About this book

As a network or system administrator, your primary responsibility is to ensure high availability of all managed IT services. There are a number of monitoring tools available; but these can be complicated and expensive, and may only monitor certain areas of your network. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is an intuitive, all-encompassing, yet cost effective, enterprise-level network monitoring service.

A concise and practical, hands-on guide that will teach you how utilize SolarWinds SAM. It provides step-by-step tutorials to walk you through every feature, while teaching you how to tailor the product to your own network environment.

This book will guide you through equipping your network devices and servers for SolarWinds SAM utilization. It will provide a sequential, hands-on overview of the product, and is suited for networks of all sizes, ranging from small businesses to larger enterprises.

You will learn how to populate SolarWinds SAM with nodes, then classify and group nodes to tailor the product to your network environment. By doing so, you will benefit from key features such as automated alerts, traps, and reports. Each feature is explained in a practical and useful manner via tutorials and real-world examples to help you start monitoring your network quickly and efficiently, while keeping security implications in mind by applying enterprise-level best practices.

Publication date:
November 2013
Publisher
Packt
Pages
116
ISBN
9781783551019

 

Chapter 1. Deployment Strategy

A deployment strategy is the most comprehensive approach before introducing a network monitoring service to your environment. The deployment strategy for SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) should identify what should be monitored, then prepare servers, devices, and applications (nodes) to be imported into SolarWinds SAM.

Procedures in this chapter are not required pre-deployment, as it is possible after deployment to populate SolarWinds SAM with nodes; however, it is recommended. Even after deployment, you should still enable and configure advanced monitoring services on your vital nodes.

SolarWinds SAM uses three types of protocols to poll management data:

  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP): This is the most common network management service protocol. To utilize it, SNMP must be enabled and an SNMP community string must be assigned on the server, device, or application. The community string is essentially a password that is sent between a node and SolarWinds SAM. Once the community string is set and assigned, the node is permitted to expose management data to SolarWinds SAM, in the form of variables. Currently, there are three versions of SNMP: v1, v2c, and v3.

    Note

    SolarWinds SAM uses SNMPv2c by default. To poll using SNMPv1, you must disable SNMPv2c on the device. Similarly, to poll using SNMPv3, you must configure your devices and SolarWinds SAM accordingly. We will be using SNMPv2c in all procedures referenced in this book.

  • Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI): This has added functionality by incorporating Windows specific communications and security features. WMI comes preinstalled on Windows by default but is not automatically enabled and configured. WMI is not exclusive to Windows server platforms; it comes installed on all modern Microsoft operating systems, and can also be used to poll desktop operating systems, such as Windows 7.

  • Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP): This is the most basic of the three; it simply sends echo requests (pings) to a server or device for status, response time, and packet loss. SolarWinds SAM uses ICMP in conjunction with SNMP and WMI. Nodes can be configured to poll with ICMP exclusively, but you miss out on CPU, memory, and volume data. Some devices can only be polled with ICMP, although in most instances you will rarely use ICMP exclusively.

    Tip

    Trying to decide between SNMP and WMI?

    SNMP is more standardized and provides data that you may not be able to poll with WMI, such as interface information. In addition, polling a single WMI-enabled node uses roughly five times the resources required to poll the same node with SNMP.

This chapter will explain how to prepare for SolarWinds SAM deployment, by enabling and configuring network management services and protocols on:

  • Windows servers

  • VMware hosts

  • Common network devices

Note

In this chapter and throughout the book we will reference service accounts. A service account is an account created to handoff credentials to SolarWinds SAM. Service accounts are a best practice primarily for security reasons, but also to ensure that user accounts do not become locked out.

 

Enabling and configuring SNMP on Windows


Procedures listed in this section will explain how to enable SNMP and then assign a community string, on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Note

All Windows server-related procedures in this book are performed on Windows Server 2008 R2. Procedures vary slightly in other supported versions.

Installing an SNMP service on Windows

This procedure explains how to install the SNMP service on Windows Server 2008 R2.

  1. Log in to a Windows server.

  2. Navigate to Start Menu | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Server Manager.

    Tip

    In order to see Administrative Tools in the Control Panel, you may need to select View by: Small Icons or Large Icons.

  3. Select Features and click on Add Features.

  4. Check SNMP Services, then click on Next and Install.

  5. Click on Close.

Assigning an SNMP community string on Windows

This procedure explains how to assign a community string on Windows 2008 R2, and ensure that the SNMP service is configured to run automatically on start up.

  1. Log in to a Windows server.

  2. Navigate to Start Menu | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services.

  3. Double-click on SNMP Service.

  4. On the General tab, select Automatic under Startup type.

  5. Select the Agent tab and ensure Physical, Applications, Internet, and End-to-end are all checked under the Service area.

  6. Optionally, enter a Contact person and system Location.

  7. Select the Security tab and click on the Add button under Accepted community names.

  8. Enter a Community Name and click on the Add button. For example, we used S4MS3rv3r. We recommend using something secure, as this is a password.

    Note

    Community String and Community Name mean the same thing.

    Tip

    READ ONLY community rights will normally suffice. A detailed explanation of community rights can be found on the author's blog: http://justinmbrant.blogspot.com/

  9. Next, tick the Accept SNMP packets from these hosts radio button.

  10. Click on the Add button underneath the radio buttons and add the IP of the server you have designated as the SolarWinds SAM host.

  11. Once you complete these steps, the SNMP Service Properties Security tab should look something like the following screenshot. Notice that we used 192.168.1.3, as that is the IP of the server where we plan to deploy SolarWinds SAM.

 

Enabling and configuring WMI on Windows


Procedures in this section will ensure accessibility to WMI information by first enabling the service, followed by an outline of the creation process for a WMI service account.

Enabling a WMI service on Windows

The following steps will ensure that the WMI service is always running:

  1. Log in to a Windows server or desktop.

  2. Navigate to Start Menu | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services.

  3. Check to see if the Windows Management Instrumentation service is running.

  4. If it is not running, right-click on the Windows Management Instrumentation service and select Properties.

  5. On the General tab, select Automatic under Startup type.

  6. If necessary, click on the Start button, to start the service.

  7. Click on OK.

Creating an Active Directory service account for WMI

This procedure explains how to create an Active Directory (AD) user account, to act as a service account; used for SolarWinds SAM to poll your devices via WMI. These credentials will be used during and after SolarWinds SAM deployment.

  1. Log in to a Domain Controller (DC) and launch AD.

  2. Navigate to Start Menu | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Active Directory Users and Computers.

  3. Click on the Users container, or a container of your choice.

    Tip

    To enhance our control and visibility over service accounts, we chose to use a container named Managed Service Accounts. This is optional.

  4. Navigate to Actions | New | User.

  5. Choose a User logon name. For example, we used SAMWMI.

  6. Click on Next.

  7. Choose a secure password.

    • It is convenient to select Password never expires.

      Tip

      It can be troublesome if a service account's password expires. If you choose for the password to expire, then we recommend setting up a calendar reminder to notify you when the service account password is nearing expiration, and then make the necessary adjustments to the account and to SolarWinds SAM.

    • This service account will have domain administrator privileges; make sure the password is very secure.

  8. Click on Finish.

  9. Double-click on the new user.

  10. Select the Member Of tab.

  11. Click on the Add button.

  12. Type Domain Admins and click on the Check Names button. As shown in the following screenshot, if successful, Domain Admins will now be underlined.

  13. Click on OK to save and close the Select Groups window.

  14. Click on OK to save and close the Properties window.

    Tip

    We do not recommend using your own domain admin account, or any user account, for WMI authentication. Security is the primary reason. Your account may also become locked out due to failed password attempts, or your password may need to be changed, consequently breaking the SolarWinds WMI polling functionality.

This procedure is the easiest approach to quickly begin utilizing WMI for polling purposes.

Once you have worked your way through this book, and have SolarWinds SAM configured to your liking, we recommend that you research and implement one of the more complex (secure) methods.

Note

Procedures for creating an unprivileged WMI service account are referenced on the author's blog: http://justinmbrant.blogspot.com/

 

VMware host monitoring prerequisites


This section discusses configuring your Virtual Machine Hosts (VMHost) for SolarWinds SAM integration. Procedures will outline how to enable Secure Shell (SSH) and SNMP on a VMHost, and then walk through the creation process of a VMware service account.

Tip

Ideally, you should also monitor each virtual server within a VMHost via SNMP or WMI. VMware Tools should be installed on all virtual servers. Note that the free version of VMware ESXi does not support SNMP.

Enabling and configuring SNMP

There are a variety of ways to enable and configure SNMP on a VMHost. We will explain two methods, which should cover most VMHost types and versions. The first method only applies to VMware ESXi 5.1 and explains how to remotely enable SNMP via SSH. The second method involves logging in to the VMHost console itself, and should translate well to most versions.

Method 1 – enabling and configuring SNMP via Secure Shell

There are two parts to this method; first we will enable SSH on the VMHost, and then use PuTTY to connect to the host and edit its snmp.xml file.

Note

PuTTY is a free open source terminal emulator that supports network protocols, such as SSH, SCP, Telnet, and rlogin. We will be using SSH in this procedure. Download PuTTY from the following URL: http://www.putty.org/

Part 1 of 2 – enabling SSH on ESXi 5.1 using vSphere

The following steps explain how to enable SSH and open the firewall to allow SSH connections.

Tip

We recommend only temporarily enabling SSH access, for security reasons.

  1. Launch the vSphere Client and log in with administrator credentials, such as root.

  2. Click on the Inventory icon in the Inventory panel.

  3. In the left panel, select the host.

  4. Click on the Configuration tab.

  5. Click on Security Profile in the Software panel.

  6. Click on Properties in the Services section.

  7. Select SSH in the Service Properties window.

  8. Click on the Options button and select one of the following:

    • Start and stop manually: This enables temporary SSH access.

    • Start and stop with host: This enables SSH indefinitely. There are security implications to consider when enabling this feature.

  9. Click on Start to enable the service.

  10. Click on OK at the SSH Options window and the Service Properties window.

  11. While still on the Configuration tab, select Properties in the Firewall section.

  12. Check the box under Required Services | Secure Shell | SSH Server.

  13. With SSH Server still selected, click on the Firewall button.

  14. Select Allow connections from any IP address radio button and click on OK.

  15. Click on OK at the Firewall Properties window.

Part 2 of 2 – enabling and configuring SNMP using PuTTY

The following steps explains how to use PuTTY to connect to the host and edit its snmp.xml file.

  1. Run putty.exe.

    Note

    The author assumes that the reader is familiar with PuTTY. A detailed tutorial for its use is beyond the scope of this book. For a PuTTY tutorial, visit the author's blog at http://justinmbrant.blogspot.com/.

  2. Connect to your VMHost. A command line window will appear.

  3. Enter your root login credentials.

  4. Click on Yes if you see a PuTTY Security Alert.

  5. Navigate to the VMware folder:

    ~ # cd /etc/vmware
    /etc/vmware #
    
  6. List folder contents to ensure snmp.xml is available:

    /etc/VMware/ # ls
    
  7. Edit snmp.xml using vi editor:

    /etc/VMware # vi snmp.xml
    
  8. You will see a single line; press I to enter the edit mode and use the arrow keys to navigate.

  9. Enable SNMP by changing false to true between <enable> and </enable>.

  10. Assign the community string by entering one between <communities> and </communities>. For example, we used S4MVMH0st!

  11. Press Esc and type :wq to save and quit. If you made a mistake, type :q! to quit without saving, and repeat steps 6 through 12.

  12. Restart the host daemon:

    /etc /VMware/ # cd
    ~ # /etc/init.d/hostd restart
    watchdog-hostd: Terminating watchdog process with PID 201623
    hostd stopped.
    hostd started.
    

    Tip

    After successfully enabling and configuring SNMP on a VMHost, you should go back and disable SSH, then close the firewall to disallow SSH access.

Method 2 – enabling SNMP on ESXi 5.1 or prior via the console

This method explains how to enable SNMP via the VMware ESXi console, by directly logging in to the VMHost server.

  1. Go to the ESXi console on the server itself, that is, not remote.

  2. Press Alt + F1 to access the hidden console.

  3. If using ESXi 5.1, then skip to step 6.

  4. If using versions prior to ESXi 5.1 then type unsupported in the hidden console and press Enter.

    Note

    You will not see any text you as you type the password.

  5. You will see Tech Support Mode warning.

  6. Type the root Login Credentials.

  7. Now follow steps 6 to 12 outlined in the Part 2 of 2 – enabling and configuring SNMP using PuTTY section.

Creating a service account for VMHost

Before SolarWinds SAM can start polling a VMHost, a service account should be created for it to use, opposed to using the root credentials. The following procedure will explain how to create a VMware service account, to pass along to SolarWinds SAM.

  1. Launch the vSphere Client and log in with administrator credentials, such as root.

  2. Click on Ignore if you are prompted with an untrusted SSL certificate warning.

  3. In the left panel select the host.

  4. Select the Local Users & Groups tab in the right panel

  5. Click on the Users button under view.

  6. Right-click within the right panel, and then select Add.

  7. On the Add New User window:

    • Enter both a Login and a User Name. For example, we used SAMVMHOST.

    • Enter and confirm a Password.

    • Click on OK.

  8. Select the Permissions tab.

  9. Right-click within the right panel, and then select Add Permission.

  10. On the Assign Permissions window, click on Add.

  11. Click on the Add button.

  12. Select the user you just created and click on Add, then click on OK on the Select Users and Groups window.

  13. Under the Assigned Role area, select Read-only and then click on OK on the Assign Permissions window.

 

Enabling and configuring SNMP on Cisco devices


Switches, routers, and firewalls should also be monitored, as they are crucial to the uptime of a network. This section covers command line procedures to enable and configure SNMP on some common Cisco devices.

Due to a wide range of manufactures and models, with varying configurations, your organization may use devices that are not listed in procedures referenced in this section. If that is the case, you should consult the manufacturer's website or user's manual.

Tip

Most vendors (including Cisco) ship equipment with these default SNMP community strings:

  • public for read-only

  • private for read-write

  • secret for read-write-all

It is important to change these defaults due to security implications.

Enabling and configuring SNMP on a Cisco switch

This procedure explains how to enable and configure SNMP on a Cisco 3550 switch running IOS version 12.1(20)EA1a.

  1. Telnet to the switch (replace 192.168.1.230 with your switch IP):

    C:\>telnet 192.168.1.230
    

    Tip

    You can Telnet with PuTTY, explained in above referenced procedures; or if Telnet is installed, you can use Windows' Command Prompt method explained in step 1 of this procedure.

  2. The Password field will appear. Enter the switch administrator password.

  3. Type enable at the prompt and enter the enable password:

    3550>enable
    Password:
    3550#
    
  4. Enter the configuration terminal:

    3550#configure terminal
    Enter configuration commands, one per line. End with CTRL/Z.
    3550(config)#
    
  5. Enable the read-only community string:

    3550(config)#snmp-server community S4MCisco3550SW1 RO
    
    • In this example, S4MCisco3550SW1 is the SNMP community string. You should choose your own community string.

    • To assign read-write rights, simply change RO to RW.

  6. Designate SolarWinds SAM as the host network monitoring service:

    3550(config)#snmp-server host 192.168.1.3 version 2c S4MCisco3550SW1
    

    Note

    In this command, host 192.168.1.3 is the IP of our SolarWinds SAM server, version 2c designates SNMPv2C and S4MCisco3550S1 references the new SNMP community string.

  7. Exit the configuration terminal to save, and then verify the new SNMP community string:

    3550(config)#exit
    3550#show running-configuration
    

    Note

    To remove an SNMP community string, or host network monitoring service, insert no in front of the commands listed in step 4 or 5. This is necessary if you made a typo.

Enabling and configuring SNMP on a Cisco router

This procedure explains how to enable and configure SNMP on Cisco router; it is also applicable to a Cisco IOS software-based XL Catalyst Switch.

  1. Telnet to the router (replace 192.168.1.1 with your router IP):

    prompt#telnet 192.168.1.1
    
  2. Type enable at the prompt and enter the router administrator password:

    Router>enable
    Password:
    Router#
    
  3. Display the running configuration to review the current SNMP information:

    Router#show running-config
    Building configuration...
    ....
    ....
    
  4. Enable the configuration mode:

    Router#configure terminal
    Enter configuration commands, one per line. End
    with CNTL/Z.
    Router(config)#
    
  5. Enable the read-only community string:

    Router(config)#snmp-server community public RO
    
    • In this example, public is the SNMP community string. You should change it to something more secure.

    • In this example, RO specifies read-only rights. To assign read-write rights, simply replace RO with RW.

  6. Type exit to return to the main prompt:

    Router(config)#exit 
    Router#
    
  7. Type write memory, to save the settings:

    Router#write memory 
    Building configuration... 
    [OK] 
    Router#
    
 

Summary


You have prepared your environment for a network monitoring service. Next, we will utilize these services and protocols by deploying and configuring SolarWinds SAM.

In this chapter, we successfully:

  • Enabled and configured SNMP and WMI on Windows Servers

  • Created a WMI service account

  • Enabled and configured SNMP and credentials on VMware ESXi

  • Created a VMware service account

  • Enabled and configured SNMP on common Cisco devices

About the Author

  • Justin M. Brant

    Justin M. Brant has over 15 years of IT industry experience. As an adolescent, he was mentored by his grandfather Edgar J. Reynolds, a retired Naval Oceans Systems Center (NOSC) Electronic Engineer, who trained him on systems such as Apple II, Macintosh Plus, and Windows 2.x. His grandfather's guidance led to a position at Datel Systems, where he began his career in the IT industry. Shortly thereafter, Justin and his brother Gregory created Blue Sun Design LLC, a consulting group focused on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Framework, designed to support small to medium-sized business networks. He later joined the Biomedical Research Institute of America Institutional Review Board (BioMed IRB) as the Network Administrator, where he maintained the IT infrastructure consistent with FDA regulations for electronic records and patient confidentiality. Presently, Justin is the Technical Support Manager at Integrated Default Solutions (IDSolutions), where he manages a team of five help desk technicians supporting 1,300 enterprise users nationwide. His position is multifaceted, involving network support, strategy, design, transition, and operation. His primary responsibilities include refining processes and security measures through developing and maintaining the IDSolutions Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual. In addition, he is the in-house specialist for the ShoreTel PBX & ECC VoIP system.

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SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor: Deployment and Administration
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