Network Monitoring Essentials

19 min read

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Monitoring basics

By now, you have already added some devices to your own Orion NPM installation and are ready to dive right in. In all actuality, network monitoring with Orion NPM fundamentally consists of two different actions. The first is Orion NPM polling devices and discovering nodes. The second is an administrator physically logging in to the Orion dashboard and looking at the statistics and node information.

All monitoring is performed by viewing the pages available from the various tabs at the top of the dashboard website. By default, the Orion Summary Home page opens directly after logging into Orion NPM’s dashboard. This is the page you will find yourself looking at most of the time while managing and monitoring your network with Orion NPM.

There are several modules on every page of the dashboard that provide you with several pieces of information. If you are not sure what the content of a module contains or if you want more information about what the module is displaying, click on the HELP button at the top-right corner for a detailed explanation.


The most prominent module displayed on the main page is the network map on the right-hand side. It is designed to display the “big picture” of your entire network that is monitored by Orion NPM. Questions that are quickly answered by the network map is, “Are some nodes up?”, “Are some nodes down?”, “Are there any network performance issues (slowness or packet loss) between WAN links?”, or “Are there any network performance issues that I should be aware of?” The network map can point you in the right direction quickly if a network issue needs to be resolved. A picture truly does speak a thousand words!

The map that is displayed after a fresh installation of Orion NPM is the sample map. The sample map is only a placeholder and does not display any of your nodes on it. To create and customize your own network maps, you need to use the Orion Network Atlas utility.

All Nodes and All Groups

The next module on the Home Summary page that will strike your attention is All Nodes. All Nodes displays every node that is being monitored by Orion NPM.

On the right-hand side of the screen underneath the network map is the All Groups module.

This displays any groups that I have configured in Orion NPM. This module operates in the same way that the All Nodes module does, aside from the fact that it shows the status of an entire custom group instead of just the nodes themselves.

The view is configurable, but by default, the module displays first by vendor, its up or down status, and then the host name. If the host name is not known, then it will display the IP address of the node. A sample of my own network lab is displayed in the previous screenshot. All Nodes displays what nodes are up and what nodes are not responding to Orion NPM.

All Triggered Alerts

Continuing down to the left-hand side of the page is the All Triggered Alerts module.

This module is very helpful in that it displays the time and date, node title, current value if available (such as Active ), and the description of the latest alerts that Orion NPM triggered. In the preceding example, you can see that on March 11, 2013 at 8:52 A.M., Orion NPM detected high packet loss on the JD-1130AP node. Then one minute later Orion NPM triggered an alert that it could no longer communicate with the node. To see more details about that specific node, click on the node name to open the Node Details View page.

Event Summary and Last 25 Events

The next modules are Event Summary and Last 25 Events.

This module displays a summary list for all types of events related to network monitoring and only displays events from the last 24 hours. It is useful when needing a quick rundown of a total number of events that occurred throughout the day.

Since this is only a summary of events from the day, there is very little information provided. To see more information on a specific line of item in the Event Summary module, click on one of the event titles to open a filtered view in the Events web page. Clicking on an event title, such as 5 Alert Triggered shown in the preceding example, will open the Events page with a filter to only display Alert Triggered. Clicking on 2 Node Down event will open the Events page with a filter to only display Node Downinformation.

The final module on the Home Summary page is Last 25 Events and shows more event information in a historical context. A sample of what it displays is shown in the following screenshot:

From the example, you can see that someone caused quite a few events within a short amount of time. On the JD-3500XL node , you can see that a FastEthernet port was administratively disabled, a port labeled Wireless Trunkcame online, the JD-1130AP node’s packet loss rose above the loss threshold, and other important information. The downside of this module is that it will only show the last 25 events but it is extremely useful in assisting with troubleshooting a recent issue.

Search nodes

Search Nodes is a useful module where you can search a node to quickly access that node’s detail view. For example, if I can’t remember the name of a node but I do know where it is located, I can search the location description instead of clicking through all of the nodes until I find it. In the following example, I am searching for all nodes in the Orlando location.

All of my nodes in the Orlando location are displayed in the search results. From this point, I can click on the node name to open the Node Details View page.


Custom Object Resource is a module that allows you to create your own modules by displaying polling data of your choice. Click on the Configure this resource link, or the EDIT button, to view the contents.

If there are some modules or resources that you do not need to view or certain pieces of information that you want to add to your pages, you can do so by customizing the web pages and modules.

Customizing views

A view in Orion NPM is the same thing as a web page. Views are displayed when clicking on a link in the menu bar, when clicking on a node in the dashboard, or when clicking on an interface in the nodes detail view. Each module on each page can be fully re-arranged as you see fit. It is possible that you want to view the network map on the left-hand side column instead of the right-hand side on the home summary page. You can make that change from the view editor.

Looking at the Orion Web Administration page, the Views module is where we are going to focus our attention.

In it are the following three links:

  • Manage Views
  • Add New View
  • Views by Device Type

Manage Views

Clicking on Manage Views will display the Manage Views editor. Orion NPM sets up default views in an out-of-the-box installation. To edit a view, highlight it and click on the Edit button.

There is no Save or Undo button when editing views in Orion NPM. Once a change has been made to a view, it is permanent. Make note of what settings are in the view you are editing before changing them in case you wish to revert back.

To demonstrate how to customize a page view , the following is an example of how to do so with the Orion Summary Home page. In this example I will perform the following:

  • Move the Map from the right-hand side column to the left-hand side
  • Gather All Nodes, All Groups, and All Dependencies together in the right-hand side column under All Nodes
  • Place All Triggered Alerts, Event Summary, and Last 25 Events under the Map on the left-hand side column
  • Remove the Search module
  • Set the columns to be of equal width

Perform the following steps to execute these tasks:

  1. Highlight Map,All Triggered Alerts, and Event Summary in Column 2 then click on the left arrow button.
  2. Hold the Ctrl key on the keyboard in order to select multiple options in the column.

  3. Reorder the Column 1 list by using the up arrow button until Map is first on the list.
  4. Highlight All Nodes in Column 1, then click on the right arrow button to move it to Column 2.

  5. Reorder the Column 2 list by using the up arrow button until All Nodes is first on the list.

  6. Highlight Search Nodes. Click on the red X to remove it from the column.

  7. Click on the Edit button next to the column widths.

  8. Change the column widths for columns 1 and 2 to 500. Ensure that the Layout is set for two columns. Click on SUBMIT when finished.

Your page view should now look like the following screenshot:

The name of the view is also the web page’s title. I decided not to change the name of the view for the sake of simplicity. Also, I did not apply a view limitation.

The Orion Summary Home view should not have a view limitation applied since it is the main view page to Orion NPM. Applying a view limitation may omit important node information, or the limitation may render the page useless.

Click on the PREVIEW button to preview the view layout in a new web browser window. It will look similar to the following screenshot:

Since I was satisfied with my changes, I clicked DONE. As you can see, the options available when editing a view are extremely straightforward. You can change the resources (or modules) for each column, edit the column sizes, and attach view limitations. The only item you cannot change when customizing a view is the type.

When you change the name of a view, only the title is changed. Its contents will not change.

Add New View

Orion NPM already has a great deal of default pages and default views associated with each page. However, there may be cases where a default view will not suffice and you want to create your own. The following are a few examples:

  • Create a view that consists of a specific customer’s equipment
  • Create a view for all volumes in a VSAN
  • Create a custom view for all monitored UPS units
  • Create a custom view that lists all nodes in a single location

The list could go on, but you can see that there are several reasons to create your own view.

Defining the name of the view is the first step. The name you define will be the title of the page when it is saved. Make sure it is a meaningful name and one that makes sense for what you are creating.

Second, you need to choose what type of view it will be. There are several different types of views and all suit different purposes. The list of view types is as follows:

  • Summary: Displays network-wide information. Summary is the default option. If you will be creating a view that includes multiple hardware types or locations, the Summary type will be your best option.
  • Node Details: Displays information about a single node. This is the option that you would choose when creating a customized view page for a hardware device type. For example, you could create a custom view specifically for firewalls.
  • Volume Details: Displays information about a single volume. Depending on your needs, you may want to create a custom view for a volume within one of your servers.
  • Group Details: Displays information about groups.
  • Interface Details: Displays information about a single interface.
  • VSAN Details: Displays information about a single virtual storage area network device.
  • UCS Chassis Details: Displays information about a Cisco Unified Computing System chassis. If you needed to create a customized view for a UCS node, this is the view type to choose.
  • Virtualization Summary: Displays information about your VMware infrastructure.
  • Cluster Details: Displays information about a VMware cluster.
  • Datacenter Details: Displays information about a VMware Datacenter.

Third, you need to select the resources for each column. These are the exact same resources available when editing a view as discussed in the Manage Views section.

The last item that you can de fi ne is a view limitation. A view limitation is optional and it will limit the network devices that can be displayed within this view. An example of needing to apply a view limitation would be to limit this page to only display nodes from a specific hardware manufacturer. Or, you could add a limitation to only display nodes that reside in a specific location. The reasons why you would want to apply a limitation are virtually endless. Just keep in mind that view limitations are optional and are not required in order to create a new view.

Only one limitation can be applied to a view. It is not possible to apply multiple view limitations.

The following is an example of how to create a custom view page with a limitation applied to only display access points:

  1. In the Add New View wizard, enter the name Access Points and choose Summary as the view type. Click on SUBMIT to continue.

  2. Click on the Edit button next to the column widths. Select the two columns and set the widths of columns 1 and 2 to 500 and 400 respectively.

  3. Add resources to Column 1 by clicking on the plus button.

  4. The Add Resources page appears. Expand Node Lists – All Nodes and Grouped Node Lists and place a check mark next to All Nodes. Click on SUBMIT to continue.

  5. Add resources to Column 2 by clicking on the plus button.

  6. Expand Summary Reports – Various Reports Showing Problem Areas and place a check mark next to Current Traffic on All Interfaces . Click on SUBMIT to continue.

  7. Scroll down to View Limitation and click on the Edit button.

  8. Select Group of Nodes, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on CONTINUE.

  9. Place a check mark next to each node. In this example, the hostnames JD-1130AP-1 and JD-1131AP-2 are access points I am applying this new view against. Click on SUBMIT to apply the limitation.

  10. Click on DONE to finish.

The following is how the new custom view will look like based on the example provided.

This is only one way to create a custom view for Access Points, and there are plenty of other resources that I could have added to the page. Also, I could have chosen a Node Detail view type instead of Summary type. This is only one simple example of how to create a new view in Orion NPM. I encourage you to experiment with creating your own custom views to become more familiar with the process.

Views by Device Type

Views By Device Type is where you can customize which page displays when looking at a specific type of node. For example, I can force Orion NPM to display a different Node Details View page for a specific model of hardware. This is helpful for when Orion NPM does not have a details view page for a hardware type, such as a UPS unit that can be monitored via SNMP. Only device types that are currently being monitored by Orion NPM will be displayed when editing views by device type.

You cannot apply custom views against a specific hardware type unless Orion NPM is currently monitoring that type of device.

Most options have the (default) option selected. The default view for almost every node monitored by Orion NPM is the Node Details View. Some exceptions to this rule are VMware nodes where ESX Host Details is automatically chosen.

Menu bars

When working with the Orion dashboard, you have already seen the tabs and menu bars at the top of the page. All of the menu bar types can be customized as you see fit. You can even create your own custom menu bars. To customize menu bars, click on the Customize Menu Bars link in Orion Web Administration.

Menu bars are assigned to one of the three tabs at the top of the dashboard. As shown in the following screenshot, there are five different menu bars from an out-of-the-box installation:

Orion NPM includes five default menu bars: Admin, Default, Guest, Network_TabMenu, and Virtualization_TabMenu. Admin is the only menu bar that cannot be deleted from Orion NPM but it can be edited. To edit a menu bar, click on the Edit button under its title and the Edit Menu Bar wizard will be displayed. Simply drag-and-drop the available item you wish to add to the menu bar from the right-hand side to the left-hand side column. When finished, click on the SUBMIT button. When creating a brand new menu bar, the same editing process applies.

In addition, menu bars are assigned to a user account’s view settings through the Manage Users wizard. This means that when you create a new menu bar, you will need to assign it to a user account from the Manage User Accounts wizard.

You cannot create your own tabs (that is Home, Network, Virtualization) in Orion NPM. You can only edit and create menu bars and assign them to a tab.

Editing Resources

While Orion NPM’s default views will suit almost every need out-of-the-box, it is still a great idea to dive into all of the view settings of a module and view what you are able to customize. Every module in the dashboard allows an administrator to edit the module in some way by clicking on the EDIT button on the top-right corner of the resource.

As an example, open the All Nodes view in the home summary screen, then click on the EDIT button to be presented with a list of options.

Every single module in Orion NPM can be edited, to a certain limit. You can always edit the title of the module as well as the subtitle in case the default descriptions are difficult to understand. For All Nodes, you can edit the grouping list for up to three levels. An example of creating a view for geographic locations is to set the first level to City, then leaving the second and third levels set to None. This will display only the city name at the top level, then the node names underneath. In the following example, it is easy to see how simple this type of view can be:

For medium to large network sizes, a more appropriate view option is to set the first level to Location then level two to Department. Feel free to set the grouping display to one that will suit your needs.

The remaining settings in the Edit Resource page are:

  • Put nodes with null values for the grouping property
  • Remember Expanded Groups
  • Filter Nodes (SQL)

When Orion NPM does not know a specific property for a node, such as its location or department, the Put nodes with null values for the grouping property setting tells Orion NPM how to group these nodes. There are two options available. We can place nodes In the [Unknown] group or At the bottom of the list, in no group.

Placing nodes in the [Unknown] group will have Orion NPM display these nodes with unknown properties (or blank properties) with the group title [Unknown], which will be displayed at the top. The following is an example:

The second option At the bottom of the list, in no group will do just that. Any node that has unknown or blank values will be placed at the bottom of the node list in the generic Unknown group.

By default, the Orion dashboard website will trigger a browser page refresh every few minutes. When the page refreshes, if you a expanded a view in a module (a.k.a drill-down view by clicking on the plus button) the drill-down view will reset. The checkbox for Remember Expanded Groups is enabled by default and it is a good idea to leave this checked.

The final option is Filter Nodes (SQL). This is an advanced feature of Orion NPM where you can use an explicit SQL string as a filter for these views. For example, use the filter Status<>1 to filter out all nodes that are operationally up and only view nodes that are down in the All Nodes module. SQL filters are helpful when creating custom views for administrative personnel. For more SQL filter examples, expand Show Filter Examples . Also, you can click on the Help button in the module for more examples and guidance on how to perform SQL queries.

Just as in creating new views, you may have noticed by now that there is no cancel or revert option when changing a view setting in a module or a page. If you made a setting change but do not want to save the new setting, simply click on the Back button in your web browser to go back to the previous page without saving the new settings. Make sure that you don’t change a view setting that you didn’t intend to.


Orion NPM allows administrators to change a few aspects of the dashboard interface from the Customize module in Orion Web Administration.

There are three different customization options available; Customize Menu Bars, Color Scheme, and External Websites.

Color Scheme

Orion NPM includes several color schemes that can be changed on the fly. To change the dashboard color scheme, click on the Color Scheme link in Orion Web Administration, choose the Color Scheme option, and click on the SUBMIT button. Personally, I always use the Orion Default (white) because I can never decide which color to use!

External Websites

The External Websites option in the Customize module is an interesting one. This option enables an administrator to add some external website to the Orion NPM dashboard as if it is a part of the dashboard itself. For example, if you have an internal Microsoft SharePoint team site on your domain, you could add it to the Admin menu bar and have the team site act as if it is a part of the console. When adding an external website, it must be in URL format such as https://URL. The following is an example of how to add an external website:

  1. Click on External Websites in Orion Web Administration and then click on the ADD button.

  2. Enter the Menu Title, Page Title, URL of the website, and which Menu Bar you want to apply the link to. In the following example, I am adding a link to on the NETWORK tab at the top of the dashboard page. Click on OK to finish.

The external web link will appear now appear in the NETWORK tab. When clicking on the link, the web page will appear as if it is embedded in the Orion dashboard.

This sums up the discussion on customizing web views, modules, and other aspects of the dashboard. Now, we will discuss how to use Orion NPM to monitor your devices.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here