Review of SolarWinds AppStack

Review of SolarWinds 4-in-1 Product AppStackReview of Solarwinds AppStack

SolarWinds AppStack is a bundle of the following four products that examine the Application Stack:

  1. Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
  2. Virtualization Manager (VM)
  3. Storage Resource Monitor (SRM)
  4. Web Performance Monitor (WPM)

What helped me to understand the AppStack concept was mulling over each of these three words: Converged System Monitoring.  The rationale behind AppStack is to make connections between the metadata that SolarWinds collects from servers, virtualization storage, web transactions, and applications; it then display these relationships in a dashboard.  In this way you can achieve end-to-end management, even for virtual machines.

Evaluate Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor

Topics for SolarWinds AppStack

Application to Infrastructure Mapping

The Server and Application Monitor (1)
SAM is probably the most important component of AppStack, what it does is check the overall health not only of your apps, but also the server hardware.  Thus AppStack gives you the ability to study the relationship between any application and its underlying infrastructure. 

As a result, you can troubleshoot a problem by drilling down into its performance statistics.  Furthermore, within the SAM user interface you could solve a problem, for example, kill a process, or restart a service.  The dashboard also allows more drastic action such as rebooting a server, or suspending a virtual machine.

Control Virtual MachinesReview of Solarwinds AppStack (2)
One of the downsides of virtualization is that it can create bottlenecks; thanks to Virtualization Manager you can troubleshoot resource contention and see where relationships are changing. 

With the AppStack dashboard in Virtualization manager you can automatically see all the relationships between VMs, hosts, clusters and datastores/CSVs no matter how many times a VM has been vMotioned. When include with the other AppStack enabled products you can see those relationships up to the application and down into the storage layer.

When you find a problem you can also start, stop or restart a VM if you think that would cure the problem.

Another benefit of Virtualization Manager is that you can control the sprawl of virtual machines by deleting those VMs that are no longer needed.

Storage Resource Monitor (3)
Here is another of the four main components of AppStack;

Storage Resource Monitor provides storage performance and capacity monitoring for heterogeneous SAN and NAS environments. In the AppStack dashboard, it provides visibility to LUNs, NAS volumes, pools, vServers and storage arrays (disks). Moreover, Storage Resource Monitor displays storage data from EMC, NetApp, Dell, and many other vendors.

Monitor End-user Experience
Should your workforce complain of web pages loading slowly, then the Web Performance Monitor component (4) can show the end-user experience. As a result, you can detect whether the problem is caused by large images, too many cascading style sheets, or some other html factor.  Web Performance Monitor will add visibility to those transactions and steps in the AppStack dashboard.

Customize the Dashboard – Add FiltersReview of Solarwinds AppStack

A side-effect from simply exploring the AppStack dashboard is that you can experiment with filters that customize the views; then when your return next time APPLY FILTER makes it easier to find the information you are looking for. Incidentally, this GUI is consistent across SolarWinds Orion products such as NPM and SAM.

Studying the performance metrics of my servers and their apps gives me a good grasp of their range during normal operations, thus it's easier to spot a rogue setting when I am troubleshooting.

Which Applications Does AppStack Support?

In a nutshell, I couldn't think of an application that AppStack DID NOT support.

These are just examples, SolarWinds' full list contains over 200 vendors:

  • Cisco and Citrix apps
  • Oracle and IBM databases (SQL naturally)
  • Exchange, Lotus and Blackberry messaging. 
  • Linux, UNIX and Windows operating systems.
  • Hyper-V and VMware hypervisors.
  • Apache and IIS web servers.
  • MacAfee, Kaspersky and Symantec backup and security apps.

Remember, you can always get support for AppStack from experts at SolarWinds' Thwack forum.

Evaluate Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor 

SolarWinds AppStack Video

Here is a good way to see how the product maps application relationship:

How AppStack Works Under the Bonnet

Firstly, remember that AppStack is not a new product but a new capability in each of the products. What it does is provide a very easy to use, visual understanding of the performance and relationship data that Server and Application Monitor, Storage Resource Monitor, Virtualization Manager and Web Performance Monitor collect and store in the common Orion platform that they are all built on.

This data is maintained by the Information Service which exposes a set of APIs (SOAP and Restful) to allow easy access to this information.

The following diagram explains how the metadata model is extended and populated by the different products installed on top of Orion.  As a result Server & Application Monitor does not need to know about the Virtualization Product in order for the Application entity to be related to the Virtual Machine entity.

One of the key enablers of AppStack is the information model that is being maintained by the Orion platform. In the background, Orion maintains a very rich representation of how the entities monitored by the various products relate to each other.

Review of Solarwinds AppStack

One of the key enablers of AppStack is the information model that is being maintained by the Orion platform. In the background, Orion maintains a very rich representation of how the entities monitored by the various products relate to each other.

System Requirements for SolarWinds AppStack

  • Operating Systems for Orion: Windows Server 2012 64-bit. 
    Please note, that you also need to install IIS and .NET Framework 3.5 (4.0 would be better).
  • Resources: CPU Speed: 3.0 GHz; 2 x 146GB 15K (RAID 1/mirrored settings); Memory: 32 GB
  • Database: SQL Server 2004 or later.

Thwack Forum

SolarWinds provide a rich source of advice on AppStack on their Thwack forum.  See their holistic approach to monitoring, try for yourself to list all the elements in your applications chain of connectivity – then see how AppStack can help monitor those connections.

 A Geek's Guide to Appstack.

Summary: Review of SolarWinds AppStack

At first I thought that this SolarWinds product was called App Pack, but then I realised that AppStack is a bundle of these four products for Application Stack.

  1. Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
  2. Virtualization Manager
  3. Storage Resource Monitor
  4. Web Performance Monitor

The secret of AppStack's is its ability to analyze metadata obtained from your network and then display in a console the relationship between servers, databases, applications, including those on virtual machines. 

Download Solarwinds Network Performance Monitor

Full Reviews of the SolarWinds Licensed Family of Applications

Here are Guy’s comprehensive evaluations, comments and recommendations for SolarWinds licensed products.  Each application offers a 30 day trial of a fully functional program, so check out the download links provided.

Review of SolarWinds NPM   • SolarWinds SAM Review (Apps)   • AppInsight for Exchange

SolarWinds NCM (Configuration)   • Web Performance Monitor  • Performance Monitor

User Device Tracker    • Application Monitor  • Orion SLA Monitor  • SolarWinds IPAM 4   • Home