25 May

Pros and Cons of Network Monitoring Solution SolarWinds

SolarWinds Orion® Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is the company’s product for the monitoring and measurement of overall performance in medium and large sized network infrastructures and falls into the category of IT Service Management (ITSM) products. After many years of experience on this platform I can summarize some of the points of strength and weakness in the use of NPM in a complex company reality.

One of the big disadvantages of NPM is the lack of topological maps created automatically during the process of discovery. This fails to support a graphical visualization of the ISO/OSI levels of conection between the equipment. However, through the Network Atlas component, you can manually create topological maps. For the automation of the maps a specific module must be purchased called Network Topology Mapper (NTM).

One of the global advantages of NPM is the use if a very simple and intuitive user interface. The dashboards, for example, for each piece of equipment on the network are highly appreciated. Thanks to the ease of use of these interfaces, it is possible to quickly instruct the personnel involved in the management and make them autonomous, i.e. not needing administrator intervention. That advantage could turn into a relative disadvantage when a user needs to investigate complex problems.

One of the commercial advantages of SolarWinds is having extreme modularity and integration with other products of the company thanks to the use of a Relational Data Base shared by all the SolarWinds modules. This also can cause problems when you need to collect historical data for a very long time period of time. In this case you might run up against exponential growth in the size of the data collection system that could negatively impact all the applications, with, for example, a negative influence on performance.

However the SolarWinds solutions guarantee a full scalability on infrastructure at all levels, starting with the easy installation of additional polling engines to increase the number of managed devices.

A weak point of NPM, and in general for all the modules in Solarwinds is the reduced portability, in fact the product is only available for Windows Server platforms.

A strength that cannot be overlooked, however, is the extensive SolarWinds community called THWACK, in which you can ask questions and find clarification directly from product managers. Another strength is an extensive Knowledge Base available online to all clients, where you can find workarounds and solutions to known issues. In addition, under the commercial aspect, in spite of an average price below the competition, NPM offers the possibility to customize the monitoring, albiet in a way that is more complex, to make up for any specific additional modules that are missing. As an example, using components like a Universal Device Poller (UnDP) and the Advanced Alert Manager, very powerful and sensitive tools for creating alerts, you can achieve still more complex monitoring levels (performance monitoring) that appropriately compensate for missing modules or, as alternatives to existing modules as a valid means of reducing licensing costs.

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