Vantage 8.5 Consolidates Functions

Web-based console is easy to use, but database limited to SQL server.

Compuware Corp.s Vantage 8.5 nicely pulls together system, network and client management functions under a newly added Web-based console, but other tools offer more expert modules out of the box.

Vantage 8.5, which is priced starting at $19,000, comprises four base components: ServerVantage, Application Vantage, NetworkVantage and ClientVantage. These components monitor the systems, applications, network performance and client availability of computing resources throughout the enterprise network. However, like competitors such as Computer Associates International Inc., Compuware recommends customers engage its professional services staff to get the full benefit from the product.

eWEEK Labs tests showed the Vantage system has the right stuff to scale up to the largest networks, although database support is limited to Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server.

This version of the product does a fantastic job of uniting components in a Web-based interface, from which we tightly governed our Windows and Unix systems. In addition, the new VantageView console let us control who in the IT organization could get access to which management components.

Along with the log file that tracked who made changes to the system, this is a crucial aspect of network and systems management. Weve always advocated putting IT management together in—dare we say—an integrated suite of products instead of a hodgepodge of best-of-breed offerings. Vantage 8.5 makes this kind of comprehensive management a reality because, like NetIQ Corp.s AppManager, it has neatly integrated its offerings so that technicians trained on one console can figure out what is happening in an area of the system for which they might have only rudimentary training.

In tests, we were able to see systems in the Web-based console, along with reports of what was happening on those systems.

Previous versions of Vantage—which have been known as EcoSystems and EcoTools, among other names—could present status information but did not allow operators to change threshold values in agents. This meant that an operator with the proper credentials could change the way applications, systems and network monitoring tools from Compuware were working without having to go to the central management console.

The security built in to the Vantage 8.5 system should keep out the bad guys, but it is an area to which IT managers should devote a lot of their evaluation time. Vantage uses its own log-on restrictions as well as Windows authentication protocols to verify users. We were able to set up system monitors in such a way that junior administrators could be restricted to view-only mode on groups of machines. We could also assign wide-ranging rights to technicians with more seniority, thereby parceling out the work of administration throughout the IT organization.

There are more application expert modules in this version of Vantage 8.5, and IT managers should be able to use these to build specific monitors for custom applications. Nevertheless, NetIQ still has the edge here, jamming its products full of expert agents that are more completely tuned to monitor performance than most of those in Vantage 8.5.

Even so, IT managers with even a minimum of experience should be able to build from the base modules that give good examples of how to monitor thread performance for many applications, including databases from Microsoft, Oracle Corp. and Informix Software Inc. (now a part of IBM), as well as any application that uses Distributed Component Object Model, XML or HTTP.

This is one area where Vantage 8.5 is a catch-up version with other products. For some time now, NetIQ products have been able to report specific application performance when users clicked on a data point in a chart. Granted, this is a tricky thing to do in the Web-based console, but even this advance merely brings Vantage up to par with others management tools.

Vantage 8.5s enhanced reporting enabled us to create reports that showed the status of a group of Microsoft Internet Information Services servers—depicting usage and performance numbers—that were easy to understand at a glance. We combined these reports with real-time alerting that not only tested the TCP/IP stack on the system (using Internet Control Message Protocol pings) but also drilled down into the system to make sure that the specific applications were also running.

This combination of daily performance reporting with real-time alerting should make it easier for IT managers to devote resources to troublesome systems while keeping an eye on the overall state of the infrastructure.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at