TL;DR summary: Before finalizing on a million-dollar network monitoring solution, be sure to consider and trial at least a few smaller vendors, new comers and open-source solutions. You may be surprised at their breadth, capability and value. And no, Solarwinds did not pay me to write this blog post! :p

10+ years ago, Solarwinds had a bad reputation for not scaling, being slow, buggy, etc. In the last 7-8 years, it has really transformed, and is a different company, with product portfolio that offers amazing value on several fronts.

Having worked very closely with CA Spectrum/eHealth, Riverbed/OPNet SteelCentral, Nimsoft (purchased by CA), IBM Tivoli ITNM, HP BTO/OpenView, Cacti (open source), Observium/Libre NMS (open source), Zenoss (open source), WhatsUpGold, InterMapper, Cisco DCNM, Cisco Prime/Works and Solarwinds in the last decade, I continue to stay impressed with the usability, feature-set, price-point and scalability offered by Solarwinds products compared to it’s competitors.

solarwinds
Source: http://oriondemo.solarwinds.com/

Generally, with Solarwinds, you get 80-90% of the feature of the big vendors (which literally end up costing around $1 million or even more), but at 1/10 to 1/20th of the cost compared to the bigger vendors. It takes days to setup vs the big vendors which takes weeks or months.

Solarwinds fills in 80-90% of the other products gaps, in one single-pane-of-glass, with promise of pretty good scalability (most organizations are certainly no Amazon, Google or Facebook), at literally 1/10th to 1/20th of the price point. With most of the big vendors, you have to use a combination of Web, Java and thick apps to see all the same information – requiring a messy mixture of credentials, user rights, Java versions, protocols/flows, VMs, jump servers, etc.

And if you have any doubts about any of its features, you can always, usually with very little effort (compared to the big guys), do a demo yourself in your environments, or checkout their live online demo: http://oriondemo.solarwinds.com/Orion/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f (this is something ALL vendors should offer).

  • Solarwinds single-pane-of-glass access to all aspects of monitoring is decidedly better than the big vendors.
  • Solarwinds network configuration management is better or equal to most of the big vendors.
  • Solarwinds alerting engine is better than or equal to the big vendors.
  • Solarwinds new NetPath product is probably NOT better than some of it’s competitors, but, offers most of the major features at a fraction of the cost.
  • Solarwinds does 80-90% of the same stuff as the big vendors, at 1/10th to 1/20th of the cost, and probably about 1/10th of the effort as well. Ease of use, administration, upgrades, etc. is one of it’s most important selling features. Be up and running in hours or days!

I am not saying Solarwinds does everything that CA, ITNM, SteelCentral, HP OpenView or the others big vendors do, but, when you can get 80-90% of the same functionality, in a single-pane-of-glass, with better usability, simpler deployment, with significantly less effort, and 1/10th to 1/20th of the cost, then the case for the few additional features that the million dollar solutions offer becomes very bleak.

Again, check out the Solarwinds demo, and you’ll see what I mean

There are many great open-source options in the market as well, such as Observium/LibreNMS, Zenoss, Cacti, Nagios, GrayLog, etc. that also offer many of the same advantages as Solarwinds, but much lower cost than the big guys (assuming you buy support). These, and other solutions should all be considered in detail when deploying or lifecycling network monitoring system.

Network Monitoring and Application Monitoring world is VERY crowded and VERY competitive, which has resulted in a number of great products and innovations, which has further resulted in the big vendors lagging behind. I continue to stay disappointed with multi-million dollar solutions from the big vendors, with poor usability, dated features, poorly implemented features, lack of customizability, and other factors, something which could be achieved literally for $50-150k with Solarwinds, even for very large enterprises, and with much better results. Some of the big vendors’ products still look like they were made for Window 98. Many other components are similarly far behind competitors.

Here is an interesting chart on Wikipedia comparing several different NMSs.

I highly welcome further discussion. Please comment with your take on some of the different NMSs and state of network monitoring in general.

Note: This short analysis excludes packet capture/application troubleshooting products like Riverbed ARX (which I love, as mentioned in one of my previous blog posts), Riverbed NetProfiler, NetScout nGenius, etc. These products on their own offer amazing value are and great products – and unlike other core NMS products mentioned above, are probably amongst the best in the market.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation with Solarwinds, or any of the other vendors mentioned above. I am simply an end-user comparing the mentioned products based on first-hand experience.

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