metrics. When Solarwinds realized the potential of the program, they immediately added more features and enabled it across a whole host of protocols. If you’d like to try it out on a single router, you can download the free version here.
During the presentation, I asked Solarwinds about adding some additional wireless troubleshooting capabilities to the product lines, courtesy of a request from Blake Krone (@BlakeKrone). One thing that Joel and Mav said was that Solarwinds adds the large majority of their new features based on customer response and request. I do admire that a company that is so highly regarded by most engineers I know is willing to sit down and make sure that customer needs are addressed in such a manner. That way, the features that get added into the program really do come from the desires of the userbase. The only thing that might give me pause this arrangement is that Solarwinds may be missing an opportunity to drive some development around new features by waiting for people to ask for them. Many times I’ve looked at a piece of software and seen a curious feature in a list only to realize that I never knew I needed it. I hope that Solarwinds is keeping up with the rapid pace of software development and ensuring that the hottest new technologies are being supported as quickly as possible in their flagship Orion platform.
One thing that Solarwinds took some additional time to show off to us was their Virtualization Manager. An acquisition from Hyper9 last year, Virtualization Manager allows Solarwinds to hook into the VMware vCenter APIs to find all kinds of interesting things like orphaned VMs or performance issues. You can create custom alerts on these data points to let you know if a VM goes missing after a difficult vMotion or if your hypervisors have become CPU or memory bound. You can also archive configs and perform capacity planning and a whole host of other useful features. One of the nicest things, though, was the fact that the UI was completely devoid of Flash! Everything was written with HTML5 so that there is no need to worry about whether you’re using the correct device to manage your VM infrastructure’s web portal. This was a big win for the assembled delegates, as management systems that require proprietary scripting languages or horrendously laggy and memory hungry plugins tend to make us cranky at best.
We also had some good discussions toward the end around building Linux-based polling devices and how extensible the querying capabilities can be inside of Orion. I think this kind of flexibility is huge in allowing me to craft the tool to my needs instead of the other way around. When you think about it, there aren’t that many companies that are willing to provide you the framework to rebuild the tool to your environment. That’s one thing that Solarwinds has in the their favor.
If you’d like to learn more about the various offerings that Solarwinds has available, you can check them out at http://www.solarwinds.com/. You can also follow them on Twitter at their new handle, @solarwinds
Solarwinds has been making tools that make my life easier for quite some time. They’ve also been offering them for free for a while as well. This is a great way for people to figure out if the larger collection of tools in the Orion suite will be a good fit for what they want to do with their network. I think the large number of tools can be daunting for an engineer just starting out or one that’s in over their head. While the overview we received was a wonderful peek at things, Solarwinds needs to take the time to be sure the educate users to the tool capabilities, both free and paid. I also feel that Solarwinds needs to take the time to develop some software functionality independently of user requests. I know that the majority of the features they build into their tools are requested by users. But as I said above, sometimes the feature I need is the one I didn’t know could be done until I read the release notes.
Tech Field Day Disclaimer
Solarwinds was a sponsor of Network Field Day 3. As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 3. In addition, they provided me with a coffee cup. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis. The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.