Working with Orion

Posted 2010-03-26 Print this article Print


Working with Orion  

Orion's intuitive console is powered by Ajax and is accessed via a Web browser. By leveraging Ajax, SolarWinds is able to offer a robust user experience that rivals other products that rely on a traditional desktop application to function. The management engine gathers information using polling technology that relies on an MIB (Management Information Base).

SolarWinds' MIB includes most every network device, helping to make communications with the various devices on the network straightforward. For network devices that fall outside the MIB, administrators can create a custom integration scheme using SNMP. That way, nonstandard devices can be polled and monitored as well.

Although much of the integration capabilities and polling functions are important to how well the product works, administrators can ignore those capabilities once Orion is configured. Administrators will spend most of their time on the home page of the management console, and that is where all the action takes place. The network summary screen of the management console gives a good 10,000-foot view of the network, and, with a glance, most administrators can judge how well the overall network is performing.

The real power of the product comes from the ability to drill down into a location, the devices located there, and the configurations and settings associated with those devices. That can reduce the weekly management load by several hours because administrators can point and click on a network to determine how a particular element is functioning and then drill down into that component–all without having to play detective, capture packets or run a particular vendor's management product. Quick and simple seems to be the name of the game here.

Of course, larger networks usually have multiple administrators responsible for different geographical areas. Here, Orion NPM helps keep things further under control by allowing senior administrators to create roles that limit what can be accessed by support staff. In other words, an administrator assigned to the home office (or headquarters) can have full access to the network, while an administrator located at a remote site may only have access to a specific section of the network or a single site. The product's roles-based administration controls access to many of the product's features, and they can be used to limit users to certain screens or reports, allowing granular control that can be applied to each defined user.

Although some networks are supported by a staff 24/7, most others rely on a more traditional level of support, consisting of the 40-hour work week. In those situations, Orion can be set up to forward alerts to notify those responsible for on-call troubleshooting.

Perhaps, the first place to start with Orion NPM is to create some baseline information, once the product is completely set up and has access to the various pieces of network hardware. Ideally, a baseline can be used as a reference point to judge increases or decreases in network performance. The product's powerful reporting tools further help administrators identify problems, especially when used to compare historical performance to baselines.

 One of the most difficult issues administrators face is resolving intermittent problems that seem to creep up with no rhyme or reason. These problems can usually be attributed to unauthorized changes to network hardware, or the addition of new components or flaky equipment. However, efforts to find their root cause can be fruitless.

Orion NPM is a valuable tool in those cases. Administrators can use the included tools and triggers to track when a problem happens and then drill down to the cause of the problem-perhaps finding that the problem is related to a high-traffic backup process or even a chatty NIC (network interface card) on a server that is used only occasionally. Orion NPM eliminates the trial-and-error approach to network troubleshooting, perhaps saving hundreds of hours a year.


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