HP OpenView ManageX

ManageX is one of the newest members of the Hewlett Packard’s OpenView family ofsystem management products and services. ManageX is designed to ease the burden ofmanaging NT systems. Unlike other packages that have been ported from Unix environments,it is designed for NT taking advantage of Microsoft technologies such as the DistributedComponent Object Model, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and ActiveX. Acquired fromNUView Corporation in November of 1997, ManageX seems to be a key product in HP’sWindows NT plans.

The two main interfaces to ManageX are the Performance Monitor and the ManagementConsole. Using these tools you can perform a number of system management tasks such ascapacity planning, event trapping and remote administration.

The Performance Monitor performs a similar function to the Performance Monitor builtinto Windows NT. Both collect data in order to analyze a systems performance using bymeasuring counters related to objects on asystem. For instance, you can measure the Percentage of Free Space counter for thePhysical Disk object. You can also add alerts which perform an actionwhen some threshold has been reached. For instance, when the Percentage of Free Spacedrops below ten percent. ManageX’s Performance Monitor is just a lot better at thesefunctions.

For starters, the interface is much simpler. The ManageX PM window features two panes.The left, called the data collection area, displays your network configuration. The rightpane is the data viewing area where the data can be displayed in graphical or list form.To start monitoring data, simply create a new chart, bar graph or list with three picksfrom the menu bar. Your new chart (or graph or list) is displayed in the right pane. Fromthe left pane, select the system, object and counter you wish to monitor and drag it tothe left pane. Repeat this process until your chart is the way you like. You can comparemultiple machines on the same chart. In fact, machines with similar functions are groupedtogether in the right pane. So you can compare the cache hits for all your network’sweb servers on the same chart.

The ManageX PM alert system is also much more sophisticated. Alerts can be triggered bysomething very simple, such as our above example of free disk space dropping below acertain percentage. While NT PM allows you to set an alert threshold above or below acertain point, the ManageX PM allows alerts on seven different criteria, including betweenand not equal. This allows more complex alert triggers. For instance, when free disk spaceis between 10 and 20 percent simply log the event. When free space is less than or equalto 9 percent, notify an administrator. In addition to these built in criteria, you candefine very detailed criteria with ActiveX scripts. You can actually write a Java Scriptor Visual Basic Script program to perform your evaluation.

An ActiveX script would allow multiple counters to be monitored before an alert issent. Let’s say you’re consistently logging over 90 percent disk time usageindicating your drive is very busy. You’re not sure if you need to add a drive toyour system to improve performance. What other factors can cause excessive disk timeusage? A shortage of RAM may cause excessive memory paging, keeping your disk very busy.If memory is the problem, adding a disk will not help. An alert can be created to watchboth the Logical Disk and Memory objects. If the percentage disk time is over 90 percentand the pages per second is greater than one, perform an alert.

ManageX PM also allows a much wider rage of actions to perform when an alert istriggered. In NT PM, an alert can trigger a program to be run. This program can be anybatch file or executable. The alerts are also stored in the alert log. In ManageX PM,alert actions include sending console message, sending e-mail, recording the alert in theEvent Log or in a file, sending an SNMP trap, executing a batch file or executing anActiveX script. In short, whatever you want to happen after an alert is triggered, canhappen.

While PM watches the servers on your network, the Management Console (MC) portion ofManageX is the mechanism for managing your servers. The MC is similar to the MicrosoftManagement Console introduced with the NT 4.0 Option Pack. Each uses snap-in objects that perform specific management tasks. Microsoft has stated that inthe future, all BackOffice compatible software must be manageable through ManagementConsole snap-ins. ManageX takes a similar approach using snap-ins to create a management view . These views can be customized to provide only thefunctionality an individual administrator might want. For instance, a backup operator willneed different functionality than a database administrator.

Most snap-ins feature policies that allow for customizing yourmanagement environment. Policies cause some action to be taken in response to an event.For instance, Intelligence Policies may take corrective action based on some event. Over100 policies are provided with ManageX. One very useful policy checks that the standard NTservices which are supposed to automatically startup at boot actually do start. Otherbuilt in policies include checks for the number of processes and threads running, InternetInformation Server services checks and CPU and disk utilization. Of course, if youdon’t like the standard policies, you can build your own using ActiveX scripts.

I did experience some problems with ManageX. The MC could not install Microsoftsnap-ins although they did appear as options while installing other snap-ins. It would bea big benefit to be able to add third party snap ins. It seems unlikely that Oracle andothers will want to write different snap-ins for Microsoft and Hewlett Packard. The autodiscovery feature that is supposed to find other manageable machines on the network seemedto work only intermittently. My demo version may have been constrained to only supportcertain features of the product and may have limited the number of machines that could bemanaged. There is no version of ManageX for Alpha processors which will limit it’susability in heterogeneous NT environments.

ManageX is a very powerful product. There is a real benefit over NT’s built intools. The main advantage is the extent to which you can customize for your environment.The number and quality of the bundled policies will make the software easy to use out ofthe box and a welcome addition to those shops managing a large number of NT machines.

The list price of ManageX is $2,995. A demonstration version is available at www.openview.hp.com/managex

Ryan Maley is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and the information systemsmanager for a Midwest-based manufacturing firm.