Entry-level tool; starting to show its age (not in a good way)
Greg Richards | TrustRadius Reviewer
August 15, 2018

Entry-level tool; starting to show its age (not in a good way)

Score 5 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

We are currently using SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) to provide enterprise-wide monitoring across a physical campus location in Irvine, Satellite WAN locations (MPLS) and Meraki managed sites. We also utilize NPM in conjunction with Netflow and Voice Network Quality Manager (VNQM) to get a complete picture of our entire Enterprise infrastructure.

It address the strong need for a stable and quick network for our Enterprise Services (Proprietary applications created to service Glidewell needs).
  • Summarized network statistics in easy to use out-of-the-box graphs
  • Quick and very pretty presentation-quality graph via "PerfStack". A quick-fire comparison graph solution provided only with SolarWinds products.
  • Most tools are pre-scripted and work well in most environments. Easier for entry-level positions to learn. No learning to script needed to start.
  • Since it summarizes most of the details, it lacks any real-time functionality. If a user complains of network slowness, you'll have to use either a separate tool to drill down in real time after the fact and hope it replicates or if the network issues are quick and intermittent, it will be missed by SW unless you have super aggressive and almost unrealistic polling times (sub-minute) for the SolarWinds platform, particularly the polling engine
  • Frequent crashes related to the Orion Platform.
  • Some features are released without optimization or cause severe platform issues and ultimately end up being disabled until patched later.
  • Updates tend to be on the slow side when it comes to APIs for new technology. Examples: Meraki, Nexus OS(SD-WAN), etc.
NetPath is expensive, but, improved TraceRoute with visualizations. It is only really useful in very specific situations where you know EXACTLY where to look and just need a tool to watch the routes for an extended period. It doesn't feed back to the larger platform as a whole, requires a deployment of a "sensor" and costs licensing to utilize.

We've used to try and troubleshoot issues with users in Costa Rica complaining about slowness with accessing some applications we run from AWS ECS (web-based platform). We did not find any new information outside of what we already knew from NPM tool.
We have not. Most of these issues are blatant enough that they have noticeable issues the exact moment they hit. Most of the "insight" is useless statistical data that only really network engineers who are infatuated with numbers care about. We have only really used NPM for hard up/down situations and only provided analysis when coupled with NetFlow data.
The canned alerts are pretty awesome. They get the job done. The canned alert actions are also awesome, no scripting required.

We do have some difficulty in understanding the naming conventions of the statistics that SolarWinds gathers. A lot of times, it requires a lot of Googling and even then we don't fully understand what a metric is trying to say or there are a few similarly named metrics with different numbers, it can be difficult to figure out which is the right one (even for our much more seasoned analysts and engineers)
  • It has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars by avoiding production outage by simply providing an overview of our network and narrowing the extent of issues. To be fair though, this value add can be provided by simply having any network solution. It just happened to be we chose SW NPM.
We inherited NPM from our Network Engineers, we then evaluated other providers after the software lifecycle of two years came up. SolarWinds only made it because of price. It was by far the cheapest, so cheap that the far superior products, even with all the improvements could not compete with our limited budget. We needed a monolithic tool under 50k a year in maintenance. All the combined Orion Platform tools for us, cost less than 25k a year. (SAM, NPM, NetFlow, VNQM, WPM, Extra Web Server)
Meraki support was released, but, most the important functionality provided from the API did not work. Two patches later it's finally "fixed"

VoIP data only accessible through a separate module, most other networking monitoring providers have it included. Even at that, the separate module is half-baked. Most of the information is not useful and is just an expensive archive of said data.

SolarWinds NPM Feature Ratings

Automated network device discovery
4
Network monitoring
5
Baseline threshold calculation
4
Alerts
8
Network capacity planning
7
Packet capture analysis
1
Network mapping
3
Customizable reports
7
Wireless infrastructure monitoring
4
Hardware health monitoring
6

Feature Questions

It's easy to use at first. But, when you would either like to go technical OR trying to add a custom monitor the ease of use goes out the door and requires a lot of time to learn its SDK / Back-end tools.

Way too much emphasis on user to user support via their Thwack site. Skimping on support cost much? It's slightly disheartening to get better support from other customers then from the "success center" or calling support. Really hurts the ease of use for the product, because its fine until things don't work out of the box, then it gets frustratingly difficult.
  • Providing enterprise-wide metrics for aggregate network utilization
  • Single-pane of glass, ease of use.
  • Low ceiling for entry; does not require engineer level knowledge to use.
  • It's cheap, gets the basic job done, but, lacks in new features or new device type support
  • Price
  • Existing Relationship with the Vendor
Price only. It was the saving grace for SolarWinds on our last software review. Barely.