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SolarWinds Lab Episode 30: Virtualization Manager: Take Out-of-the-box Alerts and Reports to Vnext Level

In this episode, SolarWinds Head Geeks and VMware vExperts, Thomas LaRock and Kong Yang, are joined by Chris Paap, SolarWinds VMAN Product Manager. You will learn how to customize the out-of-the-box alerts and reports in Virtualization Manager for your unique VMware, vSphere, and Microsoft Hyper-V environments.

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Episode Transcript


Happy V Day!

I do like the little V in front of this sphere.

Well, I like the V that’s usually colored azure and comes at the end of the word hyper.

No love for the V at the intersection of K and M?

There’s always love when the source is open. Just not enough time in V Day.

Well, let’s get this v-show on the v-road. Hi, I’m Thomas “vSQLrockstar” LaRock.

I’m Chris “vMan PM” Paap.

I’m Kong “vGeek” Yang.

And I’m Patrick “v-bought-o-Librato” Hubbard. And welcome to SolarWinds Lab. So rather amazingly, today’s episode is all about virtualization management.

Correct, we’ve been planning to do a show on virtualization management for a while. So the three v-amigos will take VMAN’s out-of-the-box alerts and reports to v-next level.

So, we’re talking about Virtualization Manager. And did you guys say the three v-amigos?

Yeah, that’s right. You have two v-experts and one vMan.

Exactly, three v-amigos.

Wherever IT pros need us, our destinies lead us. We are the three v-amigos.

I’d like to revert to a snapshot where I didn’t just witness that. I think you guys have this covered, you three v-amigos. So I’m going to v-motion to my vCloud Air.

Whoa, can you even afford that?

I just don’t v-care. [High-pitched whir]

All right, so before we get into the custom alerts and reports, can we perhaps untangle the web that is Virtualization Manager, and Server and Application Monitor’s virtualization monitoring?

Sure, Server and Application Monitor provides a high-level view of the virtualized environment, host and application center perspective.

Same reason why you wouldn’t use task manager to manage your servers.

Exactly, Virtualization Manager leverages hypervisor-specific config and info encounters. It provides drill-down capabilities to the clusters, VMs, and data stores.

But that sounds like the same info I can get out of the vCenter or system center.

True. You can get all that data from them, but it’s too noisy to get down to the root cause.

Ah, got it, root cause. So, Virtualization Manager will quickly surface the trouble spots, so it can be remediated. Kind of like Coach Belichick does in the Super Bowl.

Ah, ugh, a bad memory just resurfaced. Go Hawks.

Now, now v-amigos, let’s agree on this: use Virtualization Manager to monitor, alert, troubleshoot, and report on vSphere and Hyper-V environments.

Go, VMAN!

So Chris, after logging into the SolarWinds Orion Platform, you end up on the summary page, which should be familiar with our NPM, SAM customers.

Right, and any Orion customer now will recognize this page. Over the last couple of releases, what we’ve done with the Virtualization Manager is integrate it with the Orion Platform. As you know, any current Virtualization Manager customer can log into the appliance. But now, with the current release of 6.2, once you integrate with the Orion Platform, you’ll get a virtualization tab. It’ll show, at first glance, a summary page, which gives you high-level overview. We were talking very similar to what SAM customers and NPM customers get now, where it shows your virtualization settings and assets and your top host percentage of what’s being used, your top-end resources. Even more, now you get access to the dashboards that you normally see. Very important, but we find that most customers actually do spend most of their time in the dashboards, whether it’s a senior virtualization admin or it’s a junior admin learning for the first time.

Yeah, there’s a lot of value in there, similar to SQL DBAs, or DBAs in general. You guys are all about the metrics, the numbers, right?

Mmhmm. Absolutely.

Establishing baselines.

Absolutely. Not just the metrics, though, but relationships. Because a lot of times, for database performance, there are many metrics that, by themselves, are fairly meaningless. But when you combine them with two or three other metrics, now you can tell a story.

The connected context.

That’s right.

Through the layer.

Right. And one of the things that’s really good about the dashboards that are in Virtualization Manager is most specifically, the all alerts widget that’s in there. As you go through, you’ll see alerts that are triggered by thresholds. You’ll also see, your best practices, things that may not be causing a problem, but are important for the administrator to kind of pop to the surface, float up. You know, red is bad, green is good. Things that are potential issues in the environment. When you click on them, it will actually tell you why it’s alerting, what it’s doing. The guest storage space utilization is self-explanatory, but it will tell you what’s happening, what got raised, and what’s been the past activity on it. If it’s something that habitual and systemic, or if it’s actually an issue that just needs to be addressed at some point.

So Chris, how many out-of-the-box alerts does Virtualization Manager come with?

Well, that’s a good thing about Virtualization Manager. Once you set this up and you do your configuration of your first initial setup, you don’t have to enable any of these alerts. It’s good for kind of highlighting what you don’t know. That’s what we find out right off the bat: issues that could be going on in your environment, like code stop issues, which is indicative of too many virtual CPUs added to your system, so it’s over provisioning, which actually causes it to slow down. A common problem that we see in virtualization environments. You’ll see about 38 alerts right off the bat, and not including about another 40 or 50 that aren’t enabled.

That adding more, too much resources, that’s the same dilemma that DBAs run into. I throw more hardware it. [Laughs]

That’s right. That’s right.

What’s kind of nice about these is not only are they clickable, but if you want to go through and configure these as well, you can actually configure them from the actual dashboard itself. It’s very easy to modify an alert, especially the out-of-the-box alerts that you see in Virtualization Manager. If you go configure, you can actually click on this and actually modify what the threshold is going to be. In this case, we’re looking at the guest storage space utilization, so you’ll see that what it is an X path query. In this case, it’s doing anything from zero to 5%. So essentially anything that’s 95%, it’ll alert. 95% utilization. So if we wanted this to alert to 90%, what we’d do, we’d modify this to 10.

All right, seems simple enough.

Simple enough, correct? So this way, you don’t have to learn the whole logic of the alert itself. You’d save it through, and now that alert will save as the 90% utilization alert. This is the way to do it, the original way, in Virtualization Manager appliance.

But isn’t there a better way? We did a SolarWinds episode where Leon was super excited. It had Rob Hawk and Patrick going over web-based alerts with the Orion Platform.

Correct, and that’s where the benefit of integrating with Orion comes in. If you go into settings, just like you would for any NPM or SAM alert, and then go to manage alerts, we automatically have all those out-of-box alerts that have been ported over to the Orion side. So now, you have the ability, instead of messing with an X-path query, if you go to virtual machine, virtual datastore, virtual host. So if you go to the virtual machine alert, you can go in here and go, and then modify. Clicking on it, edit it. It will let you copy the alert, so you’re not modifying the original. So you can just keep it as a copy or name it as something that’s legible, that you’ll be able to remember the next time around.

That’s smart.

So it kind of keeps you from shooting yourself in the foot.

Yep.

So, right off the bat, again, if anybody’s seen the web-based reporting or alerting and reporting in Orion, it’s very simple, straightforward. We’re setting this up to be critical. Pretty much, you can leave it as is, until you get to the logic of it. It has an explanation of what it’s doing, the trigger conditions of exactly what’s going to set this off. And so in this case, if we wanted this to swap memory utilization to actually be to avoid— for instance, we want it to be 95%, in this case, and we just change that value to five. Or, if we wanted to be at 85, we change its value to 15, to how much is left. Then save that, next, reset. Or if you wanted to actually do something else, to create a special reset condition for this, you can do that, but for the sake of this, we’ll just keep it the same. And alert is always enabled; no schedule is needed. Keep it all by default, just a couple of clicks. This is where you can actually add an action to do afterwards. If you want to send an email out, SMS text, or if you—just, by default, what it’ll do is send to the Orion event log. You can add copy triggers tag. What this is doing is, what’s it going to do, once it’s no longer true, once that alert’s been reset, what do you want to do from it—

Yeah, so there’s a lot of cool things that one can do from taking an alert here, because as we know, everyone’s environment is different. So what may be high memory swap for my environment might not necessarily be the case for Tom’s environment, where he has a lot of self-similar database queries that can be cached up in there. Whereas, if I have disparate applications that are going through and rewriting memory blocks in there, setting this alert will help me alleviate contention there.

Right, exactly, and it’s very helpful for that purpose. What’s nice about these new web-based alerts is that at the end of it, you get a summary, and it actually tells you in the scope of what objects it’s actually going to trigger on. It kind of helps you from becoming the target of every admin in your group if you send out something that’s going to shoot out a thousand alerts because you’ve incorrectly set it. Well here, it will kind of show you what those two objects— you can show a list and then adjust the trigger if necessary, if that’s exactly what you wanted to see and then click submit to save it.

That’s smart.

Excellent. And all of this was based off of feedback that we got from customers, right?

Correct. You know, it doesn’t matter how good something is, customers want ease of use and they want to be able make it reproducible. Whether it’s for, like I said, you can be the most seasoned admin in your group or a junior admin that’s just cutting their teeth on any type of alerting reporting or virtualization, for the first time. We wanted to strike that balance between ease of use and usability.

What I like best about this is you really don’t have to know a lot about Virtualization Manager and Orion Platform. You can take the out of box; create a copy of it. It provides you the logic; you can expand it, mold that logic, and then create that alert for your needs.

Exactly.

Excellent.

So that was cool. To be clear, the out-of-the-box alerts will provide the vast majority of issues virtualization admins will encounter. But, if they need to create a custom alert to cover their bacon, they can do so easily.

Yep, it’s quite simple to do, especially if you leverage the out-of-the-box alerts.

Simple but powerful. I like it.

And there’s plenty of resources and reference material on THWACK, especially the VMAN 411 page.

That’s cool, but why don’t we show them how they wrap their reports in bacon.

Bacon?

Tom wraps everything, and I mean everything, in bacon. [Sizzle]

So let’s wrap some bacon around Virtualization Manager reporting. So, much like alerting, where it’s now Orion-based, we do have a reporting section that’s on Orion. Once you go into it, it will actually— it’s context specific so you don’t have to go search for virtualization reports. As you see on the left here, it will actually show all virtualization reports. You can highlight them. If you just click on one and edit you can actually see how it’s broken out. Much like the alerts again, you have what the title is, as well as the context of what it’s going to be about. You can modify any and all. This is customizable. Which brings us to, how we would customize one of these. So, what I’m going to use as an example is to take the all VMs default alert and I’m going to make this to be Windows specific, so just to show Windows VMs. So I don’t modify the original alert, I’m going to duplicate and edit. So I can always, if I need to, delete that. I’m going to modify this to say Windows VMs. Then I’m going to edit the actual search it does. So, it’s going to report on virtual machines. I’m going to add a condition. The condition I’m going to do is guest family contains Windows, and then I’m going to modify this to say… Add to layout.

Simple enough.

Uh hmm. The only other change I’ll make is so when the table comes out and it’s printed out, or when it displays, I’m going to sort it by cluster, to make it a little bit more readable, user friendly.

That seems very easy.

Yep, you know Vir-Admins can use that to sort by regions or however they separate and segregate out their clusters.

That’s absolutely right. Whether it’s for administrative purposes or it’s for showing to C-level executives or application owners. Now, what we have here is an all Windows-based report that has it organized by cluster.

And you can export this as a spreadsheet and a .PDF right?

That is correct. You can make these exportable. You can set these up to be—to email out, and to be on a schedule as well. So, you have some options with these.

Excellent.

And then it’s as simple as saving it out and now it will show up in your virtualization reports.

♫ I’m really, really, really, really, really, ♫ really right back.

Really? We v-realize that you’re back. You know the Geek Stack dashboard actually showed your v-motion.

Yeah, so the three v-amigos are now infamous at lab.solarwinds.com.

Using out of the box to create custom alerts and reports in VMAN, anyone can be more than famous.

You mean IN-famous.

Exactly. Do you realize that IT environments are going to be different?

Well, yeah, being able to effectively customize alerts and reports for your virtual environment is important.

And Virtualization Manager’s out-of-the-box alerts and reports give you that starting point to make your job easier and show how well you’re doing your job. [Speaking foreign language]