What is most valuable?
- How easy it is to get good metrics out of it.
- How extensible it is.
- There are many different ways to customize it to fit your environment.
Compared to many products, SolarWinds is very simple to use. When you add a node in NPM, it is easy to get it to start monitoring everything it supports and you very quickly see the results of this in the graphs and such. When you want to get some special things out of a box, let's say the number of connections on a ASA firewall, you can very easily add a UnDP, add it as a graph to your screen, and see the results right away. This is a real-world example, because the company I worked with was having Internet problems with our main firewalls due to maxing out the number of connections going through the box. Having it graphically presented makes it easy, though.
That was one way of customizing it, via UnDPs. Another, that I did a bunch of at my previous job, and ended up making generic versions of and posting on THWACK, is the ability to add new resources. Any given page within NPM can be customized by clicking "Customize" and you can add quite a few prepackaged resources to a page or change their order around to better fit you. You might even want to delete some. But, if you get to be a SW geek like myself, you start realizing that SW doesn't always display every bit of info that it has by browsing through the SQL tables and seeing what’s there. Nowadays, you can do this either directly with SQL, or via SWQL, which is a bastardized SQL that has pre-built relationships between the tables set up in a way that is very easy to leverage without complex joins and such in SQL. From that, you can do some very simple to very complex things.
An example of a simple thing I did, was I built a "CDP Neighbor" resource, which, if you click on the Node Details page, it tells you what devices are directly connected to it via the CDP protocol. Plus, SolarWinds made it simple for me to link to those nodes and you can basically traverse from node to node within SolarWinds looking at stuff.
How has it helped my organization?
Before NPM, we had to spend quite a bit of time using freeware tools, because there wasn't anything that offered the features we needed at a price point we were willing to pay. Most were far too expensive. Because of this, we only monitored some key devices and links. With SolarWinds, it’s easy to monitor everything and, with a little setup, everyone can help out. NTA brought things up a notch. Rather than seeing there was too much bandwidth being used and trying to guess what it was through diagnostics on the device and guesswork, we can see what is consuming all the bandwidth and easily relate it back to a specific user or device.
What needs improvement?
The module UIs can have different features based on what module you're in. I'd love to see feature parity between them. Selecting nodes, for instance. In NPM, you can use one criteria for grouping, while in NCM, you can group in multiple levels.
More granular permissions! I'd like to see a role-based system where you can granularly apply permissions for administrative tasks and be able to assign these roles to people. Just because you need to edit a node doesn't mean you should have full admin permissions!
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Stability depends on the module/version. In general, it is very stable if you wait a bit before upgrading to the latest version and let some patches come out. There has been a problem in NCM when you deploy compliance remediation jobs to a large number of nodes that use config blocks that has persisted through a couple updates. But this is a pretty advanced feature.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We haven’t had scalability problems so far. The different jobs I've been in have had very different environments in terms of scale and this solution works at any level.
How are customer service and technical support?
Technical support is very good. It might take a bit of time for initial contact, if you don't classify the severity high enough and don't call them. But a phone call will always rectify that.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
At the different jobs I’ve had, it was a mishmash of different freeware tools and things like CiscoWorks/Prime or WhatsUp Gold.
How was the initial setup?
Basic setup is a breeze for most folks!
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
In general, pricing is pretty good. Although, the jobs I've been at have usually had unlimited licenses. I have heard some people have issues with the pricing and licensing of another module (SAM).
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We evaluated WhatsUp Gold and Cisco brand tools.
What other advice do I have?
Download a demo and have fun! It’s easy to use and gives great outcomes.