System Monitoring vs. Application Monitoring
Regarding monitoring applications, administrators often disagree with system administrators on what to monitor and which thresholds to configure. By nature, system administrators focus on system-related counters and objects to observe. They do not care about application-related monitoring as that information’s out of the scope of their daily work. Vice versa, the same is true for application administrators.
Therefore there is not and will never be a single monitoring solution to combine different interests in the information. On the other hand, the business is highly interested in implementing an individual monitoring solution to reduce the overall licensing cost (priority 1), reduce the number of servers required to host monitoring solutions (priority 2), and eliminate the need for technical training (priority 3).
System monitoring and application monitoring systems sometimes share an intersecting set of “things” they can monitor. The fact is that both monitoring approaches have different procedures on how to control them.
The following diagram illustrates the system monitoring approach, where a probe connects to a target and queries data using a dedicated protocol supported by the target (e.g., SNMP, WMI, SSH, etc.).
The solution illustrated uses PRTG, a network monitoring solution that supports all standard protocols for monitoring. You can enhance the monitoring capabilities with individual scripts, programs, and libraries. You can find a link to PRTG at the end of this post.
In comparison to system monitoring, the application monitoring approach looks very different, as the following figure shows:
Application monitoring relies on the existence of agents installed locally on the servers hosting the applications. This approach provides the ability to monitor from an application perspective. The agent itself performs checks depended on the application running on the same server. For example, the agent checks that DNS name resolution works using the configured DNS servers on the server. If DNS resolution does not work, the agent responds with an error to central management even when the DNS server itself is reachable by the system monitoring probe.
In the current IT landscape where messaging and collaboration solutions provide business functionality at a large scale and are set up in high-availability configurations, the monitoring of such implementations from an application perspective is crucial. In a world where “always-on” is the business goal for a mobile workforce, downtime of messaging and collaboration systems is an issue.
Application Monitoring Solution
The ENow Management Suite supports your monitoring efforts for:
- Active Directory
- Exchange Server
- Exchange Online
- Lync Server
- Blackberry Enterprise Server
- SharePoint Server
- SQL Server
Mailscape is the part of the ENow Management Suite which helps you to monitor the messaging infrastructure components like Exchange Server, Blackberry Enterprise Server, and SMTP relay servers.
Mailscape 365 is part of the ENow Management Suite which monitors your Exchange Online and Hybrid Exchange deployment inclusive of required hybrid components like AD FS and DirSync.
Compass is the part of the ENow Management Suite which monitors domain controllers and Active Directory specific topics.
ForeSite is the part of the ENow Management Suite which monitors your SharePoint farms and the related SQL database servers.
Besides monitoring the vitals of the application components and the infrastructure requirements (network, AD, etc.), the solution provides an extensive reporting functionality. The default set of reports fits most reporting needs, but you can set up individual reports as well. A significant feature is the ability to provide reports to different groups of stakeholders.
Monitoring servers should not be a time-consuming task for an application administrator. Therefore the interface of the ENow Management Suite is quite handsome, as it displays all statuses in a dashboard. As long as all conditions are green, the application administrator can focus on other work. When using all parts of the ENow Management Suite, you act within one single dashboard, but each part utilizes it’s own security groups to access the dashboard.
How does a SharePoint administrator work with ForeSite?
The following screenshot shows the ForeSite dashboard:
If the dashboard uses a traffic light approach to signal good, warning, and error states for each component monitored. This makes it easy to focus on the section of the application infrastructure, where an element is not in a healthy state. It cannot be any more intuitive.
By just clicking on the signaling rectangle, you dig deeper to the next level of information:
It seems as if there is something wrong with a SharePoint timer job. But what is going on?
Ok, it is not the SharePoint timer service itself. It is just one of the timer jobs itself.
The Application Addressed Refresh Job is offline for 3.4 days. That is valuable information, and the SharePoint administrator knows where to start to solve this issue.
This is a basic example of how an application monitoring solution can help to identify the error.
The reporting functionality of ForeSite helps to gather a lot of different data from a SharePoint farm. Those reports can be executed manually or be sent automatically by email repeatedly. The report’s overview displays a list of different reports which are available by default:
With the proactive monitoring of critical SharePoint services, like Site Availability, Timer Jobs, Search, and Index, and content databases, ForeSite helps the application administrator to focus on daily work. The alerting functionality helps to reduce the response time in the case of an error and therefore helps to reduce the overall business impact to a minimum.
The classic system monitoring solution is the interface of the administrative personnel responsible for the IT infrastructure itself. The application monitoring solution is the primary interface for application administrators and runs on top of the IT infrastructure. Even when some components (disk, memory, CPU, …) are measured by both solutions.
Besides monitoring of different vital aspects of the application, an application monitoring solution provides the ability for application-specific reports. Those reports and even the dashboard itself can be made available to different groups of stakeholders in the company using Windows credentials.
An application monitoring and reporting solution is a valuable addition to classic system monitoring.
What are your thoughts on system and application monitoring? Leave a comment.
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