Healthy VoIP Nets�Part XXXIV�Network Management Architectures: SolarWinds

This is a highly scalable management solution that gives customers a direct voice in product development.

By Mark A. Miller | Posted Jul 15, 2008
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SolarWinds—headquartered in Austin, Texas with a European regional headquarters in Cork, Ireland—is a privately held software company that has developed a line of Windows-based network management products.

The firm was recognized in 2007 by Inc. Magazine as one of the Fastest Growing Companies in the U.S., noting that "products were developed with the network engineer in mind, which has resulted in a vast and loyal customer following."

SolarWinds products are geared to customers who need a scalable, easy-to-use network management solution for 250 to 10,000 managed elements—and at an affordable price point. The company claims to have more than 45,000 customers spanning the Fortune 500, mid-market businesses, military, government agencies, and education institutions.

SolarWinds was founded in 1998, presently has around 150 employees, and is venture-capital backed by Bain Capital Ventures, Insight Venture Partners, and Austin Ventures.

Behind SolarWinds' products is an innovative development model that combines user input with the company's decade-long product development experience. This model is defined by two elements: downloadable software that is immediately ready to use—even in the evaluation stage—and a product development strategy that is influenced by a strong and active user community. By providing a community forum where users can voice their thoughts and concerns, SolarWinds has made it easy for frontline network managers to be deeply involved in shaping products, as well as having a voice in industry issues in general.

The SolarWind products include:

  •   Orion which delivers comprehensive fault and network performance management, providing visibility into the health of network devices, servers, and applications
  •   Orion Modules that extend Orion's monitoring capabilities to VoIP infrastructure, servers, wireless devices, and applications, and include NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, Wireless Network Monitor, Application Monitor, and VoIP Monitor
  •  Cirrus Configuration Manager a network change and configuration management solution that automates device configuration management across multi-vendor network infrastructures
  •  ipMonitor that delivers out-of-the-box, turnkey network monitoring for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB)
  •  LANsurveyor, which automatically discovers the LAN or WAN topology, and produces comprehensive, easy-to-view network diagrams; and the
  •  Engineer's Toolset, a collection of 49 powerful desktop applications that provide network management, monitoring, and troubleshooting tools.

The flagship product for VoIP network management applications is Orion, with its VoIP Monitor. Orion provides network monitoring and analysis in real time, with in-depth network performance metrics for routers, switches, servers, and any other SNMP-enabled devices.

The product provides a customizable web interface that supports multiple views by user and department, as well as map views of the global network. It also enables advanced alerting for correlated events, sustained conditions, and complex combinations of device states.

Moreover, it scales to accommodate growth with a hot standby engine, multiple polling engines, and additional web servers. The system's capabilities can be extended by means of NetFlow traffic analysis, plus the monitoring of VoIP performance, wireless devices, applications, and servers.

Orion allows the status of thousands of nodes and interfaces to be viewed from a single web interface, allowing network performance and availability issues to be quickly identified, including VoIP performance statistics such as the Mean Opinion Score (MOS), jitter, network latency and packet loss (see Figure 1).

The system's performance management capabilities provide extensive alerts and graphical outputs for any IP Service Level Agreement (SLA)-based data measure (see Figure 2), including details on Cisco CallManager operation (see Figure 3).

The Orion VoIP Monitor lets users measure and track the performance of voice quality across WANs. Leveraging Cisco IP SLAs, VoIP Monitor collects and analyzes performance statistics including MOS, jitter, network latency, packet loss, and other important quality-of-service (QoS) metrics. These features let users proactively find the root cause of VoIP performance degradation as well as measure expected voice quality in advance of VoIP deployments. Alerts can be created, notifying users of performance degradation on the VoIP network, triggering notification when thresholds are violated—including parameters that are outside of what is considered acceptable performance for a given WAN link—thus speeding the process of troubleshooting and problem resolution.

Further details on the Solar Winds architecture and products can be found at http://www.solarwinds.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors' network management architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2008 DigiNet Corporation ®, All Rights Reserved


Author's Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E., is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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