05 Jul Understanding SolarWinds Terminology
It is often the case that many people are unaware of the product structure of SolarWinds and use the wrong name to describe a product, function, or feature. This section outlines how some common names, terms and concepts. It is also intended to broaden your understanding of SolarWinds.
SolarWinds is the name of a company that produces network management software. It is not the name of a product, but it is often incorrectly used synonymously with Orion (SolarWinds flag ship product) or NPM (Network Performance Monitor; Orion’s flagship module.)
Orion is the name of SolarWinds’ flagship product. It is a module based network management system (NMS) that provides data collection, alerting, reporting, job scheduling, dashboards and more. The term “Orion” is often used to describe the Orion Platform. It is acceptable and general practice to refer to Orion as SolarWinds’ Orion. Though it is incorrect to do so, many people refer to Orion as SolarWinds or NPM.
The Orion Platform includes the Orion Core (including the Orion Database,) any installed Orion Modules, and the compute infrastructure on which these components are installed.
The Orion Core is a collection of services that constitutes a platform by which data is collected, stored, manipulated, and displayed. It does not do anything productive until an Orion Module is installed. It provides web services; data collection, storage, and analysis; the Orion Database; etc. It is the platform through which the end users interact with Orion and by which the Orion Modules accomplish their tasks. The Orion Core is included with all Orion Modules and is installed with the first Orion Module and may be modified by subsequent Orion Module installations. A good way to think of the Orion Core and Orion Platform is to consider them a traditional web services platform including a web server, a collection of application servers, and a database. The Orion Modules provide “substance” that defines the work the Orion Core is to perform.
The Orion Database is a Microsoft SQL database and contains everything collected by the Orion Modules by way of the Orion Core collection engines. It is highly transactional and can very quickly become the largest database an organization maintains. Most SolarWinds’ Orion performance issues are rooted in an improperly sized or maintained Orion Database.
Where the Orion Core provides the framework through which data is collected, stored, manipulated, and displayed; the Orion Modules provide the definitions as to what data is collected and how it should be manipulated and displayed. Some examples of Orion Modules are: Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Server and Application Monitor (SAM) but there are many more. Some Orion Modules (parents) provide functionality required by other (dependent) Orion Modules and parent modules must be purchased and installed prior to the dependent modules. For instance, Network Configuration Manager (NCM) requires Network Performance Monitor. Further, each Orion Module is licensed separately and has its own licensing criteria. In some cases dependent modules must equal their parent module’s license quantity or they cannot be installed. Note: that some Orion Modules also use their own database servers—such at, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA)—to reduce the load on the Orion Database but all aspects of computation, heuristics, display, reporting and alerting and handled exclusively by the Orion Core.
Orion Companion Applications
A small number of SolarWinds application rely on some aspects of the Orion Core but have not yet been fully integrated. I call these Orion Companion Applications and it is not an official SolarWinds distinguisher. Be that as it may, an Orion Companion Application might need additional hardware outside of the Orion Platform to: 1) function properly, or; 2) not interfere with the performance of Orion. Once SolarWinds development staff migrates an Orion Companion Application to use the Orion Core for all of its services it will become an Orion Modules. An example of an Orion Companion Application is Network Topology Mapper (NTM)
SolarWinds Standalone Applications (i.e. independent of Orion)
SolarWinds has another small group of applications that do not use any aspect of the Orion Platform. I call these SolarWinds Standalone Applications. Many of these applications require their own servers and databases and should not be run on the Orion Platform servers with limited exceptions. Some examples of these applications are: Log & Event Manager (LEM); Patch Manager (PM); and Kiwi Syslog Server.