At Microsoft TechEd in Orlando, Windows IT Pro contributing editor Michael Dragone and I spoke with Jason Ferree of SolarWinds about his company’s Network Performance Monitor, one of the finalists in the Best of TechEd award program’s Networking category. I’ve long been a proponent of SolarWinds products, which have evolved over the years into truly powerful and even essential IT troubleshooting tools, and in particular I appreciate the lively SolarWinds community, called Thwack, and the way it helps it evolve the company’s products.

SolarWinds’ flagship Network Performance Monitor (now in version 10.3) gives you the ability to quickly detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance problems, and it provides excellent real-time views and dashboards for visually tracking network performance. One of the core strengths of Network Performance Monitor is its dynamic network topology maps, which let you easily stay on top of your growing network, thanks to the product’s network auto-discovery capabilities. (When you first deploy Network Performance Monitor, the Network Sonar Wizard can automatically discover all SNMP-enabled devices on your network and then monitoring begins immediately.)

SolarWinds

Introduced into Network Performance Monitor at version 10.1 is the ability to easily and affordably scale the product’s network management to datacenter networks of all sizes. To this end, the product has added dynamic service groups and conditional group dependencies, letting you customize alerting/reporting to specified groups and certain devices, thus reducing false alerts. Jason also spoke of the addition of virtual infrastructure monitoring, support for Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), Active Directory (AD) support, and wireless network monitoring.

Of particular note about Network Performance Monitor is its continued focus on “paying for what you need.” This is an extremely scalable solution that prides itself on its affordability at all levels, from the small office to the enterprise. It is also a very approachable solution, bringing ease of use and an intuitive UI to a sometimes-onerous task.