Learn about NT performance management and capacity planning

Before Microsoft released Windows NT 4.0, bookstores didn’t carry many NT titles. Today, however, NT books easily fill several bookshelves, and additional specialized NT volumes join the systems administration guides. Curt Aubley’s Tuning and Sizing NT Server is one of the most focused NT guides available. Aubley does an excellent job clarifying a subject that often baffles NT administrators.

Longer books than the 450-page Tuning and Sizing NT Server exist, but none provides more performance-management information. Aubley assumes that his readers know NT; thus, his book doesn’t include the obligatory section on NT basics that most NT guides provide. Authors include these sections on NT basics to help ease readers into a complicated topic. However, basic NT information is likely to irritate busy systems administrators who can barely spare the time to read a long book. The only basic administration information Aubley’s book contains is a three-page appendix titled "Registry Recovery Refresher." The appendix reviews the procedures for creating Emergency Repair Disks (ERDs) and performing Registry backups. Aubley encourages users to create ERDs and perform Registry backups before they make any system changes.

Tuning and Sizing NT Server’s structure is somewhat radical: You can read the first chapter, put the book down, and still come away with valuable insight into NT system capacity management. The book’s first chapter—"Instant Rules of Thumb for Tuning and Sizing NT Server"—is almost a microcosm of the book, and covers topics such as monitoring; tuning of memory, disks, networks, and CPU resources; and general sizing procedures. Aubley makes several recommendations in the first chapter (e.g., adjusting pagefile size) and thoroughly explains and examines each recommendation in subsequent chapters. Aubley also examines key areas that affect NT performance and demonstrates a strong understanding of NT’s architecture. When users read the list of performance area enhancements that Chapter 1 contains, they’ll have a battle plan for tuning their NT server.

In subsequent chapters, Aubley teaches readers more subtle skills, such as the goals and objectives of planning and projecting system capacity. He favors techniques that automate processes (e.g., you can configure Performance Monitor to trigger new instances when new processes start) and includes several Perl scripts.

Tuning and Sizing NT Server illustrates several specific procedures but contains only a few screen shots. The book is dense, and some readers might struggle to maintain interest when Aubley explores topics such as memory thrashing. The author’s writing style is not at fault, however; the book’s tone is personable and the author explains challenging material well. Aubley doesn’t talk over his readers’ heads. Tuning and Sizing NT Server is neither incomplete nor intimidating. The book’s material is appropriately thorough—it even explains the steps you take to launch Performance Monitor. The book also explores specific concerns for several sample server configurations, including each of Microsoft’s BackOffice applications.

Tuning and Sizing NT Server is an expensive book at $49.95—it comes with a CD-ROM that contains Perl scripts, Performance Monitor environment files, and author-recommended benchmark and testing software. The information on the CD-ROM is valuable, but the author could easily have included the information free of charge on the book’s supporting Web site (http://www.tuningandsizingnt.com). Nonetheless, Tuning and Sizing NT Server is worth the price and is an excellent addition to any NT reference library. Systems administrators who read the book will receive an education in NT performance management and capacity planning.

Tuning and Sizing NT Server
Author:
Curt Aubley
Publisher: Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 1998, ISBN 0-13-095388-1
Price: $49.95, 450 pages