How has it helped my organization?
- Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I was awarded Q3 employee of the quarter. I am the first NOC member to receive this award at Kforc).
- By replacing SCOM and several other monitoring tools and merging them into the Orion Suite, I reduced outages by 66% YOY.
- The NOC saw a dramatic reduction in our MTR (Mean Time to Resolution) thanks to the powerful dashboard and alerting options offered in the various SolarWinds tools.
What is most valuable?
- Ease of installation and administration
- Extremely user friendly: Any IT professional can learn how to admin NPM in a short time.
- Powerful data collection from a wide range of different network devices.
- Devices not supported can be added each month via the MIB library update request.
- Robust reporting options and easy to use alerting features. NPM still has very complete alert logic available if one chooses. It takes fifteen minutes to build complex alerts that would take hours in other tools.
- Very active user community (THWACK) and outstanding peer information sharing.
- NetPath is spot on for what many NOC are lacking. CDR search is used daily. There is a huge value add for maintaining a healthy phone system for a company that is very much phone dependent.
What needs improvement?
- MS Azure Service and user experience monitoring. This is an area in which the SolarWinds tools are lacking.
- Most focus seems to be on AWS cloud services. But some press has been released stating more Azure Cloud Service monitoring options in the near future.
- Without a doubt, this is the Achilles heel of the Orion monitoring tools, as well as many others available today.
- I am currently reviewing other vendors for Azure service monitoring tools.
- Our current need is focused on Office365, Exchange Web Services, MS Dynamics 365, and other Azure services.
- Nodes in Azure are able to be monitored with the use of agents, but this does not apply to cloud service offerings that are not node based.
- More granular control of what components are enabled for the various AppInsight monitoring options (IIS, SQL, and Exchange currently).
- AppInsight is all or nothing with SolarWinds, and this isn’t the best option.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We encountered issues with stability in a few rare cases, due to being on older versions of the software. But this was self-inflicted in all cases.
For the most part, the Orion suite is very stable, dependable, and easy to manage.
Installs and upgrades are a bit time consuming, but this is expected with such a large platform.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Yes, there were issues with scalability. The polling engine can be a bit confusing as there are several conflicting statements regarding number of components, flows per second, Nodes, Volumes, and other variables that impact the polling engine performance.
In our case, the software stated we were at 65% of the available polling engine that was available. But we experienced monitors going into a hung state at random times.
This was finally determined by SolarWinds support to be due to the number of components we had active in SAM, even though SAM stated we were well below the acceptable number of components for our poller.
We added a second polling engine. (It is a super easy process to add additional polling engines.) SolarWinds has invested a great amount of time in the scalability expansion process, but the tool should reflect accurate info regarding the impact to the polling engine regardless of the source.
I ended up writing a custom SQL query to pull data points which gave us better polling data.
How are customer service and technical support?
I would give technical support a rating of 5/10 on a good day. Since going to a Philippine support group, there has been a significant decrease in the skill set of the customer support.
Support used to be very results driven and it was not uncommon to have a person help you with whatever issue you had. That has changed in the past two years and support tends to be very quick to state “sorry that’s an unsupported feature and in several cases respond with “we can’t find the issue”.
Regardless of the issue being reported, you will be asked to run diagnostics and upload to their site. This is a time buying move as on several cases, as the logs were uploaded but not used in any way. (I asked where they found the info in the logs and was told it was an internal document that gave them the solution).
I avoid calling support for most issues unless I am at a total loss.
It’s important to note that this was not always the case. The real change seems to have occurred when SolarWinds went private again.
In years past, support used to be one of the HUGE factors that made SolarWinds such a great investment.
Support isn’t what it used to be and this is very disappointing. THWACK is a great resource and most answers can be found there with some searching and posting if needed.
But I should be able to get support from the help desk when I need it, not by manually searching and finding fixes myself.
My entire team avoids calling support at all costs. Sorry, but this is our experience. If I could still get version updates, but give up support, I would drop our annual maintenance in a second, without any hesitation.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We used the following solutions previously:
SCOM, BMC Patrol, HP CIM, What’s up Gold, NetScout, HP Openview, and several other home brewed monitoring tools.
SCOM is very powerful and an amazing tool. The issue is with administration and lack of real network monitoring. It is a monster and requires a very wide skill set to effectively administer.
Even with the skill set, it requires many staff hours for care and feeding. SCOM is cumbersome and very difficult to use.
SCOM is also strictly agent based, while SolarWinds gives you agent or agent-less options.
SCOM network monitoring is hot garbage on a summer day (IMHO).
MS included SNMP monitoring options, but SCOM can’t be used as a true network monitoring solution.
You must have a different tool for Network if using SCOM.
Orion, on the other hand, has it all if you invest in the modules.
SCOM will go much deeper into MS products, but it is not worth it for the amount of staff resources needed.
How was the initial setup?
The setup was very easy. SolarWinds has invested a significant amount of effort into streamlining and improving the install process. It is one of the easiest tools out there to set up. SolarWinds nailed on this one.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Block the sales numbers and email address for all SolarWinds sales people at the engineer level J.
Every quarter close, year-end, or other significant time, there are emails sent to every person on our team who has access to our SolarWinds Support portal.
This is inappropriate and our leadership has asked SolarWinds to stop reaching out to engineers regarding “special pricing” or “super duper deal because it is end of the year”.
I get it, sales are sales, but this issue has been discussed several times on the THWACK forums and has become a running joke on the boards. It is harmless, but annoying.
On a more serious topic, I would advise potential buyers to wait until the end of the quarter, end of year, or other time to place orders. There are actually great deals to be had at those times if your budget cycle can match up.
If you can make purchases with minimal turnaround time, you can do very well.
I would say the pricing of the SolarWinds products are more than competitive, even the list prices.
The ROI for SolarWinds products is unmatched in the industry.
I do annual vendor reviews as part of my role. Its not uncommon to find a tool that offers more functionality in one specific area than the SolarWinds suite. But when it comes to the pricing and across the board monitoring, no one touches SolarWinds. Money spent on SolarWinds products goes much further than with other vendors. This is an area where SolarWinds has left the competition behind.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
Oh my gosh, we evaluated all of them. Like I said above, I do vendor reviews every year and the result is always the same.
No one offers the same level of functionality across so many different devices/services in a single tool at such a good price.
We may be buying a small license for Azure service monitoring until SolarWinds has a solution for sale.
Most recently, I reviewed Thousand Eyes, Exoprise, SCOM, Riverbed’s tools, Net Scout, and a half dozen others I don’t recall. All were interesting, but none were competitive price wise.
What other advice do I have?
Before you install, join THACK and start talking to other users. The tool is very powerful and offers amazing monitoring options, if you have someone who knows what good monitoring should look like.
Take advantage of the various custom properties to refine monitors and you will have an amazing monitoring platform.
Install it, compare against others, and you will always find SolarWinds beats them for the ROI.
You must also factor in the savings from being able to train general IT staff how to support the tool.
It doesn’t matter how great a tool is, if you can’t find an admin to run it. Anyone can figure out SolarWinds if they have any sort of APM background. Many other tools can’t say this.