Product Reviews

A Few of My Favorite Things: BMC Patrol

Compaq knows a thing or two about troubleshooting large networks. Here are some of the utilities and programs it uses most and likes best for Windows 2000.

BMC Patrol is primarily an enterprise monitoring architecture, so its main job is keeping an eye out for OS or application failures. But that’s not all it does—several features make it useful for network troubleshooting and diagnostics. Let’s discuss a few.

  • Centralized console view—Patrol’s centralized graphical console is great for troubleshooting, as all your hosts and applications are available at your fingertips (see the figure).
  • Large selection of application and OS metrics out of the box—Nearly 2,000 metrics can be monitored for Win2K alone, enabling very detailed diagnostics.
  • Available online historical data for metrics—If an alert’s received showing that the C: drive on a server is full, you can pull up a graph to show when it filled up. You can then guess the approximate time stamp of the offending file and locate it.
  • Creation of multi-line graphs—Win2K DNS servers suffer from occasional poor response time. Patrol allows you to overlay DNS response-time data with CPU utilization and disk busy rates to look for simple CPU or I/O bound patterns. You can even compare it with DNS query rates, WINS update rates, dynamic update rates and so on. Up to 32 graphs can be overlaid, making it a good interface for spotting patterns.
  • Data annotations for key metrics—Suppose the CPU chart shows 100 percent utilization for an Exchange server from 2 to 3 p.m. An operator can drill down at the start of this activity and get a listing of the top 10 processes by CPU usage. This can be very handy when troubleshooting Win2K problems, since rogue processes are often a cause or symptom of problems.
  • Service and process monitoring—The Patrol service module pinpoints automatic services that have failed and also tracks CPU and memory usage. You can use the NT process module to track individual processes and troubleshoot memory leaks and CPU usage.
  • Compaq Insight Manager (CIM) integration—Perhaps the problem lies in the hardware. Patrol CIM integration finds hardware failures in the same diagnostic interface, so you don’t waste time looking for OS problems that don’t exist.
BMC Patrol
Patrol’s alerts, like the one shown here, warn you about problems affecting your network. (Click image to view larger version.)

Patrol has much information available online for the experienced user; while the online help can be quite informative, it still needs improvement for some of the more obscure metrics.

About the Author

Alistair Limb is a technical solutions architect working for Compaq Global Services in the UK. He’s spent the last six years working on enterprise monitoring solutions.

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