AppManager gives you the tools you need to keep a firm grip on network
- By Gerry O'Brien
As your organization grows, it invariably takes more resources to
keep things running smoothly. The IT infrastructure you have to
manage and support becomes increasingly complex. More users, systems,
and servers are added to the network—all that equates to more
issues you'll need to resolve.
Your users won't always use their applications and network resources
correctly. There will be software conflicts with the operating system
or other applications. Newly released software is often loaded with
bugs that can cause dramatic problems like crashing your applications
and servers or subtle issues like memory leaks that continuously
rob your servers' memory resources.
If you're in a small organization with one or two servers, you
might be able to deal with these issues as they arise without much
support. As your systems get larger, this task quickly becomes daunting.
NetIQ has your answer to this dilemma with its AppManager suite.
AppManager lets you monitor your Windows clients and servers, as
well as any Unix systems you may have attached to your network.
The sheer number of different technological assets that you can
monitor with AppManager is impressive to say the least (see Figure
1). The tree view on the left of Figure 1 shows the various categories
of objects you can monitor. The detail pane on the right displays
objects for the NT category.
|Figure 1. This is just a partial list of some of the technology
resources you can monitor with AppManager. (Click image to view larger version.)
AppManager can monitor processes that burn up the most CPU time, watch
how a server is performing in terms of streaming media and watch your
Exchange servers and SQL servers. It could easily become an indispensable
part of your network maintenance and troubleshooting toolbox.
If you've used NetIQ's AppAnalyzer, you will already know that NetIQ
does a fantastic job of helping you determine if your systems meet
AppManager uses the same concept by providing you with an application
for checking system requirements prior to installing AppManager.
Although the requirements listed above seem relatively simple to
verify, there are "hidden" requirements that the system
check utility will help you uncover.
Feature Set 20%
————————————————— Receiving a rating of 9.0 or above, this product earns the Redmond Most Valuable Product award.
1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
When installing any of AppManager's components, you'll have the
option to perform a system pre-installation check prior to installing
the full product. Depending on which components you choose to install,
you may be asked to select sub components as well. These subcomponents
will determine the nature of the checks that AppManager will perform
on your systems. In Figure 2, you can see an example of results
returned from a Pre-installation check for the Analysis Center install.
Note the issues with the SQL Agent and Server running as OLAP Administrators.
|Figure 2. The subcomponents you choose to install will determine
which pre-Installation checks AppManager will make. (Click image to view larger version.)
Once you've resolved any pre-installation issues that arise, you'll
be ready to install the product. Resist the
temptation to forgo this step. If you don't perform a
pre-installation check, you may find issues later on that prevent
the product from working correctly. NetIQ has provided the pre-install
checks to help ensure a smooth installation and operation of AppManager.
Knowledge Is Power
AppManager lets you monitor your systems with Knowledge Scripts.
These scripts contain the necessary information required to perform
monitoring tasks. By selecting a Knowledge Script from the list
pane on the right of the Operator Console, you can drag and drop
the script to the appropriate computer in the tree view pane on
the left. AppManager will add that Knowledge Script as a job to
that computer and will begin monitoring the values you have specified.
(See Figure 3 for an example of a Knowledge Script configuration.)
|Figure 3. Here are the Knowledge Script properties for NT_ TopMemoryProcs
monitoring. (Click image to view larger version.)
This particular Knowledge Script is configured to monitor the processes
that are using the most memory. Using this script, you can determine
if an application or applications are using excessive amounts of
memory or if an application is using more memory than it calls for.
You could use this Knowledge Script to help you locate apps with
memory leak issues.
Another well-thought-out and useful feature is the ability to simultaneously
apply the same Knowledge Script to multiple computers. The Operator
Console displays all the computers that you've configured for that
particular script. At the top of the tree view is the master object.
Once you've located the Knowledge Script you want to apply to a
computers, simply drag the script to the master object. AppManager
will apply that script to all the computers in the tree view, highlighting
the appropriate options in those computers and applying the jobs
to all computers in
The Operator Console is where you'll do most of your configuration
and monitoring tasks. AppManager lets you run the Operator Console
as an MMC snap-in or even remotely with web-based interface (see
Figure 4). The ability to run the console from multiple interfaces
lets you connect to your management server remotely whether in the
office or on the road.
|Figure 4. You can run the Operator Console through an MMC or through
this Web-based interface. (Click image to view larger version.)
After you've configured and run a set of Knowledge Scripts to
gather monitoring data, you can then view the information in a number
of different chart formats. The bottom pane of the Operator Console
displays the Events, Jobs, Details and Graph Data tabs. Selecting
the Graph tab will give you the option of producing charts for graphically
displaying job results. AppManager offers several preconfigured
themes for these charts. As you can see in Figure 5, you can view
multiple charts in the Charting Console to see multiple job results
in a single view.
|Figure 5. The Charting Console gives a number of options for viewing data.
(Click image to view larger version.)
ith the Analysis component installed, you can also use OLAP to
view and manipulate your data. For this to function correctly, you
must first install SQL Server Analysis on a server accessible to
AppManager and its Analysis services. Installing Analysis Services
on the same computer as AppManager and the repository will tax your
system, so make sure you have the resources to handle both. The
recommended approach is to install SQL Server on a separate system
to reduce the server load.
AppManager also includes a Diagnostic Console utility, which gives
you a snapshot of how a computer is using its resources. The Diagnostic
Console ( Figure 6) gives you much of the same information you're
used to seeing in the Windows Task Manager.
|Figure 6. The Diagnostic Console can display snapshot data like
Directory Service access for Exchange statistics. (Click image to view larger version.)
There are several panes
in the Diagnostic Console that give you select snapshot data. The
performance pane at the top gives you real time CPU, memory and
disk usage. The top right pane shows you the status of your Exchange
services. The lower left pane displays information about each graph,
the lower right pane lets you get at commonly used system utilities.
You can export the Diagnostic
Console data to an
Custom Scripts for Complex Tasks
If yon need to perform some monitoring tasks that aren't provided
out of the box, AppManager lets you create and customize scripts
yourself. You can use the script editor or the Developers Console
to view, create, customize and edit Knowledge Scripts.
Some of the scripts are written in Microsoft Visual Basic Script,
which uses the same syntax you may have already used if you've done
scripting for WMI or ADSI. You can also import existing PERL scripts
into the Developer Console to create custom Knowledge Scripts.
As you might expect from an application of this scale, there are
some hefty system requirements. Although not big on hardware horsepower,
you'll need to satisfy software requirements. AppManager requires
a repository server and a management server at the very least (although
these can both be the same server, if needed). You will need a Pentium
III 733MHz CPU, 512MB RAM and 200MB of hard disk space at a minimum.
You'll also need Windows 2000 SP3 or Server 2003 as the base operating
system. The repository server needs access to Microsoft SQL Server
2000 SP3 or later with MDAC 2.6 or 2.7. If you want to run the analysis
component, you will also need to install SQL Server Analysis Services
on your database server.
Believe it or not, we have merely scratched the surface here of
what you can do with AppManager. We could easily fill this magazine
with more descriptions of what AppManager can do. The User's Guide
for the product itself is 358 PDF pages long. Add the Administrator's
guide, the Installation Guide, the Knowledge Script Reference Guide,
Upgrading Guide and Reporting Guides, and you can easily fill your
summer reading list.
It will require some time on your part to learn all of AppManager's
features, but you'll earn it back with the time saved monitoring
multiple computers. AppManager may provide more tools and utilities
than you may need, but it's better to have more than less in this