Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds, a provider of downloadable network management software, has released a free tool to monitor the performance of VMware Inc. virtual environments.

The new tool, SolarWinds VM Monitor, and an update to its flagship Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) gives IT a way to manage and monitor their virtual machines (VM).

SolarWinds VM Monitor is operated through a desktop dashboard that continuously monitors a VMware ESX server and the associated VMs by providing real-time monitoring of ESX health indicators.

According to SolarWinds, many of the affordable network management solutions on the market don’t extend monitoring to performance and availability of VMs, potentially impacting critical business services including e-mail, web applications, and ERP.

This appears to be a big issue in data centers, as more than 50,000 customers, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, use products from 10 year old SolarWinds to monitor and manage their networks, according to Kenny Van Zant, chief product strategist at the company.

It makes sense for companies like SolarWinds to extend their capabilities into virtual environments because virtualization adoption is growly rapidly; worldwide virtualization license shipments in the second quarter of 2008 increased 53% year over year, compared to a 72% year-over-year increase the previous quarter, according to Framingham, Mass.-based IDC’s new Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Tracker released October 16.

VMware holds the top position in the virtualization market with 78% revenue share in the second quarter of this year, the Server Virtualization Tracker showed.

In addition to SolarWinds software and the VMware ESX Virtual Infrastructure 3’s built-in monitoring tools, there is a large selection of third-party applications - both free and for a price - that offer performance management capabilities, including Nagios, Vizioncore vCharter Pro, eG VM Monitor Veeam Reporter, Hyperic HQ and others.

SolarWinds’ free tool, available for download today, makes it easy to:

• Quickly check the health of a single VMware ESX server by monitoring CPU and memory utilization, number of VMs configured and running, and more

• View detailed individual VM health statistics including VM name, IP address, VM state, as well as processor, memory and disk usage.

• Prevent performance degradation by checking threshold specific indicators to remediate issues.

Of course, like most free software, there is a better version of it that isn’t free.

To monitor a full VMware virtual environment, the improved version of Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is the way to go, according to SolarWinds. NPM gives network engineers a way to monitor thousands of VMware ESX servers, as well as associated VM instances, and VMware VirtualCenter.

With this update, Orion NPM can read host MIB information from each VMware ESX server and its corresponding VMs, detailing statistics like CPU utilization, memory utilization, disk usage, and much more. The latest release also offers ESX-specific alerts and reports. Orion Network Performance Monitor offers:

• Monitoring and analysis of in-depth network performance metrics for routers, switches, physical servers, ESX servers, virtual machines, and any other SNMP-enabled devices in real time

• Do-it-yourself deployment that allows users to be up and running in about an hour

• An intuitive, customizable web interface that supports multiple views including maps and global Top 10 lists

• Alerting for correlated events, sustained conditions, and complex combinations of device states

• Modules to expand monitoring of NetFlow traffic analysis and VoIP performance, wireless devices, applications and servers

SolarWinds’ Orion NPM is available now and pricing starts at $2,475 (USD) for 100 monitored elements including first year maintenance. Orion NPM customers, currently under maintenance, get the 9.1 updates for free.

Users can find more information, tips from SolarWinds company experts as well as peer support and perspectives on Orion NPM, at Thwack, the SolarWinds online community.

Also, on Thursday, October 30, SolarWinds’ Head Geek (their term, not mine), Josh Stephens will host a “Geek Speak” webcast that will look at monitoring ESX-based virtual environments and the challenges associated with them. For more information and to register for the “Monitoring the Virtual Environment – A Technical Perspective on ESX Server Health and Performance Monitoring” event, go to