A while back, I wrote a series of articles on using PowerShell to create a decent monitoring system . It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and costs nothing but time and effort to implement. If your needs continue to grow you’ll be left with two choices: continue to pound out code to expand functionality, or purchase a commercial solution.

Once you’ve reached the time wall and have decided to invest in a commercial monitoring application, the question becomes, which one should you get? In my career as a consultant and IT employee, I’ve setup and worked with countless monitoring solutions, Altiris, Nagios, System Center, BladeLogic, GFI, Spiceworks, Appdynamics, and Cacti just to name a few. One option that never lets me down is Solarwind’s Orion platform.

Solarwinds has been a player in IT for quite some time. Their Network Performance Monitor frequently makes the “best of” lists. I’ve run into their Web Help Desk ticketing and change management application at multiple companies including my current employer. They may be best known in computer worker circles for their free IT tools like Network Device Monitor and Kiwi Syslog Server. Not everyone is aware that they also make a full enterprise monitoring platform.

Monitoring Funnel

Orion is a platform in the true sense of the word. Modules that you choose plug in to Orion to add functionality. For example, the Network Performance Monitor collects netflow and SNMP data from your switches and routers and adds that information to your Orion databases. The Server Application Monitor uses SNMP, WMI, or an agent to collect data from almost all operating systems and countless applications. Modules also typically include dashboard widgets, reports, alerts, and other useful items that allow you to better utilize the collected data.

I use NPM and SAM at my current employer everyday to monitor and manage our sprawling network. Network equipment, Windows severs, Linux servers, countless SQL databases, Exchange, AD, and even their AS\400 servers are all covered by the platform. Much like golf, it takes a few hours to get the basics (install / discover) and a lifetime to master. The amount of customization Orion offers can be overwhelming but once you get your feet wet, you can accomplish some truly impressive feats. Watch for more articles on Solarwinds Orion in the near future. We’ll be talking about creating custom dashboards, alerts, reports, and more.