In this blog post we are comparing two network monitoring goliaths - Progress WhatsUp Gold and SolarWinds NPM, which is the Network Performance Monitoring module of the wider SolarWinds solution. For simplicity, we will continue to refer to this simply as SolarWinds and point-out where other plugins are required.
There comes a time in the career of all good IT professionals when they seek out the best network monitoring solution for their needs, but as noble as that might sound, finding the right solution is critical for ensuring that your IT systems are healthy and that business interruption is kept to an absolute minimum. No one wants to get an urgent conference call request from management first thing in the morning!
Therefore it is important to consider a number of areas before making the plunge.
From the perspective of the IT team, this is likely to be the area of most importance when selecting a network monitoring solution. Full functionality, covering a wide array of options covers more bases. We believe that there to be a number of key considerations when it comes to feature sets:
Below are a number of comparative tables which address some of these considerations.
The first stop in any network monitoring journey is to ensure you are monitoring all aspects of your network; and in today's world, this goes beyond simply watching out for RAID issues. IT Professionals will want to cover hardware, networking devices, their WIFI networks, operating systems, critical applications and cloud infrastructure.
|Hardware SNMP Monitoring & Traps||✔️||✔️|
|Operating System SNMP Monitoring||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|Application SNMP Monitoring||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|WMI Monitoring||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|Windows Event Log Monitoring||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|Dynamic Network Map||✔️||✔️|
|Hyper-V Monitoring||Virtualisation Plugin||VMAN Plugin|
|VMWare Monitoring||Virtualisation Plugin||VMAN Plugin|
|Wireless Network Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|Microsoft Azure Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|Amazon AWS Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|REST API Monitoring||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|NetFlow, SFlow etc Monitoring||Network Traffic Analysis Plugin||NTA Plugin|
|Network Device Config Backup||Configuration Management Plugin||NCM Plugin|
|Network Device Compliance||Configuration Management Plugin||NCM Plugin|
|Centralised Log Management||Log Management Plugin||KIWI Server|
Our findings showed us that for the most part, the two solutions are highly comparable. It is clear from our list that all that separates the two is how their solutions are modularised into various different plugins. With WhatsUp Gold including far more capabilities in its base license.
Where we did notice a significant different was in the case of scalability.
|Maximum Monitored Devices||~ 10,000||~ 8,000|
|With Additional Scalability Poller||+~ 10,000||+~ 8,000|
|Cost of 1 x Scalability Poller||< $3,000 / £2,500||> $13,000 / £12,000|
Although both solutions support roughly the same number of devices on their base servers, when it comes to expanding beyond that number, there is a considerable cost involved in doing so for SolarWinds customers.
We cannot be certain without more information, but our assumption based on cost is that in order to expand SolarWinds, you must install an additional full SolarWinds server. Whereas with WhatsUp Gold you can install a smaller dedicated poller device which forwards traffic back to the central WhatsUp Gold console.
Note. While we have tried to ensure that the costs provided here are as close to correct as possible, we would advise you seek actual pricing for both solutions for a true comparison. This information should be used as guidance only.
When a monitored device is down or a condition which might impact its operational capabilities has been reached, you will want to be alerted as soon as possible so that corrective action can be taken. In some cases, it may even be possible that the solution itself can automate some of the response, shortening the reaction time and therefore reducing the impact.
|Slack Integration||✔️||via HTTP Post|
|Start / Stop / Restart Services||✔️||✔️|
|Modify Network Device Config||✔️||✔️|
|Detect Configuration Drift||✔️||✔️|
Once again we found that the two solutions were highly comparable in feature set, with the only slight exception being that many of the actions in SolarWinds were not available natively but rather through exploiting the running of an executable or REST API calls. For example, for integration with Slack we had to utilise the HTTP POST action and then provide API information to SolarWinds.
The final comparison when it comes to capabilities is analytic and reporting. Particularly, when looking at trends and retrospective monitoring data.
|Asset Inventory||✔️||SAM Plugin|
|IP Management||✔️||IPAM Plugin|
In an ideal world, we would always choose our solutions based on which one has the most bells and whistles. However, in the real-world, the commercial aspect is often just as important, with return on investment being the buzz term. When it comes to the commercials, we have to consider three pieces of information: which license model is use; how we can adequately size the license required; and how much said license will cost both in the short and long terms.
|Subscription Licensing Available||On Some Licenses||✔️|
|Perpetual Licensing Available||✔️||✔️|
|Possible Term Lengths||1, 2 and 3 Years||1, 3 and 5 Years|
Comparatively once again the solutions are very similar, with both licensing models of subscription and perpetual offered, with the slight distinction that WhatsUp Gold only offers subscription licenses for Premium Edition 300 and below.
Where there does appear to be huge level of difference is the mechanism which licenses are counted.
WhatsUp Gold offers two editions of their network monitoring solution: Premium and Total Plus. The table below shows the difference between them being that Premium is a base solution which can be upgraded with various plugins; whereas Total Plus includes those plugins as standard.
|Device & Server Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|Availability & Performance||✔️||✔️|
|Alerts & Notifications||✔️||✔️|
|Custom Dashboards & Reporting||✔️||✔️|
|Wireless Network Monitoring||✔️||✔️|
|Cloud & Storage Monitoring||Add-On||✔️|
|Network Traffic Analysis||Add-On||✔️|
Depending on which edition suits, the license is counted differently. For Premium edition, it is a simple model of number of devices to be monitored. What is monitored on those devices, sometimes known as monitors, sensors or metrics is not counted; and is therefore unlimited.
However, when purchasing the Total Plus edition, the licensing is counted via points. Each server, switch, wireless controller, AP, firewall etc is counted as one point. Where some of the add-ons are used, this equates to higher points consumption. For example, a NetFlow or a Log Management source counts as ten points. More can be read about the licensing models here: https://www.whatsupgold.com/editions
SolarWinds licenses very differently. To begin with they offer a highly modularised solution, some of which we have listed below:
These are just to name a few of those which are available. All of which have their own licensing options available, in addition the SolarWinds Orion solution which acts as a single-pane of glass for all of the SolarWinds solutions.
Once you have selected the modules you require, you will need to determine the number of devices (known as nodes) you want to monitor; and in the case of NPM the number of interfaces and logical disk volumes you wish to monitor.
For example, with NPM, the following licensing options are available:
|License||Number of Monitored Elements|
|SL100||Up to 100 nodes, 100 interfaces and 100 volumes - 300 elements.|
|SL250||Up to 250 nodes, 250 interfaces and 250 volumes - 750 elements.|
|SL500||Up to 500 nodes, 500 interfaces and 500 volumes - 1500 elements.|
|SL2000||Up to 2000 nodes, 2000 interfaces and 2000 volumes - 6000 elements.|
|SLX||Unlimited number of elements.|
On paper it seems like a great win that a 100 license effectively expands out into 300 elements, however we wonder about how well this works in practice. For example, should you want to monitor ten 48-port switches, you would need at the very least a SL500 license. Otherwise, you will be forced to pick which interfaces you wish to monitor.
In addition, there is no flexibility, you cannot for example borrow element points from volumes. This seems particularly stiff when it comes to monitored volumes, as it is more likely that you would want to monitor hundreds of switch ports, rather than hundreds of disk volumes.
Pricing comparisons are often very difficult as most vendors will play their cards close to their chest and not publish pricing publicly. In addition to this, most vendors will offer discount for various scenarios, volume purchases and competitive situations.
This said, we were able to find a comparison in a Tully report from 2017
In the example above, the cost comparison between the solutions is stark and highlights that while WhatsUp Gold can be modularised under its Premium edition license. The true value is found in its Total Plus edition, which given it includes all plugins bar failover, it fares incredibly favourably.
If there is one thing which I have learned during my time working with IT software, it is that having a great solution will only get you so far. Some of the best solutions I have worked with have faltered due to poor technical and sales support. As an IT professional, you want to know that when there is a problem, your chosen vendor has the skills and the bandwidth to be able to help you.
In order to compare WhatsUp Gold and SolarWinds, we had a look at two of the industry's largest and most respected review websites: TrustRadius and G2.
In summary, what we found was although WhatsUp Gold was rated as being less easy to use and set up, that the quality of support when help was needed was clearly on-point. We were also pleased to see a rating of 9.0 for ease of doing business with - because there is nothing worse than asking for a quote and having to wait a week for a response.
In conclusion, the winner for us has to be Progress WhatsUp Gold. Don't get us wrong, it is a difficult and well-fought battle between them, however we think that on the licensing and cost alone, SolarWinds prices itself out of the competition; and without any real justification.
Despite small nuances, the two solutions largely offer the same features and capabilities; and would both be a great addition to any IT team looking for a network monitoring solution. But, return on investment is key, and having to demonstrate the additional value from SolarWinds versus WhatsUp Gold in comparison to the gulf in cost to get SolarWinds to include the features found in WhatsUp Gold (particularly the Total Plus edition), we are uncertain it will make it past many a purchasing department.
Are you interested in learning more about Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold? Book a short call and speak to one of our solution specialists.