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Review: SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Monitor

Derek Schauland took the SolarWinds Orion NPM for a spin. The price is nothing to sneeze at, but it has robust features for a comprehensive view of your network environment.

Networks continue to grow and become more complex. Keeping tabs on the network environment is more than just part of the job; it is a full-time job. Without the help of specialized tools to watch the network for you, there is no easy way to keep track of exactly what is going on.

With the demands of users needing instantaneous access to information, paying attention to performance bottlenecks can save a considerable amount of money in productivity lost as well as alert you to much bigger problems before they get out of control.

Enter Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) from SolarWinds, the focus of this post.

Specifications

  • CPU: 3.0GHz
  • Hard Drive: 20GB
  • Memory: 3GB
  • OS: Windows 2003 or higher (x86 and x64) with IIS installed and running in 32-bit mode
  • Additional OS Components: .Net Framework 3.5
  • Database: SQL Server 2005 SP1 or 2008 (Express, Standard, or Enterprise)

Who's it for

Orion NPM appears to be a tool that will allow busy network administrators or second-level help desk to keep tabs on the state of the network and how it's performing for the users. Orion NPM will help you monitor your environment to see these bottlenecks before they become a problem.

What problem does it solve?

The browser-based nature of the application makes it very useful to get a look at what is going on anywhere in the environment.

Standout features

  • Web Interface: Once the application is installed, the web browser is the vehicle of choice for its use making it less likely that a steep learning curve will stand in the way of use.
  • ConnectNow Topology Mapping: Allows your environment to be mapped in real time automatically. This provides graphical visibility into your network with no additional work or tools needed.
  • VMWare monitoring: Orion NPM can monitor virtual environments running VSphere, ESX, and ESXi to provide visibility as well.
  • Integrated Wireless Poller: Monitors wireless devices for security and other issues to allow more widespread use of wireless technologies by reducing the pain to manage these items.
  • Report Writer: The reports included with an application are great, but being able to create your own custom reports detailing things within your environment is a smash hit in my opinion.

Figure A

Network discovery

Figure B

Discovered network overview

Figure C

Individual host details

What's wrong?

Depending on the size of your environment, the price may be a little off-putting, starting at $2495, but there is a 30-day free trial so you can decide for yourself if the price is right for your organization.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If your budget can handle the initial cost of the application, the tools provided and automated operation of the application overall provide a great set of network monitoring options. The application will give you a very comprehensive view of your environment. The reporting and mapping features alone will likely be a great help in getting others within your organization to see just what the network looks like and where its limits are. This could be a big step toward proactive correction of issues that pop up.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

11 comments
freddyboy1
freddyboy1

I wouldn't trust Solarwind with anything. These guys spam without even caring. Don't sign up for anything or contact them, or your Inbox is doomed !!!!

leomobe
leomobe

Derek, what do you think about other tools like HP's Network Manager?

LizNY
LizNY

licensed per monitoring element (like interface or network service or monitor) which can grow very quickly if you have medium or larger network. Do you have any experience on how it handles the network data growth over longer time? We are considering getting to monitor NetFlow, so I am comparing various apps, on how they handle the data accumulation over time... What infrastructure changes have you implemented to make enough space for the NetFlow data? Any feedback on this?

hiukhan
hiukhan

Its good but WhatsupGold Rocks more. (Y)

Jaqui
Jaqui

you mean you have to pay for basic tools like this in the windows world? that sucks bobo.

ericksb1
ericksb1

Soloarwinds Orion is licensed by poller (the SNMP part of Orion). Each poller can handle approximately 10,000 interfaces. We have over 200,000 interfaces so it can certianly handle growth if youre willing to pay the 10 grand per poller license. We also use the netflow module which is a seperate license. We purchased the unlimited version of this module which let's you handle as many flows as your system's can process. Realize, we have a SQL enterprise cluster attached to a terabyte SAN system. Additionally, we use Lancope's Flow aggregator/distributor before the flows get to the Orion Netflow module. Our DB is approximately 200 Gig but in reality the size is totally dependent upon how much information you keep and for how long. You can optimize the flow data by throwing away the bottom 5% and only keeping the top 95% which saves space and processing power. Additionally, you have many options in regards to compacting the data after a defined time period. However, this makes it a little harder to manipulate the flow data

david.armstrong
david.armstrong

An essential tool for any admin who runs a global WAN.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

From scratch in half an hour. You'd be at Nagios for months from what I've seen. So unless you're working for free, that is costing your business money right there.

ieperez
ieperez

Hi, Maybe you could provide some detail about the architecture of your pollers? I'm currently evaluating Solarwinds for about 60.000 interfaces. I've been checking out Solarwinds requirements in their website but they seem to focus more in small systems. Do you use a dedicated server for each poller (that is, 20 servers?). Maybe you use some blade system for that? How does the poller report its results? Does it need direct access to database, or does it report to a central location who merges results from all the pollers and handles all database related activities? If this is the case the "central poller" would need more horsepower I guess. Thanks in advance