Companies now rely on microcomputer-based systems to do mission-critical work that would have given mainframes pause just a few years ago. The software that monitors these machines, including Windows NT systems, and their networks is becoming more important. Luckily for the consumer, competition is heating up the market.
Mission Critical Software makes and markets several NT-based system management tools, including OnePoint Operations (OPO) Manager 3.01, beta. OPO is a heavyweight NT system monitoring and management tool with a wide range of flexible tools that let busy systems managers stay on top of their computers and fix problems before users notice them. With OPO, you can keep expensive downtime on your NT systems to a minimum, maximizing employees' work hours and keeping orders and order fulfillment flowing.
OPO is similar to NTP Software System Sentinel and RippleTech LogCaster. All three products heavily use the NT system, security, and application-event log files to determine what is happening on the systems they manage. Unlike the others, OPO uses Microsoft's SQL database, which provides good scalability and the capability of holding extensive records about systems. But because it does not extend its reach to SNMP devices and the TCP/IP network, it is, at best, a one-point NT management product. For administrators who need more, OPO integrates with Tivoli.
Preparing NT Server to run OPO is thorny, and learning to use the product is daunting. But once installed, OPO quietly and efficiently captures data, manages alerts, and resolves many problems, such as failed services, down Web servers, and other recurring problems, automatically. Because you can examine the data and alerts it gathers from its proprietary console or from Internet Explorer 4.0, you can stay in touch with your NT system from wherever you happen to be.
OPO is a rules-based system and stores the rules in ActiveKnowledge libraries.
It ships with more than 8,000 rules covering performance, security, and application conditions and what to do about them. This is a lot to become familiar with and perhaps to tweak. But the menu-driven rule-manipulation software makes creating, changing, deleting, or examining rules easy.
OPO's rules handle Microsoft NT Server, NT Security, Exchange, Small Network Architecture Server, Transaction Server, Internet Information Server, and Systems Management Server, as well as Lotus Notes and various OnePoint products. OPO also makes it easy to extend the database to add company knowledge to the database.
The OPO Agents track the system's performance and conditions, comparing the current state to the rules in the ActiveKnowledge libraries. When exceptions occur, such as a service stopping, the rules are processed and can execute scripts and batch files and send SNMP traps. The rules are powerful enough to restart stopped services or perform almost any action you could perform manually.
After installing OPO, I forced it to do a system scan, and it quickly found all of my NT servers. As dictated by the rules in place, it asked permission to install the Agents on them. I then started the Agents.
I could have changed the rules to automatically add the Agents, for example.
OPO makes it easy to add, delete, or change the rules. You can determine when a rule is active or will be executed, so that you can have different rules active during peak hours and off-hours. OPO automatically sends changes throughout the system.
Currently, OPO has no general alert test function, so I had to trigger an alert to test the system. The alert went through the system quickly, and I received an e-mail almost instantly. I was also glad to be able to notify individuals or groups of alert conditions. The console and Web screens consolidate alerts, so if a system generates many identical alerts due to an ongoing problem, you'll see an alert count rather than hundreds or thousands of alerts.
With the Microsoft Management Console-based console, I was able to look in on the systems and alerts in real time. The Access-based reporting functions let me see trends and analyze what was happening on the network as well as export reports to HTML. Also, with the export function's wizard, I created batch jobs to re-create the reports automatically, and using either the OPO-timed script function or NT's AT command, I could run the scripts automatically.
All of these functioned fine, but the screen layouts should be improved -- the displays seemed to require a larger screen.
Unfortunately, the richness of OPO's controls translates into a steep learning curve to become comfortable using it, such as figuring out which menu to use to change a rule or examine a system. But the level of control OPO offers makes the effort worthwhile.
If you are considering an NT-based events manager, OPO should be on your shortlist, as long as you are an NT-only shop.
Mike Avery (email@example.com), a networking consultant based in Beaumont, Texas, has designed and supported networks of all sizes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BETA
OnePoint Operations (OPO) Manager 3.01, betaSummary: This system monitoring and management tool for Windows NT offers a range of flexible tools. Its NT functionality is very good, but it ignores non-NT-based components, so for most large enterprises this won't be a one-stop solution.
Business Case: The cost of downtime can run several thousand dollars a day in lost wages and missed opportunities. OPO's proactive monitoring tools help automatically eliminate and minimize many causes of downtime for a price comparable to competitors.
+ Monitors and maintains a wide range of NT-based applications+ Integrates with Tivoli as part of a wider system-management effortCons:
- NT-only system cannot manage mixed-platform environmentsCost: $1,495 per monitored serverPlatform(s): Server: Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000; monitored platforms: Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000Mission Critical Software, Houston; (888) 323-6769 (toll-free) www.missioncritical.com