This is our second Network Performance Monitor review and was written after a thorough product demonstration. The first product review can be found here https://yourdailytech.com/networking/review-solarwinds-network-performance-monitor/
Network management software is crucial for monitoring, securing, analyzing, reporting and optimizing the performance of your network. As the necessity to reduce costs and maintain performance is under constant pressure, corporations are deploying more than on premise solutions utilizing hybrid IT architectures that even further complicate controlling your network.
With corporations utilizing more and more cloud based SaaS solutions (i.e. Salesforce, Netsuite, Office 365, etc.) the task of being able to control your network infrastructure is complex at best.
[Related: Download Free Network Performance Monitor v12]
Tackling this problem for the large software companies is contrary to their present methodology of deployment and sales process. Most of their focus has been providing suites of a product, professional services and catering to future architectural plans.
On the other end of the spectrum, SolarWinds, out of Austin, TX, builds, deploys and sells point solutions to the people that matter the most in your IT infrastructure, the System and Network Engineers, that are responsible for the actual events within your network.
SolarWinds does provide a complete offering of products for the entire IT infrastructure ( Network Management, System Management, IT Security, Database Management and IT Help) but their flagship product is Network Management. They sell to the people that are responsible for the deployment of their products to solve specific problems.
In their latest release of Network Performance Monitoring, Release #12, SolarWinds will provide the ability for Network Engineers to monitor and analyze the performance of their connected network outside of their immediate control and ownership through Netpath Services. Additional new features in release #12 are world map view of nodes and F5 load balancing through Insight Services.
Recently, I had the opportunity to preview SolarWinds Network Performance Monitoring product and the enhancements with release version #12. In this and the previous release, the main console screen is the same. This allows you view the vendors that have assets in your network, the locations of those nodes and the performance utilization of those. SolarWinds provides an agnostic method of managing multiple vendors to simplify the overall infrastructure management.
Additionally in release #12, the global maps with Geo Locator Automation, allows network administrators to manage nodes wherever they may be and provide status and actionable information. The ability to drill down into these locations and provide reports and alerts in layman’s terms provides network engineers the ability to communicate to management what issues are prevalent and the actions to be taken on those. SolarWinds provide a robust reporting feature and extensive alerts that cover almost any situation you can think of.
New to the summary page is the addition of NetPath Services to enable monitoring of nodes that give you a complete view of those services that are outside of your immediate ownership.
Selecting on any of the services opens up a Network path from your location all the way to the end service you are analyzing. In this example, Salesforce is the service that we are analyzing due to latency issues that our users have reported.
This view allows you to see in real-time the health of your network and then drill down deeper to find additional information (other nodes as a part of that provider’s network). At the bottom of the screen there is a timeline to analyze other or frequent occurrences of this problem. Once you have isolated the provider and the nodes and other issues you can continue to dive further to get additional information, including contact email address so you can take action in resolving your problems. By taking a look at the path you take with the providers and the load on any of the nodes you drill into you will be able to find out what percentage of your users are on those nodes, what action to take to improve performance and how it will impact your users.
As you continue to analyze this information you provide actionable information to carry that you are not in direct control over so they can improve performances. In the end they want to deliver the best product to their customers. When you have detail information, like latency in speed, the number of users affected, the history you have with this application and even as far as taking a look at the configuration and the configuration changes they make will help you and the provider.
With this enhanced visibility into networks outside of your control, you have the ability to tie this to the on-premise network you have so that you can have an end-to-end solution in these new hybrid environments that organizations are going to.
The second major announcement in this release is the Load Balancing capability for F5 products. This is specifically an On-Premise solution for organizations that have millions of users that will allow them to balance their traffic and make sure they continue to have great end-user experiences.
This product is geared toward the IT professional that has responsibility for this part of the network infrastructure, the Network Engineer. As technology has changed from routers, switches and wireless access points to more sophisticated network appliances such as application firewalls, proxy servers and load balancers, managing these appliances are even more important. Even though there are not a lot of these appliances, they are very mission critical and can be very critical to the health and performance of your network.
Generally, these appliances sit in a bottleneck between your corporate office and the internet. If these appliances go down, everyone will go down. The primary reason for this product is to provide the new attributes needed to manage these complex devices. The old data metrics of using CPU, Interface, RAM etc. from the older appliances (Routers, switches) jut doesn’t work to maintain the health of performance of load balancers and other complex appliances.
With the scale and the size of SolarWinds customer base it has allowed SolarWinds to do a very deep dive in providing monitoring for a specific platform. In this case F5 load balancers. The challenge and the opportunity is to be able to do this type of deep dive on additional platforms so that they have a portfolio of deep tailored monitoring.
Instead of utilizing data sets of processors, CPU or interface, F5 load balancers use data sets from services. An example is a service such as someone hosting your website (URL ) and all of the components that enable that website to function properly.
Global Traffic Managers distribute traffic to Local Traffic Managers and they use logical components such as virtual servers, pools and pool members to build out the hierarchy for the service such as hosting of a URL.
What SolarWinds has been able to do is to map out this hierarchy. By opening up these individual components you can see that there are lots of machines that are pointing to other machines. As you drill down deeper you can see the interdependencies of each of these components and see what their status is in real-time.
Going to the service button and hovering over it you can see that your service is down and the reason is that there are no enabled pools. This allows you to go further down the hierarchy. You drill down and you see that the reason that the pool is down is because the children pools are down. Even though you have not solved the issue right away you are able to find what specific element is causing others to be down. But because you own these components and they are on-premise or you have management authority over these devices if they are being hosted in the cloud (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc.) you know where to go look to resolve the problem by drilling down deeper and getting further visibility on a detail report.
By drilling down on any of the sections you can find the interrelationships of each and determine IF one of these elements were to go down would it affect one or multiple services. As you can see by drilling down deeper into the local traffic manager you can see that it serves up several over services and if that element were to go down you would affect more than one service.
Since these are on-premise devices you have more accurate and timely information that you can go to on site to make the changes to improve the performance and the health of your network.
In summary, this release provides two significant areas that affect the health and performance of ones network, on-premise and the network outside of your own premise.
In regard to Off-Premise, Netpath provides the ability for Network Engineers being able to go outside of the confines of their own network and trace the path of the service they are using hop-by-hop to drill down to find actionable remedies that can significantly change the manner and the timeliness in resolving network issues. This is extremely important when the Network Engineer is asked why the problem exists and how is he going to solve it. By being able to do a very deep dive into the infrastructure of off-premise carriers, they now can communicate with actionable information to resolve issues, instead of “Your Network is Slow”. This will be significant for all organizations but specifically for medium sized enterprises that do not have large IT departments. For the individual that is facing the removal of his Exchange Server (on-premise) to one that is being hosted in the cloud (Office 365) the thought of being accountable for issues but not having control can be a nerve racking experience. This gives them the ability to know what the issues are and how to resolve them.
With the release of F5 support, this further strengthens their relationship with very larger enterprise clients that deploy these complex load balancers in their network. Again the ability to drill down into each element to find inter dependencies and other relationships allows for faster problem resolution. The ability to accumulate data sets based on services and not on older technologies that used data from CPU, interfaces, RAM,etc allows actionable data to be used to solve performance issues for network appliances that are far more sophisticated than those we used 10 years ago.
As more deployments of Netpath Services make their way into the market and the relationships between users of NetPath and off-premise network providers continue this will provide for better communication and faster problem resolution. These network providers want to be able to provide good user experiences and accurate and detailed information will allow them to do that.
Those large enterprise customers that are using F5 at the moment will now have a better tool in their tool box to improve the performance of those devices. They are critical to their network and this allows better visibility that can be turned into faster problem resolution.