Around this time a year ago, I took a look at SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor version 5.2 and came away pretty impressed with the package. Version 6.0 has just been released and introduces some cool new features. Today I’ll take a look at a couple of the new features, namely the Real-time event log viewer and AppInsight for SQL.
For those unfamiliar with the Server and Application Monitor product, please head over to the SolarWinds product page.
SolarWinds 6.0 New Features
- AppInsight for SQL – AppInsight is a new feature, with SQL being the first domain released. AppInsight for SQL provides deep insights into SQL performance to include details on the most expensive queries, index fragmentation, database and transaction log size and much more.
- Baseline threshold calculator – This feature allows admins to calculate thresholds from baseline data for both day and night system performance. Warning and critical thresholds are calculated at 2 and 3 standard deviations from normal performance.
- IT Asset Inventory Dashboard – Administrators can now maintain a view of current hardware and software asset inventory to include server warranty status, driver software, hard drive inventory, and custom properties like PO number and purchase price.
- Real-time Event Log Viewer – This feature allows administrators to view and filter Windows events logged by applications, security events, system failures and DNS events. Customers can filter logs by type, event source and severity.
Bringing up and trialing the 6.0 release candidate was as straight forward as you would hope for and I was able to have a fully functioning installation within 15 minutes or so. The installation has retained its straight forward express or advanced installation methods, with the express method installing a local copy of SQL.
AppInsight for SQL
SAM 6.0 introduces a new concept to the product titled AppInsight, with the view of giving you a greater level of detail and monitoring ability for a given application. The first application to get the AppInsight treatment is Microsoft SQL Server, which is typically at the heart of most businesses and can be fairly complicated and time consuming to monitor correctly.
Discovering MSSQL servers as you’d expect with SAM is very straight forward by either adding an individual node, scanning a subnet, list of IP Addresses or adding directly to AppInsight for SQL:
Once setup, the initial polling takes a little while and the counters begin to populate for that particular server, which takes us nicely onto the default AppInsight dashboard… and boy, has this thing got everything covered! The depth of information on one page is fantastic, essentially putting any performance counter that matters for SQL at your fingertips.
The performance counters can be easily switched between 1 hour, 12 hour and the last 24 hours depending on your requirement. Other information such as SQL Error logs can be configured to show x events from the event log.
Basic information like SQL Server version and product level is available, leading you to the real-time process explorer, event log viewer and service control manager. The top 10 databases by active user connection breaks down the active users by database and displays this via a pie chart and expandable list. Beneath this we have the top 10 expensive queries by CPU time, allowing you to hone in on inefficient queries- enabling you to look at optimizing them or scheduling them for off-peak.
AppInsight doesn’t just work at the MS SQL server level, you can also dig into individual databases and access a wealth of information including top 10 indexes by fragmentation, top 10 tables by size, database and transaction file size and white space per database.
Real-time Windows event log viewer
The real-time Windows event log viewer allows you to view, filter and setup monitors directly from the Node details summary within SAM. The interface itself is very similar to the standard Windows MMC, and allows you choose between the various Windows logs types (application, security, system and others depending on the services installed). You then have the ability to dig down into event levels (error, warning, information, security audit and failures). The interface polls via WMI and refreshes every 20 seconds or so, handy if you’re wanting to keep an eye out for a particular event as it happens.
The real-time event log viewer is positioned next to the real-time process explorer and service control manager which were both added in recent versions. This puts 3 very common troubleshooting and monitoring tools right at your fingertips. The reboot button is also very close, but luckily SolarWinds have added a prompt for you to confirm before rebooting the machine! Having these available from one console reduces the need to fire up a remote session to the server, or launch a custom MMC.
I love AppInsight! Having that level of information readily available really takes the complexity out of troubleshooting and monitoring a given application. For those who don’t have the experience or knowledge to choose the right performance counters, this is a great time saver. It will be interesting to see what application SolarWinds choose next to give the AppInsight treatment to. It’s hard to capture just how much AppInsight displays, I’d recommend installing a trial of the software and having a play around yourself. The real-time event viewer, whilst not being revolutionary is a welcome addition.