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Server & Application Monitor 6.1 - New Feature Overview and Beta Sign-Up

Product Manager

So here we go again! Time to kick off the next release of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor with the first official beta, and grab a quick first glimpse into several of the cool new features we've got lined up for SAM 6.1.

Not to be confused with SAM 6.0.1, the Service Release containing many important bug fixes for SAM 6.0 and available for download now through the Customer Portal, SAM 6.1 is the next major "feature" installment in the series. If you'd like to participate in the SAM 6.1 beta you can do so by signing up here. Feedback is crucial during the beta phase of development because there's still plenty of time to make important tweaks and adjustments that can make all the difference in the final release. If you've never participated in a SolarWinds beta before, now is a great time to start. Not only do you get to play with all the great new features first, but it's also an excellent way to help shape the future of the product.

Windows Scheduled Tasks

At one time or another, every systems administrator has had to rely (albeit sometimes begrudgingly) on Windows native Task Scheduler to automate some routine process. Be it automating backups, disk defragmentation, antivirus scans, etc., the Windows Task Scheduler has undoubtedly played an important role in ensuring your infrastructure is properly maintained. However, even as the Windows Task Scheduler has improved over the years, real-time visibility into the success or failure of those tasks across the enterprise has remained, for the most part, an enigma.

In SolarWinds never ending pursuit to provide greater levels of visibility into the critical componentry that make up your IT infrastructure, we sought to resolve this visibility gap by introducing the Windows Scheduled Task Monitor as part of the SAM 6.1 beta release.

Elegant in it's simplicity, SAM's Windows Scheduled Task Monitor for the first time provides you with at-a-glance access to the state and status of the scheduled tasks configured on your Windows hosts. In addition to simply seeing what tasks have been configured on the host, their current state, and their last run result, SAM 6.1 includes a new pre-configured out-of-the-box alert which will notify you of any task execution failures that occur. You will also find new web based reports that allow you to view all scheduled tasks configured across all servers in your environment, as well as a dedicated Task Failure Report you can view or have emailed to you on a regular basis.

Windows Scheduled Tasks.png

When monitored, you will find the Windows Schedule Task resource pictured above on the Node Details view of the monitored server. This is because Windows Scheduled Tasks are not applications in the conventional sense. As such, they are treated somewhat special in SAM and given a prominent resource of its own amongst other host specific information on the Node Details view.

WIndows Scheduled Task Add Node.png

Several options are available to enable SAM's new Windows Scheduled Task monitor. When adding a new, or listing resources on an existing WMI managed node, you will be provided an option to select Windows Scheduled Tasks. The same as you would for volumes or interfaces.

If enabling this feature one node at a time isn't your speed, you also have the option of leveraging the Network Sonar Discovery Wizard. The Network Sonar Discovery Wizard allows you to quickly and easily enable the Windows Scheduled Task monitor en masse across all Windows hosts in your environment, or surgically enable this feature only on a select group of nodes.

Both one-time discovery, and scheduled reoccurring discovery options are available to enable the Windows Scheduled Task monitor. If using the scheduled discovery option you will have granular level control over which hosts the Windows Scheduled Task Monitor is enabled, as seen in the screenshots below. Hint: If the image is too small, click on it to zoom in and see the full size image.

The new Windows Scheduled Task Monitor in SAM 6.1 supports monitoring tasks configured on Windows 2003, 2003R2, 2008, 2008R2, 2012, and 2012R2.

Windows Scheduled Tasks - Scheduled Discovery.pngWIndows Scheduled Task Network Sonar Discovery.png

JSON

Web Services APIs such as JSON are the glue that bind modern applications together, usually across different servers, allowing for the exchange of information between them. As end users become reliant upon applications built on these web services, it becomes increasingly more important to monitor those applications to ensure they're functioning as expected. The simplest, and most obvious method for monitoring those applications is to query the back-end server directly, using the same web service API method that the front-end web application would use. From the server's response we can determine the web services availability (up/down), latency (response time), as well as validate the content returned as a result of that query.JSON.png

From within the HTTP/HTTPS Component Monitor settings, you will find three new options (Host Request, Content Type, and Request Body) that allow for the monitoring of restful web service API's, such as JSON and XML. Three new methods (Put, Post, and Delete) are also provided, in addition to the existing "GET" method that has historically been the default and only method available for the HTTP/HTTPS User Experience Monitors prior to SAM 6.1.

Sustained Thresholds

Last, but certainly not least, 6.1 includes additional improvements to how thresholds are handled in SAM. While tremendous strides were made to how thresholds are calculated in the SAM 6.0 release with the introduction of the Threshold Baseline Calculator, that feature served to provide meaningful context to already collected data. In other words, to answer the proverbial question "What's normal for my environment?" and then suggest recommended warning and critical thresholds based on that information; however, as anyone who's been monitoring IT infrastructure for a while will tell you just because a threshold was crossed once, doesn't mean it's a significant issue that requires immediate attention.  After all, who enjoys being woken from their slumber at 3am to a nuisance alarm telling you that the % Processor time on one of the servers spiked momentarily. If the alert requires no action on your behalf, then more than likely it wasn't worth you waking up for. Alert notifications should be about providing actionable information that requires some level of user intervention to resolve. While some metrics, such as the amount of free space remaining in your SQL database might only get worse over time, thus requiring immediate attention when it dips below a reasonable limit, other metrics can vary wildly from one poll to the next. This is where sampling can play an important role in reducing, or even eliminating the number of nuisance alerts that flood your inbox on a regular basis.

In SAM 6.1 you will find new options for defining sample criteria for both warning and critical thresholds associated with each monitored metric of an application. By default, both warning and critical thresholds are evaluated after a single successful poll. This is the exact same behavior as all versions of SAM prior to 6.1. In addition to the single poll evaluation, you will find options for defining criteria for multiple consecutive polls, as well as a method for defining the number of samples that must exceed the threshold for a configured sample size before the condition is met and the status of that component monitor is changed.

Sustained Thresholds.png

Sustained conditions in SAM 6.1 can be defined independently for both warning and critical thresholds to provide maximum flexibility. Both "X Consecutive Polls" and "X out of Y Polls use a sliding window approach to evaluating thresholds. After each poll, the conditions defined for the threshold are evaluated based on the bounds of the sample size. Put simply, that means that after each poll a new sample is collected and added to the evaluation, while the oldest sample is removed from evaluation. Below, I provide two examples. The first example on the left demonstrates the "X consecutive polls" method. In the left column I show the numerical value collected from the poll (the sample). In the right column I show the status of the component as defined by the sustained condition. The "Sample Size" in this example is "3", meaning that three consecutive polls/samples must exceed the threshold of "80" before the status should change to "Warning".

Warning = Greater Than 80 for 3 Consecutive PollsWarning = Greater Than 80 for 3 out of 5 Polls
Polled ValueStatus
65UP/Green
77UP/Green
88UP/Green
85UP/Green
89Warning
83Warning
46UP/Green
81UP/Green
22UP/Green
Polled ValueStatus
65UP/Green
82UP/Green
34UP/Green
95UP/Green
88Warning
90Warning
35Warning
25Warning
15UP/Green

The second example demonstrates the "X out of Y polls" method. While the "Sample Size" for evaluation in this example is "5" polls, any three of those 5 polled samples must exceed "80" before the status of this component would change to "Warning". Using the same sliding window approach as the first example, with each successive poll a new sample is collected, while the 6th sample is dropped from evaluation.

While somewhat similar functionality has existed within the Advanced Alert Manager for some time now, aiding in reducing the number of nuisance alarms, each individual component monitor that has unique threshold criteria has required its own separate alert definition. Not only is this a tedious and time consuming process to initially setup and configure, but it also necessitates the additional overhead of managing and maintaining what can be an unruly number of alert definitions.

Sign-up Now

We'd love to get your feedback on these new features. So tell us what you think in the comments section below, or better yet, sign-up here to download the latest SAM 6.1 beta and try them out for yourself!

Please note that you must currently own a copy of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor that is under active maintenance to participate in the SAM 6.1 beta.

22 Comments
Level 14

Nice enhancements. Especially JSON.

MVP
MVP

THANK YOU!

* SCHEDULED TASKS! Yes! I was actually working on developing a script to do it. By design Scheduled Tasks in W2K8 would not support WMI, which makes the whole things very complicated to setup. Very happy with this feature

* SUSTAINED THRESHOLDS is a great addition. I am indeed managing them now with Advanced Alerts and it is indeed a bit complicated to setup initially. This will remove some overhead in the future and will definitely simplify setup.

You Are Awesome!

Level 20

This is impressive aLTeReGo!

Level 15

I cannot state how big the sustained thresholds is for our environment.  We have to do all of this now using "trickery" in delaying an alert.  Problem with that is it doesn't stop SolarWinds from showing the device as red or prevent the entry in the event log.

Being able to keep all of this out of the event log and make our screens "cleaner" will be an enormous win for us.  My only question and it appears this first iteration doesn't address this but could the same thing be leveraged if the component is down or unknown.  Several services we monitor have automatic restart actions and typically the first poll is marked as down and the second it's already fixed itself.  It would be fantastic if this logic existed in the down/unknown arena as well.  Not to mention on the NPM side of the house for CPU and memory issues.

I know I know baby steps but I want it all

Product Manager
Product Manager

Mike Driskell, I'm not entirely sure I completely understand your use case. Are you saying that if a service is down, and if that service is restarted automatically and verified "up" on the subsequent poll you would like the ability to squelch that alert notification, as well as the writing of the event to the Orion event log because the issue self corrected itself and no user intervention is required?

Level 15

I guess I'd like the choice.  There are some cases where the service restart simply takes time.  However we have other cases where a service stopping for up to 30 minutes is by design of the application.  I don't understand why it works that way but we have some "watch" services we monitor that the system kills and kicks back up after a maintenance period happens.  In these cases I suppress the alert until the condition exists for 30 minutes.

Level 10

Loving the sustained thresholds!!

Very nice to see sustained thresholds are being introduced in the next release

Level 14

Here here! (sustained thresholds) 

Level 17

can you please send me link again...can't find email w/ download.  Thx!

Product Manager
Product Manager

Email resent. Let me know if you don't receive it.

Level 7

Hello can someone send me the link to install 6.1 beta, I am need of monitoring some of my company's scheduled task in Solarwinds.
Thanks

Product Manager
Product Manager

dezz26, you should have received a beta invite email from me earlier today. If you haven't yet received it, please let me know and I will send it again.

Level 11

Hello

I signed up for the beta download on Friday, and I haven't received it yet.  Can you send it today?

Thanks

Product Manager
Product Manager

We stopped handing out beta 2 at the end of last week in anticipation of beta 3 being available. You should have received an email earlier today with a link to download SAM 6.1 beta 3. If you haven't yet received that email, please let me know.

Level 11

I received it.

Thanks.

Level 7

I signed up for the beta participation but have not received the email, could you please send it out.

Thanks

Product Manager
Product Manager

petermanns, you should have received an email from me yesterday with a link to download beta 4. Let me know if you haven't yet received it.

Level 9

6.1 release - Windows Scheduled Task monitor only appears to show tasks located in the top directory "Task scheduled Library", tasks under that (i.e. 'Task Scheduler Library > microsoft > windows') are not shown. I cant see any customisation available on the template, will it only monitor tasks in this root folder or can I point it to sub folders? This is on a Windows Server 2008 R2.

Cheers

Product Manager
Product Manager

Correct. Only scheduled tasks that are at the root are monitored by SAM.

Scheduled Tasks.png

Level 9

Thanks, good to get confirmation before I move my tasks only to be told i didn't have to. That's a nice Friday job.

MVP
MVP

Old post to get moved up to the front page, odd.