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HP Updates Workload Management Tool for Windows

In Windows 2000, Microsoft packaged a Process Control tool for workload management only in its high-end Windows 2000 Datacenter Server product. The OEMs who sell Windows Datacenter systems have typically layered on additional functionality with their own workload management technologies drawn from Unix or mainframe product lines. This month, Hewlett-Packard made its workload management tool more attractive to lower-end Windows Server users.

HP is delivering the tool as part of its ProLiant Essentials line of software upsells for HP-Compaq ProLiant servers. With its Workload Management Pack 2.0, HP has broadened the tool's functionality beyond application management in four- and eight-processor server consolidation scenarios and slashed the price by nearly 75 percent.

The original Workload Management Pack was released in January at a cost of $1,875 and was included in the Microsoft-certified ProLiant solution for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

The original version, like Microsoft's Process Control, allowed users to assign processors and memory to specific applications to make it possible to assign higher priorities to the most important applications when several applications have been consolidated on one server running one instance of the Windows operating system. Like the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Process Control tool, the ProLiant workload manager leverages Microsoft's Job Objects technology.

"There was the Process Control functionality that [Microsoft] did deliver, but it's difficult to use and not very intuitive," says Lee Johns, software director for industry-standard servers at HP, on the reason HP originally brought out a similar tool. "We have the technology for our HP-UX boxes. Unix users take workload management for granted."

Additionally, the HP 1.0 tool gave administrators trying to consolidate applications on four-processor and eight-processor systems an interface to perform workload management in Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. Microsoft plans to release a greatly enhanced version of its Process Control technology called the Windows Server Resource Manager with Windows .NET Server 2003 that will run in both the Datacenter Edition and the Enterprise Edition, which is the successor to Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

In the 2.0 version of HP's workload manager, minor improvements have been made to the server consolidation/application consolidation functionality. The tool now records data in the Windows event log so that the alerts get scraped by system management tools from other vendors. HP also added a resource monitor to help users make more intelligent decisions about how to manage processes and workloads.

But the major additions to the new $499 version involve technologies useful for users running Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server on ProLiant servers ranging down to as few as two processors.

One level of functionality is the ability to put a boundary around the key application on a server. As an example, Johns says a two-way Exchange server will often have many side processes running. Guaranteeing a certain level of system resources for Exchange will prevent a memory leak in a side process from taking down the system or severely impacting Exchange performance.

The tool also allows for scheduling resource allocation. Again with the Exchange example, an administrator might want to guarantee Exchange the use of three processors on a four-way system during the week, but reverse the processor allocation for weekend batch jobs.

HP is also creating what it calls "cluster landing zones" in its Workload Management Pack 2.0. The idea is that in an active-active failover cluster, the key application that justifies the cluster in the first place often doesn't get the kind of priority it should have when it starts up on an active backup machine already running secondary applications. The cluster landing zone approach in the tool means the backup server is preconfigured to reallocate resources when the key application fails over to give that application top priority on the machine.

HP's Workload Management Pack 2.0 is available immediately. The company is currently working on certifying its ProLiant solution for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server with the new version, and should be offering Datacenter systems with the new version in about a month, Johns said.

HP makes no pretense that it will attempt to market the pack as a general tool for use on other vendor's hardware, although ProLiant customers alone represent a sizable portion of the Windows server market. But the tool does provide a glimpse into the type of workload management software hardware vendors are layering on top of Windows. Such software for prioritizing applications within Windows, in combination with more powerful and stable Windows operating systems, faster processors from Intel, larger SMP industry-standard servers from Unisys and IBM, and software from VMWare for running multiple instances of Windows servers on one box, is creating an environment for Windows server consolidation solutions that is getting more robust by the day.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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