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Monitoring Tools Profile: BMC PATROL for Windows

By Nelson King (Send Email)
Posted Sep 15, 2005


BMC Software is a major player in the crowded IT software management arena. It has a long history of products for monitoring and managing enterprise-level server configurations. BMC PATROL for Microsoft Windows Servers works with a variety of server types: file, print, mail, and application servers, and takes an approach targeted for full-scale enterprise configurations, for example, it works with Microsoft Cluster Servers and servers using Microsoft Active Directory.

BMC Software is a major player in the crowded IT software management arena. We kick off our examination of monitoring tools with a look at this big league player's PATROL for Windows Server.

BMC sells PATROL for Microsoft Windows Servers as three products: Perceive, Perform, and Predict. A combined package, called PATROL Performance Assurance for Microsoft Windows Servers, provides all of the services.

PATROL for Microsoft Windows Servers is a suite of many components that monitor various aspects of a large-scale server infrastructure. The most active component is PATROL Agent, which does the actual monitoring. It uses the many Knowledge Modules (KMs) that specify what to monitor and how to interpret it. The function of these KM components is fairly self-explanatory, based on their names:

PATROL KM for Microsoft Windows Operating System
PATROL KM for Microsoft Windows Active Directory
PATROL KM for Microsoft Windows Domain Services
PATROL KM for Microsoft Cluster Server
PATROL KM for Microsoft COM+
PATROL KM for Microsoft Message Queue
PATROL KM for Event Management
PATROL KM for Log Management
PATROL KM for History Loader (loads PATROL data into a relational database)

The key to PATROL's approach is the relative autonomy of the PATROL Agent, which, when loaded with instructions from the PATROL Knowledge Modules, can start, monitor, alert, record, and manage the server without a connection to a PATROL Console (the central management tool).

Although the Windows modules have many features in common with other BMC PATROL products for Linux and Unix operating systems, this list illustrates how the product has been tailored for the features and terminology specific to Microsoft Windows (e.g., specific support for Microsoft Active Directory).

Installation of the PATROL system uses a PATROL Agent on each server to be monitored, and various KMs guide the agent. A server with a PATROL Console, the management component, must also have all of the KMs used in the servers being monitored. Configuration is on a per-module, per-server basis and can be very detailed. The PATROL Configuration Manager supports centralized deployment of server configurations through the PATROL Agent. BMC provides a large number of 'Rulesets' to provide default configuration for the Knowledge Modules. The PATROL Cluster Configuration Wizard is an invaluable tool to manage the complexities of cluster setup.

The PATROL Wizard for Microsoft Performance Monitor and WMI is the primary tool for using this interface because it can incorporate user-defined monitoring points based on the data and events provided by MPM or WMI.

Access to most of the monitoring functionality is through the PATROL Console using a dual-pane window with an expandable tree-list on the left, and the information/options on the right (i.e., Windows Explorer-like). This approach has become so ubiquitous that it is easily a de facto standard. Explanations and online help are provided for all options and monitoring values, although referencing the printed manuals will most likely be necessary.

As should be expected, PATROL for Microsoft Windows Servers must run an elaborate dance between its views of the system, the view(s) provided by Microsoft (e.g., through WMI — Windows Monitoring Instrumentation), and the large amount of systems' data available either through Microsoft software, other software, or the hardware. The PATROL Wizard for Microsoft Performance Monitor and WMI is the primary tool for using this interface because it can incorporate user-defined monitoring points based on the data and events provided by MPM or WMI.

One PATROL capability of note is how it manages system event logs (most operating systems have several). When system logs become large or reach capacity limits they can (dramatically) affect server performance. PATROL KM for Log Management supports four types of files: Text, Command scripts, Named Pipes, and Binary files.

Alerts rely on scripting (Perl and VB Script) and usually a notification server (both a primary and backup). Use of phone, SMS, or network message alerts is not directly supported. Recovery actions are built into the Knowledge Modules and usually provide an option to run automatically. Actions include: terminate a runaway process, clear temp directory, clear logs, restart processes and services, increase DFS, share connections, and restart a PATROL agent. Logs, events, and other data are loaded by the PATROL History Loader KM into a database (typically a MS SQL Server). The PATROL Console provides access to a number of analytical and reporting options. The PATROL Adapter for Microsoft Office enables access to the same data through MS Office applications, typically Microsoft Excel.

As far as user support, e-mail is the primary mode (24/7). Telephone support is also available to BMC's large user community.

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