A great deal of attention is paid to monitoring and managing servers. In a well-run network, servers are seldom a major source of problems, but when there are server troubles, everyone notices. When a server is having problems, the very least consequence is that users suffer productivity losses; if your server is employed in electronic business, you may be losing real dollars. A package that can correct some problems and give you early warning can be a real time- and face-saver.
One very useful application for monitoring and managing Windows NT Servers is CompuWare's EcoTools for NT Version 6.2.1. This is a good choice for managers who need to manage NT systems, and for those who have limited or future needs to manage NetWare servers. By monitoring a server's status and calling for help when necessary, EcoTools can minimise your server downtime.
EcoTools does not monitor or manage desktop machines, printers, routers or other devices. Like Platinum's LogCaster, EcoTools allows you to monitor servers, trigger alerts, and send pager messages and e-mails. However, EcoTools is more flexible than LogCaster in that it can monitor a large number of applications running on an NT server, and it can run any program that the system manager selects.
Another competitor, Platinum's Network Monitor, offers much greater flexibility than EcoTools in paging and alerting and can save time in restoring a server to full function. But Network Monitor doesn't offer as much detail about server functions and cannot restart server tasks.
EcoTools' NetWare options are weaker than its NT options, but the NetWare support looks promising.
EcoTools is a three-tiered monitoring package. The bottom tier consists of either NetWare or NT managed servers. The middle tier consists of control servers, which are dedicated NT servers that gather statistics and warehouse monitoring data. The third tier consists of user consoles, which can be NT Workstation or NT Server machines or systems running the leading Web browsers. At this time, the Web browser interface is limited to monitoring the servers, but the Windows NT user console can change the monitoring set-up, and even run applications on the monitored NT servers.
The control machines are the busiest. They need to run Microsoft's SQL Server 7 to manage and warehouse the data. If you want Web access to the system, the control servers also need to run Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS). And because each tier can, and usually does, run on different machines, these machines must communicate. The control server also has to run the Microsoft FTP service. All this requires that the system have NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 4 and the NT Option Pack loaded.
EcoTools calls its basic monitoring unit a "task". Using the task-creation wizard, I selected which machines to monitor and chose specific measurements (CompuWare calls these counters) that the target machine's operating system communicates to EcoTools. I then set up rules to define alerts, and told EcoTools what I wanted done about the alerts. The options were to send an alert to the console, to page or e-mail someone, and/or to run an application to correct the problem.
The wizard also offered a number of templates, sparing me the need to select individual counters. There were templates covering system performance, system reliability, and a number of other areas. The wizard also let me schedule the tasks. I found this very flexible: I could select how often the task was to run, and during what hours.
But I also found some weaknesses in EcoTools' scheduling. The scheduler was not sensitive to the days of the week and its handling of pages was also less elegant than in Platinum's Network Monitor. Although EcoTools' paging functions work well, changes to your staff would require you to edit each alert for accuracy, rather than simply updating the staff records in the scheduler.
EcoTools has a very rich set of NT Server monitoring options with a bewildering array of measurements. It can also tap into many popular applications, including SAP R/3, PeopleSoft, Oracle applications, Lotus Notes, and Microsoft IIS, SQL Server, and Exchange. EcoTools can also monitor NetWare servers, but here its performance was less impressive.
The NetWare agent could measure only seven counters, compared to more than I had time to gather for the NT servers. Worse, some of the NetWare counters seemed broken. One of the strangest errors was EcoTools' insistence that one of my NetWare volumes had 190 per cent of its space free. And EcoTools cannot run an application on a NetWare server in the event of an alert.
The Web interface is sensitive to the Java version your browser is using. However, as in NetWare monitoring, the Web console lags behind the NT console. The Web-based monitoring functions are not as well laid out, some information isn't available, and there are no options to manage the servers.
For shops that primarily use NT servers, this is a very good tool, offering stability and good monitoring capabilities. However, the limited scheduling and paging systems, as well as the problems with the NetWare and Web agents, keep me from being as enthusiastic as I would like to be about this product. My hopes spring from EcoTools' promise: given time, this could become a great tool.
The Bottom Line
EcoTools for NT Version 6.2.1
A well-run network anticipates and quickly fixes server problems. Using CompuWare's EcoTools for Windows NT, you can confidently monitor and manage your servers. EcoTools can give you early warning to potential problems, and can also launch applications to correct some of your problems. It is an especially fine product for keeping in touch with NT Servers via an NT console.
When a server is having problems, you run the risk of losing money, either through lost user productivity or interrupted revenue streams. With EcoTools, a server monitoring and management package that can correct some problems and call for help, you can minimise your NT Servers' downtime and save yourself embarrassment, or worse.
Pros: Fine Windows NT Server monitoring and management; monitoring task-creation process very clean and easy.
Cons: Monitoring and managing options for NetWare lag behind those for NT Server; glitchy Web interface.
Platforms: Control software runs on Windows NT 4.0; monitoring console requires Windows NT, or systems with Netscape Navigator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.0 or later.
Price: Available on application.
Tel (02) 9927 2799