SolarWinds Server Performance & Configuration Bundle consists of two separate pieces of software: SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) and SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (SCM). An IT admin using the two products together in the Server Performance & Configuration Bundle can troubleshoot app issues fast, gain visibility into app performance and health with easy-to-use dashboards and alerts, and quickly correlate these metrics with change data to identify if a config change is responsible. I evaluated the products using a free 30-day trial from their website, that you can also download to check out the bundle for yourself.

Dan Franciscus

Dan Franciscus is a systems engineer and VMware Certified Professional (VCP) specializing in VMware, PowerShell, and other Microsoft-based technologies. You can reach Dan at his blog or his Twitter at @dan_franciscus.

SAM is a system administration utility that monitors the health and availability of critical applications, and their underlying servers, including DHCP, Active Directory, and DNS. The software is particularly useful to businesses with sizable and distributed IT operations. SCM is an administration utility designed to detect changes to a server's hardware and software configurations. SAM and SCM are licensed separately and are also available as standalone products.

SAM dashboard ^

SAM dashboard

SAM dashboard

SAM will monitor several hardware lines from IBM, Dell, and HP as well as servers running within a VMwarevSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor. Hardware monitoring includes racks, power supplies, temperature, and various support and control systems. The monitoring software will also keep track of several server physical aspects, such as hard drive, CPU, and power usage.

SAM is compatible with several operating systems including Windows, Linux, and various Unix flavors. The software can monitor over 1,200 applications, including web servers and services, application servers, authentication services, collaboration software, database servers, DHCP, directory servers, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, infrastructure management software, virtualization software suites, mail servers, and security applications. You can also create custom templates to monitor applications not on the list of default systems. This is useful for internally developed applications. The tool is also extensible to cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure.

The IT administrator can author his or her own scripts within SAM to raise alerts on certain conditions and take action. You can also reuse scripts from Nagios within SAM. Additionally, SAM also includes several template scripts, including over 1,000 action scripts.

One neat feature of this product called AppStack allows the administrator to visualize all the underlying services and infrastructure supporting an application to identify the cause of performance issues. This view shows each element involved with the application on a single screen and color-codes them to identify issues quickly.

Appstack environment

Appstack environment

Another efficient feature of the product is the initial discovery. Upon installation, the software will independently communicate with all servers on the network and build up an inventory of applications. This process also automatically determines any dependencies.

Some other key facets of SAM include AppInsight and PerfStack. For those running a Microsoft service architecture, the AppInsight feature will provide detailed information on Microsoft Active Directory, Exchange, IIS, and SQL Servers. PerfStack displays various metrics about other issues on a single dashboard. This provides a quick diagnosis of performance issues.

PerfStack environment

PerfStack environment

You can run the SAM on Windows Server 2016 running IIS. A dedicated server is required for the supporting Microsoft SQL Server database. Physical capacity requirements include quad-core processors, at least 6–8 GB of RAM and two 146 GB drives. The database server will require at least 4–8 GB RAM and 20–40 GB of disk space. Larger networks will require additional system resources.

Although SAM functions as a standalone tool, it is more effective when combined with SCM to create a unified solution for performance monitoring and change detection. Start today with a free 30-day trial of the Server Performance & Configuration Bundle.

SCM configuration details ^

SCM configuration details

SCM configuration details

The SCM software within the Server Performance & Configuration bundle monitors changes to hardware, software, the registry, files, and script outputs to identify configuration drift.

SCM installation is straightforward but lengthy. As with SAM, upon installation, the software offers the option for network discovery as well as network configuration discovery. System requirements for SCM are very similar to those for SAM. A detailed table of requirements is below.

SCM system requirements

SCM system requirements

SCM lets you gather configuration information through discovery and remote access. In addition, you can also download and install agents on individual monitored systems. The software offers a decent configuration summary to see high-level critical information within a single pane of glass. In-depth details are available on a separate page. You can set configurations as a baseline, with a red icon to indicate detection of changes to this baseline. This includes both configuration changes and software installations and patches. A configuration comparison feature allows for a quick view of all changes, even those made offline.

SCM configuration comparison allows for a quick view of all changes

SCM configuration comparison allows for a quick view of all changes

SCM has many similarities to its partner software, SAM. SCM is licensed by the number of nodes monitored. Also similar to SAM, SCM comes preconfigured with out-of-the-box configuration profiles for the most common server types. In addition, just like SAM, SCM can monitor servers either on premises or in the cloud.

SCM will also detect changes to hardware inventory, such as upgrades, disk failures, or threats. In the virtual world, this software may also indicate changes to the virtual inventory due to additional virtual resource allocations. It can cross-reference system changes with performance data to determine the effectiveness of the changes within the Perfstack feature.

Server Performance & Configuration Bundle ^

When both SAM and SCM work together within the Server Performance & Configuration Bundle, you get the visibility you need to start troubleshooting efforts in the right spot or with the right team. The bundle provides proactive server and application monitoring, cross-stack data correlation on a common timeline, intelligent application infrastructure dependency mapping, and system and application configuration change tracking.

Summary ^

The Server Performance & Configuration bundle (made up of SAM and SCM) overall is a solid product. Within the bundle, both products function well in unison to troubleshoot performance issues and determine root cause. Overall, the bundle is a good choice for managing medium to large enterprise networks. Get a free 30-day trial of the Server Performance & Configuration Bundle today.

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