I believe Bronx summed it up perfectly when referring to this release as SAM 6.OMG; because that's precisely the kind of reaction and enthusiasm we receive anytime we have an opportunity to show it off. Those lucky few who've had an opportunity to play with some of the early betas first hand have been champing at the bit in eager anticipation for the opportunity to upgrade their production installations of SAM to version 6.0. Well that time has finally arrived.So without further ado I would like to extend a personal invitation to all Server & Application Monitor customers under active maintenance to sign-up here to download the SAM 6.0 Release Candidate.
Please note that Release Candidates are provided as early availability access to the latest release. They are treated no differently than GA releases, in that Release Candidates are fully supported in your production environment, and the SolarWinds technical support team is available to aid and assist with any problems you might encounter.
If you haven't been following the SAM beta blog postings here in the Product Blog, I'll give you a brief rundown of some of the exciting new features included in the SAM 6.0 Release Candidate.
The Real-Time Event Log Viewer, as the name suggests, is a web based version of Windows own Event Viewer. This tool allows you to troubleshoot and diagnose application and server related issues occurring on the remotely monitored host in real-time, without the need to remotely connect to the server, log-in, and launch the Windows Event Viewer. Once you've isolated and identified the cause of the issue, you can then easily create a Windows Event Log Monitor from within the Real-Time Event Log Viewer so you can be alerted if this issue occurs again in the future. Simply select the event(s) you'd like SAM to continuously monitor, click Start Monitoring, and the wizard begins. It's just that easy.
In this 6.0 release we extend SAMs hardware health monitoring, introduced in v5.0, to include a much broader array of additional server asset inventory information. This allows SAM to collect all relevant information necessary for asset depreciation, insurance, and support. However, this feature also provides a wealth of additional information you'll likely find useful in your everyday tasks. Some such examples include reporting on software installed for license tracking, or what operating system updates have been applied to the server; by whom, and when they were applied.
Information from SAMs Asset Inventory collection can even be programmatically synchronized with other CMDBs using the Orion SDK. If you don't already have a dedicated CMDB, the inverse is equally true. SAM 6.0 allows you to either manually or programmatically populate and report upon non-pollable information in the Orion database, such as the original purchase price, purchase date, rack location, etc. Need to track and report upon other asset information? No problem. Add additional fields to track whatever information you need, such as "in service date", who the server was originally purchased from, or anything else for that matter.
In my previous blog post regarding server asset inventory collection, cwestwater suggested that it would be helpful if SAM was able to automatically track and maintain the servers warranty status and warranty expiration dates. And we agreed. So in addition to gathering all kinds of useful asset inventory information about the physical and virtual machines SAM 6.0 is monitoring, SAM will also monitor the warranty status of your physical servers. Provided your Orion server has access to the internet, this is all done automagically by periodically checking the status of each servers warranty against Dell, HP, and IBM's online warranty validation servers. This allows SAM to alert you when your servers warranty is due to expire. You'll also find a new Server Warranty Summary resource (pictured above) that provides at-a-glance warranty status information for servers where the warranty has expired, is due to expire soon, and those next closest to expire.
Much of the buzz surrounding the SAM 6.0 release is associated with a radical new concept we've dubbed "AppInsight". Beginning with Microsoft SQL Server, AppInsight's focus is to provide unparalleled monitoring depth and visibility around a given application, while simplifying discovery and reducing overhead associated with continuous monitoring.
It is our belief that SAM can provide a truly multi-vendor "best of breed" application and server monitoring experience, previously only possible by deploying numerous dedicated point products. Unlike these "point products" however, AppInsight is a tightly integrated solution built into SAM to provide a single pane of glass view into the health and status of all your servers, and the applications that run on them.
For example, AppInsight for SQL provides visibility into who's connected to the SQL Server, how long they've been connected, and from where (host name or IP address) they're connected. Need to know who's actively using the SQL server, not just who's connected, before taking it out of service for maintenance? No problem. Within that very same resource you will discover exactly how long each of user has been idle.
AppInsight for SQL gives a unique view into your database's storage usage, allowing users to easily understand the size of each database file, the percentage of white space in the file, as well as calculating in the free space remaining on the volume if auto-grow is enabled. This allows AppInsight to alert you before your database runs out of space, regardless if it's a fixed database size running out of white space, a database file that's configured to auto-grow to a configured limit, or even if the database is configured to auto-grow until it runs out of space on the drive. No matter how your database's are configured, AppInsight for SQL has you covered.
Whether you're new to SQL, or a seasoned veteran DBA, the SQL error log is one of the first places you're likely to turn your attention to identify common issues with Microsoft SQL. The SQL Error log contains important troubleshooting information such as, client connectivity issues, backup failures, end of recovery after a restart, DBCC Events, reconfiguration of server or database options, non-yielding schedulers, stack dumps, autogrowth failures, delayed IO events, etc. With AppInsight for SQL this information is right at your fingertips, located conveniently on the Application Details view of each monitored SQL instance.
Speaking of backups, and other regularly scheduled reoccurring tasks like database shrinks, AppInsight for SQL also includes SQL Agent Job Monitoring. Never again be caught blindsided because a scheduled SQL Agent Job failed to run properly. Better still, understand when, and for how long, SQL Agent Jobs are running to minimize their impact during business hours. These are just a few of the features included with AppInsight for SQL in SAM 6.0.
So how is AppInsight for SQL licensed anyway? What does it cost? Is it another module? An add-on?
AppInsight for SQL is built-in to SAM 6.0 and does not require the purchase of any additional modules or add-ons. Despite monitoring well over 100 unique SQL Server instance metrics, and more than two dozen key performance indicators for each database, AppInsight for SQL consumes a mere 50 component monitor licenses per-SQL Server instance. Now that's news everyone can be excited about!
Threshold Baseline Calculator
Believe it or not, there's still plenty of additional new features included in the SAM 6.0 RC I still haven't covered yet. One of these features is the all new Threshold Baseline Calculator. For a several years now we've pre-populated warning and critical thresholds within the application templates included in SAM. These thresholds have been based upon the individual vendors best practices for the given application. There are however many circumstances where this "one size fits all" approach to thresholding simply isn't appropriate, or accurate. The most typical reason why "one size fits all" thresholds doesn't always "fit all" is due to size and scale of an organization and their application deployment.
Let's take the example of Message Queue Length in Microsoft's Exchange for an organization with 10,000 or more employees. It might not be unusual for an organization of this size to see the number of messages queued for submission rise above 100 or more on occasion. However, if a small business of 25 or fewer employees saw the same Message Queue Length, at or around 100 messages queued for submission, it would be likely be an indication of a serious issue with the transport service failing to deliver messages properly. That's because for an organization of 10,000 or more employees, having 100 messages simultaneously sent or received within a given time frame isn't too terribly difficult to fathom. On the other hand, for an organization of only 25 employees, that same feat would be extremely unusual. This is just one example of how thresholds for performance metrics don't always "fit all".
For this reason (and countless more examples just like it) the Threshold Baseline Calculator in SAM 6.0 was born. Located from within the Application Editor, directly next to any threshold field you will find two new options. The first, "Use Latest Baseline Thresholds" calculates and applies recommended warning and critical thresholds for the selected metric based upon the last seven days of statistics collection (the baseline). Some might consider this a "blind faith" approach to thresholding that more closely resembles a random number generator, but fret not. There's a science behind where those numbers came from; and for all that detail and more you need only click the "Latest Baseline Details" link that lies just beneath the "User Latest baseline Thresholds" button.
Upon clicking the "Latest Baseline Details" link (pictured above) you will see a chart which displays the occurrences of statistic values returned by the selected component. This is a visual representation that allows you to easily digest all of the values collected during the baseline period to gain an understanding of what is considered "normal" for this metric in your environment. You have the option of selecting/deselecting typical business hours (8am-6pm Monday-Friday) as well as nights and weekends, or view the cumulative total for entire time period. Overlaid on the chart are the color coded red and yellow banding that represent how the recommended warning and critical thresholds relate to the baseline data. This provides a quick and easy way of determining the number of times you would have been alerted during the baseline period depending how your thresholds were defined.
If embracing your inner statistician isn't your thing, you can also choose the more familiar "Metric over time" from the top most tabs, which displays the typical historical chart view with visual warning and critical thresholds included.
Thresholds are calculated using standard deviation, as represented by the sigma "σ" symbol in the table header above. By default 2 standard deviations are used for warning, and 3 standard deviations are used for critical thresholds above or below the mean/average depending upon which operator is selected (greater than/less than). Clicking on any number in the table provides you the option of setting the selected value as either the warning or critical threshold. This also dynamically updates the visual yellow and red banding representing warning and critical thresholds in the chart above the table. At any time you may click the "Reset to Recommended Thresholds" link to return values selected in the table, and represented in the chart above to those recommended by the Threshold Baseline Calculator. You may also click the "Cancel" button to revert any changes made and return to the Application Editor.
Armed with a better understanding provided by the Threshold Baseline Calculator of what is typical/average for a given metric you can make educated, informed decisions as to how warning and critical thresholds should best be defined for your environment.
We think you'll agree that this has shaped up to be an outstanding release of Server & Application Monitor. If you've been one of the many patiently waiting for this moment to come, we'd like to welcome you to sign-up here to download the SAM 6.0 Release Candidate now.
Please note that the SAM Release Candidates is available exclusively to those running previous versions of SAM or APM under active maintenance.