WhatsUp Gold Boosts Physical and Virtual Management

Version 15 of the network and system management tool provides a cool console.

Ipswitch has updated the WhatsUp Gold user interface and VMware integration capabilities, making version 15 of the venerable tool for network and system monitoring and reporting well worth considering for use in small and midsize IT organizations. The new ribbon interface should ease administrative access to WhatsUp Gold's myriad monitoring tools while also neatly presenting VMware resources in the improved WhatsVirtual module.

Even with its gussied up interface, WhatsUp Gold version 15 retains a gritty focus on quickly identifying performance problems in a no-nonsense green-yellow-red console that can now be integrated with Microsoft Windows Active Directory to ease the administration of WhatsUp Gold users.

WhatsUp Gold became available on June 9 and costs $1,595 for a 25-user license. I also tested the WhatsVirtual plug-in that became available the same day and costs $1,495 for 25-device license. Ipswitch also released an updated Flow Monitor plug-in that was not tested for this review.

WhatsUp Gold is a Windows-based tool and I installed it in a virtual Windows 7 Ultimate system with four processors and 4GB of RAM. I used the default Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition that was included in the product install as well as IIS version 7. WhatsUp Gold is supported when installed as a virtual machine in either VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V environments. It's worth noting that WhatsVirtual monitors only VMware environments. Our vSphere test environment runs on an HP DL380 G6 and an HP DL360 G6 that are configured as a cluster.

Network and system managers who have used WhatsUp Gold in the past will have no trouble getting up to speed on version 15. Those who are new to WhatsUp Gold will find a plethora of support materials. Besides a gigantic, 1,000-plus page user guide, there are short video clips on many topics available from the help system. Users don't have to make many adjustments to get good results out of the box with WhatsUp Gold.

After adding SNMP and IP range information to the WhatsUp Gold discovery engine, it was just a matter of minutes before I had a nearly complete inventory of my physical systems. I prefer to use WhatsUp Gold in list view, not map view. For all the effort Ipswitch made to clean up the interface, the auto-mapping feature still looks like something from the late '90s, with icons and system lables running rampant over each other. Once my physical network and system discovery was complete, I added credentials to discover my VMware virtual environment.

Like nearly every other virtual system management tool, WhatsUp Gold gets data from VMware's vCenter. After specifying the vCenter IP address and user credentials, WhatsUp Gold conducted a survey and generated an accurate layout of my running virtual machines. New in this version of WhatsVirtual, the list views of my systems were updated on the fly. I could see when a virtual machine was moved from one ESX physical host to another.

While I got plenty of information about my physical network, the virtual network inside my VMware environment remained unknown in my tests. IT managers will still need to use vCenter to monitor and manage that virtual network.

What isn't new in WhatsUp Gold are the in-depth monitoring tools and reports. I was able to set up polling intervals to check if my monitored systems were available. I got cursory up/down notifications so that I would quickly know when systems were in trouble. Once I started working on a problem system, there were plenty of reports that documented performance over time so that I could look for anomalies.

WhatsUp Gold puts all this information into an updated Web console. The console can be configured so that different groups of users will see only information that pertains to their job function. Icons representing monitored systems can be put into screen widgets so that relevant information is immediately available to IT staff.