The Net Net

It's 7a.m. on January 3, 2000 and you're sitting back drinking your first morning cup of decaffeinated coffee of the year (a New Year's resolution).

IT bullet of a lifetime and avoided any Y2K computer problems at the office. Just then the Vice President of Sales calls you and wants to know why she and the rest of her sales staff for that matter, have not been getting e-mail orders for the past week. You didn't even know this woman had your phone number let alone knew your name.

The first thing that runs through your mind is a yet-undiscovered Y2K bug. Now you're reaching for the caffeinated coffee and you remember that there were some sporadic performance problems with Microsoft Exchange prior to the holidays. There were also unsubstantiated reports of lost e-mail but no one followed up on it.

Gone But Not Forgotten

After an afternoon of troubleshooting your team finds an Exchange server that appears to be running, but has some elusive corruption that causes it to "eat" e-mail. The worst part is that it seems to have been doing this for over a week. Now you have to call that VP and tell her that all her e-mail is gone forever and it had nothing to do with Y2K.

The story may be fictitious. But the problem isn't. However, it's completely avoidable. HP OpenView has two products that will ensure that Microsoft Exchange problems are a thing of the past. These products are called Microsoft Exchange plug-ins for HP OpenView ManageX and ITO. HP claims both products essentially serve the same function; just the platform is different. In the same breath they also point out that ManageX has the definite advantage over the two because it combines NT management with Exchange management.

From Both Sides Now

At the heart of these Exchange plug-ins is a proactive management philosophy. No, it doesn't mean monitor logs and mail queues; and creating an event and notifying the proper technical support. It does involve using the Exchange API and drilling into the application and constantly monitoring the health of it.

Then using the inherent ability of ManageX to monitor all the different hardware pieces and multiple application parts you can correlate those events and understand the true fitness of your Exchange application.

To do all this monitoring you need to look at it from two sides: the server and the client. The server side monitors the NT information stores. These databases contain information made available to the operating system from the application. The plug-ins also interact with Exchange APIs to gather more information not readily available in tables or logs.

This information is gathered and can be used not only for proactive fault detection but exception reporting, trending and performance planning. Use this in conjunction with the lightweight standard ManageX agent and you have a complete look at the server side of Exchange. Client side monitoring is another metric the plug-ins use to determine Exchange health. How many times have you experienced slow client response time? The client-monitoring portion will gather statistics that are readily available to use in building, enforcing and reporting on SLAÕs.

True Lies

The bottom line is Microsoft Exchange is a huge complex application that relies on multiple parts of your network, systems and application software. To determine its true health you need a product that can hold its own and accomplish this task. You also need a product that is open and flexible enough to fit into today's complex enterprises.

If your company uses Microsoft Exchange and doesn't have a true monitoring and management solution by all means take a look at the Exchange smart lug-ins for HP OpenView. You might also wait until February 1, 2000 to switch to decaffeinated coffee.

- Charles Hebert is President of Southernview Technologies, Inc.