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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Polls
Warning = Greater Than 80 for 3 out of 5 Polls
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.
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!
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