Robotizing System Monitoring

Hands On: Heroix RoboMon

RoboMon NT is a systemwide monitoring tool used to examine, evaluate and report on nearly every aspect of Microsoft’s BackOffice Suite of products. The product is capable of letting you know when the DHCP server is out of IP addresses, if the Internet Mail Connector in Exchange Server is performing badly, or if your SQL Server will soon run out of disk space or memory.

The heart of RoboMon is a rules engine that lets the user define how the product watches the components in the BackOffice suite. The majority of RoboMon configuration can be left to its automated mechanics, which it will use to learn about the changing conditions of applications and adjust its sensors accordingly. The product has reporting abilities to match what it monitors, and as a package, makes for a complete suite of valuable network tools.

RoboMon also is available for Compaq/Digital OpenVMS systems, as well as for Unix platforms AIX, HP-UX, Solaris and Compaq Tru64 Unix. One aspect of RoboMon that we found of value is its monitoring of Windows NT Terminal Server: Users can watch the server loading with remote and local thin clients accessing the Terminal Server system.

As a test bed, we used two servers running Microsoft Internet Information Server -- one a Pentium 166-MHz machine with 128 MB of memory and a higher-end dual-processor Pentium 233-MHz MMX server with 256 MB of memory. We also used the product to monitor Exchange Server 5.5 and SQL Server 7.0, and a SQL Server 6.5 database that ran other processes.


This install process was composed of two parts. The main component, a management console, is installed on the computer used as the RoboMon manager. The next step was the installation of the monitor agents on the computer to be monitored. The process is clean and takes little time.

We didn’t have any printed documentation to review, but the online help system was more than adequate. The entire process took less than 20 minutes for the management console and then 5 minutes per server to install the agent, followed by a reboot.

RoboMon has numerous tools and reporting mechanisms, more than we could cover in a short review. The product was easy to use and the rules based monitoring worked well. When RoboMon installed, it scanned the server for active processes; it then started rules that are directly applicable to those running services.

For each rule that actuates, you can see the type of rule, the class it is in, what action was performed and when it occurred. We focused the rules on our SQL Server engine and gathered some interesting statistics about the database connectors, including hit rates and the size of the growing or contracting tables -- a new feature in SQL Server 7.

When we didn’t have a rule for a particular process, or just needed minor customization, RoboMon had that covered as well. For example, we were able to define a custom SMTP rule to watch our Sendmail server -- which runs on a Linux machine. This rule allowed us to monitor for mail routing problems. Another example was where we logged Web server activity to the SQL Server database, and created a new rule to check on that computer’s volume of logging. All of this extra monitoring was a breeze to configure.

We found RoboMon to be highly adept at the task it tackles. The product monitored the core parts of our infrastructure, including a few Cisco routers, for CPU performance as well as for performance statistics. We give it a solid thumbs-up recommendation.

RoboMon NT 7.5
Heroix Corp.
Newton Mass.

Management console, $995; server licenses start at $695 per monitored server

+ Easy install
+ User-defined rules engine easy to configure
+ Default rules speed configuration

- No printed documentation