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Introducing AppInsight for Exchange - Server & Application Monitor 6.1 Beta 2 Sneak Peek

Product Manager

In my previous blog post I introduced you to several cool new features we've been working on for the next release of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM). From sustained status conditions that are sure to help squelch nuance alerts, Windows Scheduled Task monitoring, and JSON, SAM 6.1 was already shaping up to be a pretty awesome release.

It's now time to take the wraps off SAM 6.1 Beta 2, and just in time for Christmas. If you've been wondering what to get yourself for the holidays, or fear that after all the presents have been unwrapped you'll have amassed a years supply of tube socks, silk ties, and ugly sweaters, you needn't worry. We have just the thing that's sure to put a smile on your face this holiday season.

Sign-up to Download SAM 6.1 Beta 2.png

AppInsight for Exchange

The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from the community regarding AppInsight for SQL since its debut in SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor 6.0 has been so phenomenal that we just couldn't stop there. The next obvious choice to get the full AppInsight treatment had to be Microsoft's Exchange. Both SQL and Exchange are complex business applications that are at the very center of most organizations' IT universe. In almost all cases, end users directly (or indirectly) interact with these applications on a continual basis. Be it for basic internal and external communications, data entry, billing, ordering, etc. SQL and Exchange tend to touch so many individuals both inside and outside the organization, that it's imperative that their health, performance, and availability is continuously monitored.

If you're not at all familiar with AppInsight for SQL, or the AppInsight concept, below is an excerpt from one of my previous blog posts in which I attempt to explain it.

AppInsight provides a whole new level of application monitoring detail that was previously very difficult, if not impossible to achieve using Application Templates. AppInsight is not a direct replacement for Applications Templates but rather an entirely new monitoring concept within SAM. Application Templates remain the primary method for quickly monitoring virtually any commercial, open source, or home grown application imaginable. In contrast, AppInsight is more akin to an entirely new product deeply embedded within SAM; designed from the top down to solve common, yet complex problems for a specific application, rather than merely a new feature.

Discover


As with AppInsight for SQL, monitoring your Exchange Mailbox Servers with SAM is a fairly simple, straightforward affair. For existing nodes currently managed via WMI simply click List Resources from the Node Details view and select Microsoft Exchange Server directly beneath AppInsight Applications. The same is also true for any new Exchange servers added individually to SAM and managed via WMI using the Add Node Wizard.

Exchange Servers can be added both individually using the methods above, or en masse using the Network Sonar Discovery Wizard. Both one-time and scheduled re-occurring discovery of Exchange servers in the environment using Network Sonar are fully supported. Either method will allow you to begin monitoring your entire Exchange environment in record time.

Please note that AppInsight for Exchange has been designed exclusively for Microsoft® Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 Mailbox Role servers. This option will not appear for nodes running previous versions of Exchange or servers running other Exchange roles, such as the Client Access role.

AppInsight for Exchange List Resources.png
Network Sonar AppInsight for Exchange.png
Network Sonar Scheduled Discovery Results - AppInisght for Exchange.png

Configure

AppInsight for Exchange uses PowerShell to collect virtually all information from the Exchange server. As such, PowerShell 2.0 must be installed on the local Orion server or Additional Poller that the node is assigned to. PowerShell 2.0 must also be installed on the Exchange Server being monitored. Windows 2008 R2 includes PowerShell 2.0 by default. If you're already running Orion on Windows 2008 R2 or greater and plan to monitor Exchange running on a Windows 2008 R2 server, you needn't worry about the PowerShell 2.0 requirement. Microsoft has taken care of that for you.

Beyond simply having PowerShell installed, Windows Remote Management (WinRM) must also be configured. Both locally on the Orion server, and on the remotely monitored Exchange Server. Fear not though; we've made this process incredibly simple and completely painless.

After discovering the Exchange mailbox servers running in your environment and choosing to monitor them, you may find them listed in the All Applications tree resource on the SAM Summary view in an "Unknown" state. This is likely due to WinRM having not been configured on either the local Orion server or the remotely monitored Exchange mailbox server. Clicking on the AppInsight for Exchange application that is in an "Unknown" state from the All Applications resource launches the AppInsight for Exchange configuration wizard.

Zero Config Basic.png

The AppInsight for Exchange configuration wizard will prompt you for credentials to configure and monitor the remote host. By default, credentials used to manage the node via WMI are selected. However, under some circumstances, such as using the local administrator account to manage the node, these permissions may not be adequate for monitoring Exchange. If that is the case, you can select from the list of credentials available from your Credential Library, or enter new credentials for AppInsight for Exchange to use. The account used for AppInsight for Exchange should have Exchange Admin Role permissions.

Once you've selected existing, or defined new credentials for AppInsight for Exchange to use, simply click "Configure Server". The configuration wizard will do the rest. It should only take a minute or two and you'll be up and monitoring your Exchange mailbox server. Easy peasy, and no agent required.

So what exactly is this magic "Configure Server" button doing anyway? Well nothing that couldn't be done manually with a bit of effort. Quite simply the "Configure Server" button pushes a self signed certificate to the Exchange Server and configures WinRM to function in a secure encrypted fashion between the two hosts. Steps for manually configuring your Exchange Server, as well as creating a least privilege user account for monitoring your Exchange mailbox servers using AppInsight for Exchange will be available in the SAM Administrators Guide once SAM 6.1 is officially released.

Monitor

An Exchange environment is typically comprised of multiple Mailbox Databases. Much like SQL databases, each mailbox database has its own independent status that tells the administrator how that database is currently being used (or not used in the case of databases that are "Dismounted"), as well as the health of that database. In the Mailbox Database Status resource, located on the Application Details view we see all of the databases running on this Exchange server. All but one is in a "mounted" state, but the SAMDB03 database does not appear to be running on its "preferred" server, as designated by its Activation Preference. For smaller environments where two or more Exchange Servers running in a DAG (Database Availability Group) are sitting next to each other, this might not be an issue. For larger distributed environments, losing track of where your mailbox databases are running can lead to end users complaining about email performance problems or worse. For example, If your office was headquartered in Boston, but have a DR facility in your satellite office in Shanghai, the last thing you want is all the traffic from the users in the Boston office traversing the WAN to access their mailboxes from the Shanghai server.

Mailbox Database Status.png
As obvious as that sounds, this can and does occur for simple, sometimes seemingly stupid reasons. For example, applying Windows Updates to the Exchange server in Boston, but failing to move those mailbox databases back over from Shanghai after the reboot. It's important to know which server in the DAG your mailbox databases are mounted, and be notified when they're not mounted on the appropriate server.
Replication Status Checks.png

The Replication Status Checks resource, also on the Application Details view, checks all aspects of replication and replay status to provide a complete overview of the mailbox server in the Database Availability Group (DAG). This allows you to proactively monitor continuous replication, the availability of the Active Manager, and the health and status of the underlying cluster service, quorum and network components, to name a few.

In the event of a replication status check failure you will be notified both visually through the UI, as well as through your normal alerting mechanisms. Clicking on the "More" link for any failed Replication Status Check displays the full details of that failure.

Each mailbox database on your Exchange server is a time bomb ticking down until ultimately it runs out of space. Be it from mailbox database limits imposed by the Standard Edition of Exchange, NTFS file size limitations, or simply running out of free space on the volume where the mailbox database is stored, it's only a matter of time before the mailbox database hits the wall. When that time comes, it's certain to negatively impact any and all users whose mailboxes reside on that mailbox server.

To stay ahead of the game it's imperative that you have a good understanding of how your mailbox database size relates to these limitations. This will allow you to be proactive in your approach to managing your mailbox databases, and the individual mailboxes that reside within.

Mailbox Database Size and Space Use.png

Alerting

This is precisely the kind of information that the Mailbox  Database Size and Space Use resource provides. Not only does this resource list all mailbox databases managed by the mailbox server, their current size on disk, and the amount of white space remaining within the database, but the linear gauge also shows the percentage of the mailbox databases usage as it relates to such things as remaining free space on the volume, and file size limits imposed by Exchange edition/version or the NTFS file system. This information is then available for reporting, trending, and of course, out of the box alerts so you can be notified proactively and avoid such crisis altogether.

This was just a tiny glimpse into a few of the powerful new capabilities included with AppInsight for Exchange. If you'd like to try it out for yourself, don't hesitate! Sign-up here to download SAM 6.1 Beta 2 today. You need only own an existing license of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor, and be under active maintenance to participate.

Your feedback (both positive or negative) is what we thrive upon. It serves either as confirmation that we're on the right track, or that adjustments and improvements need to be made. Either way, it's what helps us to build great software.

AppInsight for Exchange Out of the Box Alerts.png
25 Comments
MVP
MVP

It is great to see AppInsight getting its next application coverage in place so soon after SQL. This will be something our SolarWinds customers are going to love on first sight. Are we allowed to guess what is next on the AppInsight list?

Product Manager
Product Manager

Guess away! I can't tell you if your right or wrong, or even hot or cold, but we'd love to hear what application you think should be next to get the AppInsight treatment.

Level 11

SharePoint, Microsoft Lync, Cognos

Level 13

Id love to see an AppInsight for Websphere/Weblogic/JBoss/JMX/JAVA. 

At the many hundreds of SolarWinds clients I have worked with, each individual client who required JMX/Java type monitoring included so much toil and trouble trying to get the JMX/Java monitoring working.  It always led to support calls to SW or to the middleware vendor.

That would be too cool.

Great work on this one so far!

Sohail Bhamani

Loop1 Systems

http://www.loop1systems.com

One nitpick on the info in the post:

AppInsight for Exchange uses PowerShell to collect virtually all information from the Exchange server. As such, PowerShell 2.0 must be installed on the local Orion server or Additional Poller that the node is assigned to. PowerShell 2.0 must also be installed on the Exchange Server being monitored. Windows 2012 includes PowerShell 2.0 by default. If you're already running Orion on Windows 2012 and plan to monitor Exchange running on a Windows 2012 server, you needn't worry about the PowerShell 2.0 requirement. Microsoft has taken care of that for you.


Windows 2012 includes PowerShell 3.0, the 2.0 engine isn't enabled by default you have to add it as a Windows feature. Server 2008 R2 includes 2.0 by default.

Level 14

Great catch!

D

Level 14

My guess on what's next...I suspect Lync or Sharepoint; but I'd really like to see Oracle. At least at a DB level, but App level would be awesome too. This would also fall in line with Sohail Bhamani preference for WebSphere and Java...they are all part of 1 solid Oracle environment. Or course, Citrix probably wouldn't be a bad choice either. To be honest, I realize the AppInsight modules take a ton of development, but I much prefer this module over the SAM Templates. But I also like the flexibility to create your own templates.

D

Level 10

My guess would be Active Directory or Sharepoint for the next AppInsights.

I'm wagering IIS would be one.

Product Manager
Product Manager

Agreed. Excellent catch. Post updated accordingly. Thank you!

Level 12

Very excited to this exchange stuff ...     I would love to see IIS , Active Directory , .net .. great stuff !!!!

Level 11

Hope to see support for Oracle database、DB2、MySQL

Level 9

We are on the latest version of SAM and I am not seeing this listed under List Resources on our mailbox servers - and we run a discovery daily.

Level 13

You have this version of the beta installed?

Level 9

That would help! Saw 6.1 and I got all excited.

I've never installed any beta - a little wary of doing a beta in the production environment. Can the full versions install over the beta versions? Is it recommended that the beta versions be run in a lab environment?

Product Manager
Product Manager

Betas cannot be installed on top of your production Orion instance. You must install betas on a separate machine (virtual machine, laptop, desktop, spare server, etc).

Level 8

Autoconfiguration does not work for me:


Remote Configuration Failed

Remote configuration was unsuccessful due to the following: "An error occurred during Exchange Server configuration. The network location cannot be reached. For information about network troubleshooting, see Windows Help. Error Code: 1231."

Product Manager
Product Manager

Have you upgraded to SAM 6.1.1? There were several issues addressed related to the "Configure Server" button in that release. Based hon the error returned though, it sounds as though the user account you provided credentials for does not have access to the administrative share on the Exchange server. E.G. \\myexchangeserver.domain.ext\C$

Level 8

Yes, i am evaluating version 6.1.1. Account is member of domain, enterprise etc admins groups ie built-in DOMAIN\Administrator account. Hi has access to the share

Product Manager
Product Manager

From the Orion server, are you able to map a drive to that Exchange servers administrative share? While you certainly should, share permissions, NTFS permissions, or even group policy changes to the Exchange server could theoretically prevent such access.

Level 8

I tryed to get access to the share from SAM host and realised the couse of the problem - i heve disabled network feature "client for microsoft network" on SAM host

Enabling it back solve autoconfig problem

Thank for your advise

Level 8

Other issue with "Average Document Indexing Time":

"Performance counter not found."

Product Manager
Product Manager

This is likely an issue with a broken performance counter on the Exchange server. The KB below outlines the steps needed to repair Exchange's counters.

Level 8

I have registered all xml's in "C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Setup\Perf\" but still "Performance counter not found" for "Average Document Indexing Time"


My Exchange is 2013 SP1 (Build 847.32), can you please say at wich file this counter resides?


P.S. Solved it!


IndexAgentPerfCounters.xml - find this file only on previous DVD of Exchange (without SP1)


Thanks!

Product Manager
Product Manager
  1. Close all PerfMon windows.
  2. Copy missing performance counter files from source DVD to C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Setup\Perf.
    • Files included:
      • IndexAgentPerfCounters.h
      • IndexAgentPerfCounters.ini
      • IndexAgentPerfCounters.xml
  3. Open elevated instance of PowerShell (RunAs Administrator)
  4. Run the following command:
    • New-PerfCounters -DefinitionFileName "C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Setup\Perf\IndexAgentPerfCounters.xml".
  5. Check Windows Application Log to verify performance counters loaded properly.

Note: It appears CU3 does not come with this counter. You will need to get it from the original install DVD.