NetIQ Keeps Its Edge

AppManager Is Still Tops-For NT/2000 Systems.

With version 4.0, NetIQ Corp.s AppManager remains king of the hill for Windows NT/2000 systems management, but sites looking to cover non-Windows systems should find another leader.

Bolstered with new reports and reporting methods as well as support for Microsoft Corp.s emerging .Net systems, AppManager kept us fully informed about the performance and faults it found on NT/2000 systems during eWeek Labs tests.

However, organizations that use a mix of Unix, Linux or mainframe operating systems should add BMC Software Inc.s Patrol for Microsoft Windows Servers to their arsenal. Although the Patrol for Windows module lacks the depth of coverage offered by AppManager, it fits neatly into BMCs central console, allowing IT staffers to manage a heterogeneous system environment from a single console. This is almost always the better choice when it comes to mixed-systems management.

AppManager is competitively priced at $600 per managed server application and $2,500 for the console. AppManager Analysis Center, an option for AppManager 4.0 that we tested, costs $150 per server and is sold in packs of 50.

AppManager, which has been shipping since March, relies on a fairly large agent—between 16MB and 20MB in tests, depending on the number of monitored applications—and a tricky new security process to communicate performance information. We installed the agent directly from the CD, but managers can also push it out using log-on scripts or a software distribution tool.

We used the new secure communication method to encrypt messages sent between the agent and the management console, but the setup is quite detailed and requires careful attention to detail. We needed the assistance of a NetIQ sales engineer during tests, and even then, we werent sure it was worth the effort—it neednt be implemented—to protect what amounts to simple performance data.

Managers of large installations will likely appreciate the new Analysis Center option, which will let them use data from Microsofts SQL Server 2000 OLAP (online analytical processing) Analysis Service to get performance information from multiple AppManager repositories. This is a big step forward for the product; unlike earlier versions, Analysis Center allowed us to gather information about much larger numbers of servers without having to run multiple reports.

We tested the new AppManager modules for Microsofts Commerce, Internet Security and Acceleration, and Exchange 2000 Conference servers. It was simple to incorporate these modules into an AppManager console, and managers will likely be pleased with the performance data they gather. For example, we tracked the availability of the Commerce 2000 server along with event log entries; the modules also allowed us to check for high CPU and memory utilization.

AppManager now offers new connectors for Micromuse Inc.s Netcool and NetIQs recently acquired Pegasus performance monitoring tool, joining the roster of connectors that allow AppManager to report basic performance data for Aprisma Corp.s Spectrum as well as many other operations management tools.

On the lighter side, NetIQ has added quite a few cosmetic changes to AppManagers performance reporting graphs. Like a parade of circus monkeys, the graphs can now whirl, flip and spin to show bar charts from every possible angle. The effects are useful when graphing more than two or three metrics on the same chart, but consider the product more for what it monitors than for the eye candy.