Product review: ManageX eases NT, NetWare monitoring

Server and network managers usually have a variety of tools at their disposal for monitoring and managing mission-critical servers and applications; unfortunately, having too many different tools becomes a problem. Hewlett-Packard's recently shipped ManageX, Version 4.0, shines when it comes to integrating information from a variety of disparate management tools and presenting that information in a concise fashion to any Web browser.

ManageX fits primarily into the server- and application-monitoring category of HP's OpenView product family. It is best suited for those IT managers charged with server management in midsize, heterogeneous Windows NT and NetWare shops. ManageX is designed to augment enterprise-class products rather than serve as a stand-alone product supporting large enterprises.

I looked at both Version 3.5 and Version 4.0 of ManageX. Though Version 3.5 wasn't sleeping on the job, Version 4.0 adds some spunk to an already solid product by adding support for NetWare 3.12 and 4.X, and for Web Enterprise Based Management, also called WEBM.

Other products on the market, such as Boole & Babbage's Command/Post, offer true cross-platform support; however, for those shops primarily concerned with keeping track of their Windows NT or mixed NT and NetWare servers and applications, not to mention their wallets, ManageX is a solid buy.

To its credit, ManageX includes an array of canned policies that make the management, administration, and monitoring of servers and applications less time consuming. With support for two antiviral applications, 15 BackOffice Suite applications, Lotus Notes, and a plethora of other applications, ManageX is a well-rounded solution compared to the competition.

What I really liked about ManageX was the ease with which I could deploy policies to either a single machine or a group of machines. After ManageX discovered the servers and nodes on my multidomain network, I was easily able to select a specific machine or group of machines via ManageX's Device Selector. I then used the main ManageX window to select which policy or group of policies to deploy.

I watched the Command Queue monitor to make sure that the policies had been deployed without a hitch. When problems arose I could use the Command Queue to find out what went wrong. Unfortunately, the error messages were sometimes cryptic, as I discovered with one particularly ornery server.

Once policies were deployed, I could monitor their status either from the main server console screen or via a Web browser. I liked the fact that the ManageX console is a snap-in to Microsoft's Management Console, Version 1.1, which gives it the familiar feel of Microsoft's Systems Management Server or Internet Information Server console.

I decided to use my browser, and found that my ManageX home page was similar in content and format to the NT Event Log -- and, unfortunately, sometimes about as useful. I scrolled through information about critical and noncritical events from monitored servers and applications. Via the browser, I was able to select which messages I wanted displayed and whether I wanted to see all messages or just those fitting certain criteria.

I do have two gripes about the Web interface. First, I would have liked to have the ability to sort the displayed error messages. Second, I would have liked to have the ability to acknowledge messages from the Web browser as a group, rather than having to acknowledge each and every displayed message.

I use Compaq Insight Manager (CIM) on an ongoing basis to monitor the status of my NT servers, and although it is extremely easy to use, it is a specific tool for a specific job. That is, it only monitors the health of a server. ManageX goes several steps further; I used the product to funnel CIM information, watch Performance Monitor statistics on several machines, scan event logs, and monitor the health of several other machines via the ManageX console. The way the information was displayed was not as seamless as I would have liked, but it was extremely useful.

Although ManageX does present you with a plethora of information, it isn't a complete solution. Some information -- information offered from the Performance Monitor, for example -- is only available from the console display, as are the reports generated from SmartReporter. Also, when I wanted to monitor those applications without using a canned policy, such as Netscape's SuiteSpot HTTP server, I had to use VBScript to create an adequate solution. I also would have liked to have seen built-in Pager and SMTP support for critical alerting.

To me, the true test of a product is whether I find myself using it on a day-to-day basis. Although I don't think I will be giving up CIM just yet, ManageX has the right combination of easy deployment and power for monitoring off-the-shelf or custom applications.

Victor R. Garza (71333.153@compuserve.com) is a free-lance reviewer in the Silicon Valley who worked at the InfoWorld Test Centre for more than eight years.

The OpenView picture

ManageX is just one product in the Hewlett-Packard OpenView family, one designed specifically for server and application monitoring. Next up the OpenView ladder is Network Node Manager (NNM), Version 6.0. This sixth version of HP's network management software focuses on enterprise-level network management. Though it doesn't offer ManageX server support and Microsoft BackOffice application support, NNM 6.0 adds capabilities that let network managers monitor LAN and WAN elements and network connectivity.

IT/Operations encompasses NNM and portions of ManageX, though it lacks some of ManageX's server monitoring support. IT/Operations is best suited for those responsible for the management of enterprise resources within a company.

Finally, at the high end of the HP OpenView family is IT Service Manager. This software focuses on supporting the business processes of a company. IT Service Manager lets the IT department manage the service-level agreements maintained between the IT department and its customers.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

ManageX, Version 4.0

This solid tool allows server managers to monitor a variety of application and server functions in mixed Windows NT and NetWare shops.

Pros: Easy to use and deploy; single interface for monitoring multiple servers via WEBM and Performance Monitor; out-of-the-box support for a moderate number of applications; extensible via Visual Basic and Java Script; NetWare support.

Cons: No direct Unix support; slightly rough Web browser interface; some missing third-party application support; no built-in paging or support for SMTP e-mail.

Hewlett-Packard; www.openview.hp.com/managex.

Price: $US2,995 for ManageX Console; $795 per server for the Windows NT operating system and hardware monitoring; $1,195 per server for application, OS, and hardware monitoring.

Platform: NT Server 4.0 with Microsoft Internet Information Server installed.

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