Get a handle on BackOffice performance

Managing large enterprise environments is a hair-pulling experience. However, managing smaller environments can be even more of a challenge because you are unlikely to get the staff you need to support the number of servers you manage. If you use Microsoft's Windows NT Server or BackOffice and need a comprehensive systems management aid, NetIQ's AppManager Suite may be the product for you.

Client/Server Approach
AppManager Suite manages the performance and availability of your company's NT and BackOffice servers. The software consists of a centralized console you install on one system (Screen 1 shows the main AppManager Console window) and a series of agents you install on other systems you want to monitor. Two final components--the Management Server (an NT server that manages event-driven communications between console and agents) and the Repository Server (a SQL Server database that stores accumulated data)--round out the suite.

AppManager Suite monitors virtually every component of Microsoft BackOffice through a series of integrated product modules. The modules, known as AppManagers, help you manage NT Server, NT Workstation, Exchange Server, SQL Server, Systems Management Server (SMS), Internet Information Server (IIS), Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS), Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS), Message Queue Server, Proxy Server, Microsoft Commercial Internet System (MCIS) News Server, and several other non-Microsoft products.

The AppManager for NT identifies CPU bottlenecks and top CPU-consuming programs, while tracking memory utilization and excessive paging. The package will monitor and filter the NT event log for crucial messages and catch security violations. The AppManagers for other components perform similar functions. Furthermore, the software can monitor the status of your NT services and restart services that stop.

NetIQ includes several dozen prepackaged business rules, known as knowledge scripts, as part of the base product. These scripts contain information about how AppManager manages your NT environment, and they let you use AppManager almost immediately upon installation, rather than having to run the software for a period of time to establish a baseline from which to monitor.

Knowledge scripts initiate various actions when they detect poor conditions on your server. Actions include sending an email to an administrator, sending a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) trap to a network management product, and launching a program to take corrective action (if the condition warrants).

Installing AppManager Suite
AppManager Suite is complicated and installing it is time-consuming. You must perform numerous preinstallation steps before installing the product. Luckily, the program includes a preinstallation check to ensure your environment is ready.

I installed AppManager Suite on my home-built Micronics-based dual-Pentium II processor system. I chose to install only the monitoring components for the operating system (OS), SQL Server, and Exchange Server. After I answered a series of questions for these options, the installation proceeded smoothly and took 15 minutes to complete. Because I needed to activate certain system features, I had to reboot my NT server after installation.

Considering the time you can save using the software--and the thousands of dollars you will save by not hiring an additional systems administrator--AppManager Suite is definitely a product that you should consider if your NT system is growing. You can request a trial version of the software through the company's Web site.

AppManager Suite
Contact: NetIQ 408-556-0888
Web: http://www.netiq.com
Price: $2500 (console), $600 (managed software)
System Requirements: Varies depending on number and nature of modules used.