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SolarWinds adds enterprise scalability to its network monitoring tool

SolarWinds has added enterprise scalability to Orion, its SMB-flavored network management product. With the new Enterprise Operations Console, SolarWinds customers with distributed and complex networks can now manage multiple instances of Orion through a single interface.

With the latest version of its Orion Network Performance Management, SolarWinds is making a bid to serve more complex and distributed networks.

Orion has been popular among small and medium-sized business (SMB) network managers because of its ease of use and affordability. Network managers can download it from SolarWinds' website for a free trial. If they decide to adopt Orion, licenses begin at $2,475.

Despite its popularity among SMBs, customers with distributed networks have struggled to manage multiple instances of Orion centrally. They couldn't get a single view into the corporate network.

Kenny Van Zant, chief product strategist for SolarWinds, said Orion NPM 9.0 will include a new Enterprise Operations Console (EOC) that will allow companies with very complex or distributed networks -- a retail chain, for example -- to manage different instances of Orion from a single management console.

"[The EOC] takes multiple Orion systems deployed and monitoring on different network components and provides summary data of multiple Orion systems into one single view," Van Zant said. "With EOC, we can tell it about each Orion instance, and it will pull all the data, charts and graphs and make it available in one universal user interface."

Tracy Corbo, senior analyst for IDC, said that companies use multiple tools to manage their network activity, and it is difficult to get a clear picture. "By pulling that information into one place, you're making it easier for them to do their job," she said.

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SolarWinds is trying to offer scalable technology to managers of larger, more distributed networks.

"They're looking to scale up, take a bigger role outside of just the one network guy," Corbo said. "They want to be managing more stuff over the enterprise."

Prior to EOC, companies with distributed networks were attempting inefficient workarounds, Van Zant said. Some would try to build just one very large instance of Orion and have it monitor different elements of the distributed network through the corporate WAN.

"They were just growing a very large Orion deployment," he said. "If you have 900 locations like a retail chain, that's a lot of WAN connections where you're doing remote network management. And if the WAN connection itself is having problems, the monitoring is within band and you have a blind spot."

Van Zant said that other customers would simply deploy different instances of Orion and then monitor them separately, knowing that they would have to check those multiple sites individually in order to get an overall view of the health of the network.

"We have more than one customer that has more than 50 instances of Orion," he said. "Now, with EOC, they can point all 50 instances of Orion at one console and it will give them a nice view of their network."

Michael Kedick, director of commercial sales and product development at SDN Communications, is an early adopter of EOC. SDN is a provider of business class bandwidth connectivity and network surveillance and monitoring services based in Sioux Falls, S.D. Kedick has been a customer of SolarWinds since 2003. He uses Orion to track 18,000 interfaces and 7,000 devices on his customers' networks.

"We have five … unique implementations of the Orion product," Kedick said. "We don't implement SolarWinds for all our customers but for some of our large customers. One is the state of South Dakota. We put dedicated connections into two of their core locations, and then we're able to poll their routers and switches and bring that information back into our system. Then we can provide a secure portal to them to allow them to see Orion."

Before adopting EOC, Kedick struggled with managing multiple Orion instances, he said. If he wanted to check on a particular device, he had to know which instance of Orion was managing that device. And then he had to remote desktop into that particular instance, which could be unwieldy, given that each instance had a dedicated SQL server and up to five device pollers.

"[EOC] should allow us to manage all the instances," Kedick said. "It will give us the ability to make changes across all my instances at one time from one portal [and that] is certainly a benefit that we're hoping to achieve. When I look at polls per second tuning, I would like to know what my polls per second across all of my Orion instances look like and compare."

In addition to the EOC feature, Orion 9.0 will also include a new Intuitive Web Administration feature. This will allow network managers to use Orion through a Web-based interface. In the past, users of Orion either had to be onsite with the Orion server or they had to log on through a remote desktop session. Van Zant said this feature also improves the scalability of Orion by letting one network manager quickly access multiple instances of Orion.

The new release also includes a Universal Device Poller, which gives Orion customers more flexibility. It can collect almost any statistic available on an SNMP-enabled device.

A license for Orion NPM 9.0 starts at $2,475 for 100 monitored devices. The EOC is available separately and sells at $4,995.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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