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Server & Application Monitor 6.1 Release Candidate

Product Manager

At first glance, Server & Application Monitor (SAM) 6.1 might sound like it's a "minor" release. However, with the mountain of new features we've managed to cram in, 6.1 is anything but minor. In previous blog posts I discussed Windows Scheduled Tasks and JSON/XML monitoring, as well as Sustained Threshold Conditions that can be used to squelch nuisance alerts. Despite more than half a dozen additional new features in this release I haven't even talked about yet, such as new SOAP Monitor, Drag & Drop resources (that's right, I said drag and drop), and a new Web-Based Report Scheduler, much of the buzz surrounding SAM 6.1 has centered around AppInsight for Exchange. This is likely due to the success of AppInsight for SQL in the SAM 6.0 release, coupled by the tease that was my previous blog posting entitled "Introducing AppInsight for Exchange - Server & Application Monitor 6.1 Beta 2 Sneak Peek". In that post I gave readers a very early glimpse into AppInsight for Exchange, that barely scraped the surface of what this new application monitoring capability provides. So today I'll attempt to satisfy some of that curiosity by showcasing some of the other functionality included in AppInsight for Exchange.

I first cut my teeth back in the day of Exchange 5.5. Since that time I've seen tremendous improvements in Exchange scalability, reliability, and performance. As a consequence of these improvements however, Exchange has become significantly more complex to manage, monitor, and maintain. Simply isolating a performance bottleneck in your Exchange environment can be akin to playing a bad game of "Where's Waldo".

AppInsight for Exchange ends the madness by centrally consolidating all information about each mailbox database and its copies across all mailbox servers in the Database Availability Group, into a single Mailbox Database Details view. It is within this Mailbox Database Details view where you will find all relevant information pertaining to that specific individual mailbox database on the server, as well as all other servers where a copy of that database resides.

Information including last full and incremental backup, number of mailboxes in the database, average mailbox size, and default storage quotas applied at the mailbox database are all easily at hand.

Database Details.png
Database size and disk io.png

The Database Details view also contains multi-server performance, health, and availability information that should make troubleshooting common mailbox database issues a breeze.

For example, in the screenshot to the left you can easily identify where the mailbox database resides on each servers file system, the size of that mailbox database, and how it relates to the amount of free space on each servers volume. You can also identify disk I/O performance issues across servers by seeing the Disk Queue Length, Latency, and total IOPS for the volumes on each server where a copy of that database resides.

Similar resources also appear in this view for Transaction Logs, showing additional detail such as the total number of transaction log files, as well as their cumilitive total size on disk.

All this information allows you to easily spot problems before they start. There's nothing worse, or more preventable than a database dismounting because the volume it's located on has run out of space. With AppInsight for Exchange, now you can be proactively alerted and take corrective action before it impacts your users.

Now let's say your mailbox database was running out of space. Where do you go, and what do you do now? You could move the mailbox database to a different volume that has more space. If you have more unallocated storage you could even extend the volume. Both of those options require heavy lifting, and likely some downtime.

What if you could easily identify the offending user mailboxes that are taking up a large percentage of space in the database? You could then either hunt those users down and ask them them to clean up their mailbox, or move them to another mailbox database that has more available space.

The "Users By Mailbox Quota Used" and "Users By Mailbox Size" resources allow you to view each and every user mailbox, its total size, amount of space all attachments in the mailbox are consuming, total number of attachments, and percentage of quota used. This information is available in each mailbox database view, as well as across the entire Exchange environment.

You can even spot dormant mailboxes easily within the same resource by viewing the "Last Accessed" date.

Users By Mailbox Quota Used.png

From this resource you can drill down even further into the User Mailbox Details view. Here you can see the quota limits applied to the individual users' mailbox, the Active Directory Organizational Unit where this user resides, and can even click their Primary SMTP Address to notify them that some mailbox cleanup is required.

Before you do that though, you might want to get a better understanding of how this user is using their mailbox. Perhaps they recently received several very large email attachments that they could move off onto the file server. Maybe this user regularly receives a large volume of incoming email. This could be normal given their job function, or indicative of ineffective SPAM filtering.

With AppInsight for Exchange you can easily visualize each users historical mailbox usage, identify trends such as the growth of a user's mailbox over time, and the total size of all attachments within the users mailbox over the same period. You can also gain insight into the volume of mail sent and received by the user each day, both internally and externally.


This information allows you to make informed decisions before extending users mailbox quotas or adding additional storage to the Exchange server. This information can also be included in alerts that give helpdesk staff a heads up as users approach their quota limit.

Mailbox Details.png
Total Mailox and Attachments Sizes.pngReceived Mail.png

What if the problem you're facing was the other direction? Instead of a massive influx email or attachments driving the users mailbox size, it was malicious activity the end user wasn't even aware of? The Users By Messages Sent resource helps identify mailbox abuse caused by potential trojans, botnets, or otherwise unscrupulous activity. Should your users mailbox be taken over by such mass mailing marauders, AppInsight for Exchange makes identifying this unusual traffic a trivial affair.

AppInsight for Exchange also allows you to report on the mobile devices being used in your environment, the operating system version running on those devices, as well as the last time any device was used to connect to Exchange via ActiveSync.

This information is available on any individuals Mailbox User Details view. It is also available as an out of the box report that lists all mobile devices in use in your organization and their respective owner.

Until now, SAM 6.1 has been available only to a select number of beta participants, but that's no longer the case. As of today, all current SAM customers under active maintenance can download and install the official SAM 6.1 Release Candidate simply by signing up here. Upgrading of your existing production Server & Application Monitor installation is also fully supported. So give AppInsight for Exchange, or any of the over a dozen other improvements in this release a go, and tell us what you think!

Users By Messages Sent.png

Synced Devices.png

SAM 6.1 RC button.png

22 Comments

W00t!

Any NPM version requirement?

Level 9

I might have missed it, but does it support Exchange 2013 CU3?

Product Manager
Product Manager

Yes. AppInsight for Exchange fully supports Cumulative Update 3 for Exchange Server 2013

Just waiting for it to appear in the portal.

Product Manager
Product Manager

The SAM 6.1 Release Candidate will not be provisioned to your customer portal. Once you sign-up you will instead receive an email from me that contains links to download the SAM 6.1 RC.

Product Manager
Product Manager

If you are running SAM and NPM on the same server, you will need to upgrade to the NPM 10.7 Release Candidate prior to installing the SAM 6.1 RC.

Level 9

Got it deployed without too much legwork.  Thanks!

It's so shiny. . . .

Level 17

it is awesome, the install was great - especially since after the main NPM engine, I can do all the additional stuff in parallel !!!!!  what a time saver!

Level 17

Love the extended threshold abilities.

Maybe next step::

when looking at the event logs, I've now got people wanting criteria/logic in alerting on that.

  i.e. if this message happens > 2x in same polling cycle OR message in 2 consecutive cycles, then trigger

This would have to look at the actual message in table APM_WindowsEvent_Detail.  Regex option would be best to be able to filter.

FR - SAM - event log - trigger on message logic

http://thwack.solarwinds.com/ideas/3404

also consider voting for:

FR - SAM - windows event log checks - all except x,y log(s)

http://thwack.solarwinds.com/ideas/3394

Level 8

Don't mean to sound nitpicky, but the links in the What's New section result in a "Oops! This Page Doesn't Exist!". Trying to get the Exchange AppInsight rolling. Even on the assign application monitor page it says:

Before you can assign this template to an Exchange server, you need to configure the Exchange server (configure WinRM and enable Windows Authentication for PowerShell site). 

That link goes nowhere too.

Level 15

Yeah, sorry about that. The links won't work until SAM 6.1 is officially released - just the law of the land. On the bright side, we have implemented a brandy new help system with a much more robust search engine.

Level 15

Here's a peek:

help.png

Level 10

Having an issue here adding nodes.

I have enabled Windows Authentication on the PowerShell website on each, setup WinRM:

winrm quickconfig

winrm set winrm/config/client @{TrustedHosts="SAM_SERVER_IP"}

And there is no firewall on.

One server reports Test Successful! - all of the others report Failed to create powershell connections using provided information.

Am I missing something? I have done an issreset on each node.

Level 15

Check out pages 572-575 here. SAM Administrator Guide v6-1

In the meantime I'll have someone take a look at this thread.

Product Manager
Product Manager

Is the node managed via WMI? Have you enabled AppInsight for Exchange using "List Resources"? Ensure that you haven't manually assigned AppInsight for Exchange to the node.

Level 10

Figured it out.

Just went ahead and deployed it and then went to edit the SAM template for AppInsight and noticed the Configure Server button.

This worked!

Would like to know what the manual steps are though so I can understand how it works for troubleshooting.

Level 10

Node is managed with WMI.

Still learning SAM so am not sure where List Resources is?

Level 10

Interesting issue so far. We have some mailbox servers that are patched to level 14.01.0355.001 and some on 14.03.0174.001 - this is due to restrictions we have and this will be rectified soon.

The DAG info script has triggered and error due to this:

PowerShell script error. An Active Manager operation failed with a transient error. Please retry the operation. Error: Active Manager RPC operation 'GetDeferredRecoveryEntries' is not implemented on server 'SERVERNAME'. This may be due to an Exchange version mismatch.

Level 15

If I were you I would take a peek at the Admin Guide I referenced earlier. There's an entire section under the AppInsight Applications chapter for Exchange which lists the permissions and requirements, what changes will be made, manual configuration, error codes and solutions, an much more. HTH.

Level 15

BTW, the web version should be available tomorrow.

Level 10

Is there anyway to amend the DAG info or Databases Custom PowerShell Monitor as it is currently telling me the server is not in a DAG and also for Databases it has an error message:

Unexpected error occurred. error while processing component ABXM:4227, error details: SolarWinds.Orion.Common.SWException: Cannot process database Database04, because info related to DAGNAME DAG is not available at SolarWinds.APM.BlackBox.Exchg.Collector.ResultProcessing.DatabaseProcessor.ProcessResult(CustomDataTableProbeResult res) at SolarWinds.APM.BlackBox.Exchg.Collector.ResultProcessing.CustomResultProcessorBase.ProcessInternal(CustomDataTableProbeResult probeResult) at SolarWinds.APM.BlackBox.Exchg.Collector.ResultProcessing.CustomResultProcessorBase.Process(CustomDataTableProbeResult probeResult) ?

Level 10

Thanks Bronx - will have a look before I ask anymore questions!