NetIQ's AppManager Suite 3.0 monitors NT clients

NetIQ' AppManager Suite 3.0 monitors NT clients

This product for dedicated network management augments remote-control utilities and NT's tools

By Martin Heller
Special to GCN

In an ideal world, server hardware and applications run continuously and perfectly from the moment they're set up. In the real world, especially where Microsoft Windows NT is concerned, servers crash and services and applications stop responding for any number of reasons.

''In a server room, the administrator can monitor things visually to a limited degree with standard Windows NT utilities, some of which work over a LAN.

''But when servers are geographically distributed and connected via Internet, built-in NT tools tend to fail. Third-party utilities become essential.

''Some administrators manage distributed servers with relatively inexpensive remote-control utilities such as pcAnywhere from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., to augment NT's administrative tools.

''Others find it worthwhile to buy dedicated management products such as Patrol from BMC Software Inc. of Houston or NetIQ Corp.'s AppManager, which I tested for this review.

Central agents

''AppManager Suite 3.0 centrally manages and monitors NT clients and servers via a management agent on each system that returns data to a Microsoft SQL Server database repository.

''The stored data can be viewed with Microsoft Management Consoles and snap-ins, other consoles or Web browsers. The Web version of the console requires Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer on a Windows, Unix or Apple Macintosh client.

''At one of the consoles, the administrator sees graphs of monitored data, responds to alert conditions, and launches management tasks for any linked computer and the network. In addition to NT, AppManager can monitor servers running Citrix WinFrame from Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Compaq Insight Manager, Dell OpenManage, Hewlett-Packard NetServer software, Lotus Notes and Domino, and Oracle7 and Oracle8.

''It also takes care of Microsoft server software: Cluster Server, Exchange Server, Internet Information Server, Message Queue, Proxy Server, SQL Server, Systems Management Server, Terminal Server, Transaction Server and Web-based Enterprise Management.

''AppManager integrates with the applications via knowledge scripts written in a language that resembles Visual Basic. New knowledge scripts can be added for other applications or other actions.

SQL 7 refused

''I first tried to install AppManager on a dual-CPU server running Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4, Internet Information Server 4.0 and SQL Server 7.0. AppManager 3 refused to use SQL Server 7 for its repository, although it does monitor and manage the relational database software. NetIQ's tech support confirmed this as a limitation of Version 3, which a future release will correct. But because my test server was running SQL Server 7 production databases, I could not revert to SQL Server 6.5 to test AppManager.

''I next tried AppManager on a 400-MHz Pentium II Compaq Deskpro EP with 64M of RAM. Initially I installed its repository and management server with the second beta release of Windows 2000 Server and SQL Server 6.5 Service Pack 3.

''AppManager appeared to run but would not display graphs. After some research, NetIQ tech support confirmed that Version 3 could not support this combination of programs. So I proceeded to reformat the hard drives and install Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4, SQL Server 6.5 Service Pack 3 and AppManager.

''In the supported configuration, AppManager worked as documented and was fully stable. I could run jobs, see and respond to events, collect and graph data, and run reports.

''Free physical memory was constantly low, however. It took 64M to run NT Server, one AppManager server, one AppManager console and the SQL Server repository. I recommend having at least 128M for a production AppManager management server and repository.

''AppManager Suite 3 comes with about 150 predefined reports, typically more than one for each predefined knowledge script. Customizing reports and defining new reports is fairly straightforward; AppManager uses Crystal Reports from Seagate Software of Vancouver to format information from its repository.

''Customizing knowledge scripts takes a little more work. AppManager uses Visual Basic-like scripts that are aware of AppManager itself as well as the processes or counters to be monitored. Documentation comes in Adobe Portable Document Format; the level is appropriate for moderately experienced Visual Basic programmers who have some systems administration experience.

Line and knowledge

''The command line scripts let AppManager activities go on automatically without having to work through an interactive console. NetIQCmd can be called from a batch file to run a VBScript file that defines actions. Several simple scripts come with the product. Customizing the command line scripts is roughly as difficult as customizing the knowledge scripts.

''AppManager can monitor remote machines over the Internet and through firewalls. To monitor through a firewall, you must open up the remote procedure call locator service port and two private ports so that the agents can communicate with the AppManager server.

''AppManager has much to offer the administrator of a Windows NT network. On the downside, it requires a separate SQL Server license and does not support Unix or Novell NetWare servers.

''NetIQ officials said AppManager has users at the Veteran Affairs and Justice departments, Postal Service and Navy.

''Martin Heller is a software developer, consultant and writer in Andover, Mass.

Box Score B

AppManager Suite 3.0

NetIQ Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.

tel. 703-934-6074

www.netiq.com

Prices: $1,875 per console and $450 per managed system in one-unit quantities, GSA

Pros and cons:

+Monitors and manages hundreds of NT platforms and applications from one console


'Requires SQL Server for repository


'Cannot manage Unix or NetWare servers





Real-life requirements:

Repository: NT Server 4.0 SP3, SQL Server 6.5 SP3, 166-MHz Pentium processor, 64M or more of RAM;

managed systems: Intel or Alpha processors running Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0 in Workstation, Server or Enterprise Edition

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