Ready for VoIP: Network Management Architectures: SolarWinds

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.

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