SolarWinds.Net's SolarWinds Engineer's Edition Toolset 7 is a suite of more than 40 tools and programs, including performance-monitoring, network-discovery, fault-monitoring, and security tools, for maintaining and troubleshooting networks. Although I review version 7 here, SolarWinds.Net has since released version 8.

Network engineers who work with Cisco Systems products will especially like the router and switch tools designed to ease management and administration of Cisco hardware. For example, after using the IP Network Browser to find all IP devices in your network, you can select a discovered Cisco router and click Config to access Config Viewer. Using the SNMP community string, Config Viewer can download or display the router's configuration and format the information to highlight different sets of configuration values—for example, by formatting each switch port configuration into its own distinctive group. You can then edit the configuration and upload it to the router.

About 75 percent of the tools aren't Cisco-specific, however. For example, Enhanced Ping lets you monitor the high, low, and current ping response times and percentage of packet loss from one or more remote targets—a capability that's helpful in identifying network bottlenecks or problems with specific servers.

You'll typically run tools such as the IP Network Browser or Advanced Subnet Calculator specifically to perform a task. You'll want to continuously run others to monitor your network and keep useful information readily available through gauges that remain on your desktop. For example, the Bandwidth Gauge applet presents real-time incoming and outgoing bandwidth from a server or Cisco network interface, as Figure 1 shows. The Watch It! utility lets you specify the IP address of remote devices; monitor their status; quickly access a device using Ping, Telnet, or trace route; and open a Web browser to the device.

Some of the tools have UI quirks. For example, the Watch It! tool docks itself on the right-hand side of your primary monitor, and you can't move it to the other side. Thus, if your secondary monitor is to your right, the tool appears in the middle of your workspace.

The suite also includes network-monitoring tools. Enter a switch's IP address and SNMP community string into the Real-Time Interface Monitor, and you can view network traffic statistics such as port utilization, bytes sent and received per port, interface and port status, Ethernet collisions, and protocol distribution. The Network Performance Monitor lets you graph this data over time and spot trends. The Switch Port Mapper can correlate a device's IP address to the interface port that it's using. For a list of all the tools in the toolset, see the Web-exclusive sidebar "Tools in SolarWinds Engineer's Edition Toolset" (http://www.windowsitpro.com, InstantDoc ID 45611).

Network administrators will make good use of this niche toolset. Although the cost—$995 for a single-user license—might make you think twice about deploying Engineer's Edition Toolset across your entire department, if you can afford to do so, your network engineers will thank you.



SolarWinds Engineer's Edition Toolset 7
Contact: SolarWinds.Net * 918-307-8100
Web: http://www.solarwinds.net
Price: $995 for a single-user license
Summary
Pros: Contains more than 40 integrated tools that provide timesaving shortcuts for network administration
Cons: Many tools work only with Cisco gear; some UI glitches; high price
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommendation: Download the trial version of these useful tools to determine whether the toolset fits your needs and is worth the price.