Review of Orion NPM (Network Performance Monitor)

Review of SolarWinds Orion NPM v10.2Review of Solarwinds Orion NPM v10

Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is what I call the ‘big tackle’.  Big in its power to zoom into network trouble spots, and big in the comprehensive range of checks that it manages.  If you are reviewing performance monitors, then download a free trial of Orion NPM v10.2

Topics for SolarWinds Orion NPM v10.2

Review of SolarWinds Orion NPM v10.2Review of Solarwinds Orion NPM v10

Orion NPM is geared to detecting network outages caused by broken links and faulty equipment.  Because it produces network-centric views, it’s intuitive to navigate and easy to see what’s working and what’s not.  Perhaps Orion’s best feature is the way it suggests solutions.  Moreover, if problems arise out of the blue, then you can configure Orion to notify members of your team what’s changed and how to fix it.

Please note: Orion NPM is not easy to setup for a network beginner.  However, even a minor network expert will have no trouble installing Orion, and there again you can always get support from SolarWinds’ experts starting with the Thwack forum.

Once the Orion NPM v10.2 setup is complete then it’s time to enjoy the monitoring.  I should not say this, but the greatest fun for a techie is when something is wrong, but you can fix it easily.  With Orion NPM you start with a top-level network map and drill down through the red dots to discover more about the symptoms.  The cause of the outage could be a broken physical link, a server that’s offline, or an application on a server that’s run out of resources.  Try it now!

A free trial download of Orion NPM v10.2

Download Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor 

Possible Problems that Orion NPM DetectsReview of Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

By using Orion NPM you will avoid amateur mistakes such as blaming the network for latency problems, when it’s really an application on a server that is underlying cause.  On a big network a sub-contractor may have changed a router at a distant site, or they patched a server, only for the upgrade to cause a new far-reaching glitch.  Orion will help you detect and cure such problems.

Perhaps your company wiz-kid introduced a new VoIP or wireless network, but did not realize the consequences for the rest of the corporate network?  Again Orion NPM will soon troubleshoot the root cause, and more than likely suggest solutions.

Often the most frustrating problems are those that appear only sporadically.  For these annoying intermittent challenges Orion has an analyzer with retrospective network-analysis capabilities.  This historical data enables you to quickly isolate and resolve the irregular network problem.

Summary: Orion NPM will find the worst performing device on your network.

Orion NPM Tactics

NPM Top 10 Lists
No performance monitor appraisal could be complete without mention of the top ten lists.  In fact, I find it mesmerising to observe how the nodes change position and move in and out of the top 10. My favourite category is response time, but you can also keep watch on:

  • Response Time (see screenshot right)
  • Wireless Clients by Traffic
  • Wireless APs by Client Count
  • Capacity utilization
  • Memory usage
  • CPU load
  • Disk space volume
  • Network traffic and Packet Loss

I really enjoy customizing the lists so that Orion monitors in just the way that I want.

Drill Downs
It soon becomes second nature to double click on the network maps and drill down through the site level to the server.  From there you can even examine the resource usage of individual devices.  However, you are newbie, this ability to locate problems is awesome and it feels like being at NASA’s mission control in Houston Texas. 

The Underlying Polling Technology
SolarWinds Orion NPM ships with a MIB database that covers all common network devices.  However, if you do have a non-standard Orion NPM allows you to create a custom poller to monitor any SNMP-enabled device value that has a MIB.  As with so many of Orion's features, you can also adjust how the module collects and reports on the data.

For those with wireless networks, version 10 now has an integrated Wireless Poller. And for those with VMware, Orion NPM reads host MIB information from each VMware ESX server and its corresponding virtual machines.

Role-based Access Control
Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) allows you to fine-tune who sees what information.  Typically, at HQ you want to see everything, but perhaps you want the team at the Boston site to see only their own servers, and not start interfering with the New York operations.  See also my review of Orion APM (Application Network Monitor).

It would probably be over-playing your hand to say to your MD that energy savings will pay for Orion NPM, but nevertheless, controlling the energy consumption of Cisco EnergyWise-enabled network devices will reduce costs, and could be a clincher in persuading the financial director to buy Orion.  For the techie it’s just an interesting and worthwhile challenge to reduce energy consumption and keep the server rooms cooler. Free trial download of SolarWinds Orion NPM v10.2

Time to Create Baselines

Creating baselines of network activity is a good litmus tests of a well run company.  Thus, one unexpected side-effect of using Orion NPM is that the techies could have more time on their hands!  As a manager you can take advantage by commissioning them to show you baseline charts.  The trouble with fire-fighting is that you are never quite sure what is normal.  By having a ‘feel’ for the network backed up by stats for off-peak usage, you can soon pin-point abnormalities.  As a result you can either prevent latency problems, or else cure them quickly before the users realize there is something not quite right.

To support this pro-active approach to network management Orion provides reports which are both comprehensive and interesting for the techie.  One common side-effect of baseline analysis is that ideas for improvements leap out of the charts, for example, load-balancing servers – one of my favourite ‘cost nothing’ tactics.

SolarWinds Orion NPM Video


Download Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor

Log & Event Manager (LEM)

If you are more interested in an application that can provide automatic reaction to events, then check-out another of SolarWinds’ apps namely the Log & Event Manager.  In addition to analyzing logs from routers, anti-virus software and Windows logs on the servers, LEM can also help you achieve IT compliance.  See more on the SolarWinds LEM

System Requirements for Orion NPM v10.2

  • Operating Systems for Orion: Windows 2003 or 2008 Server, including R2 (32-bit or 64-bit). 
    Please note, that you also need to install IIS and .NET Framework 3.5
  • Resources: CPU Speed: 3.0 GHz; Hard Drive Space: 30 GB; Memory: 4 GB
  • Database: SQL Server 2005 SP1, or SQL Server 2008 (Express, Standard, or Enterprise)
  • Get your free trial download of SolarWinds Orion NPM v10.2

Download Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor

Summary of SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Monitor Review

Orion NPM is ideal for discovering network trouble spots.  When I tried the NPM I was surprised how much there was to learn about network technologies, fortunately the SolarWinds performance monitor helped me understand an appreciate how devices communicate.

More Free and Trial Network Software

Here are Guy’s evaluations, recommendations and download links for handy utilities.

 • SolarWinds SAM Review  • NPM Demo  • NCM Review  • Config Generator  • LANsurveyor Review

 • Free Network Traffic Analyzer   • Review Kiwi Syslog Analyzer  • Bandwidth Analyzer Pack

 • SolarWinds Application Performance Pack  � Network Engineers Toolset  • SolarWinds WMI Tool