by April 3, 2007 0 comments



There are endless server management tools available in the market. But one
thing common to all of them is that they bring all servers of your data center
into one console, from where you can keep track of their status and easily
manage them. Server management is essentially a process and not a technology.
And different server management solutions use different types of technologies.
For example, if you want to do remote trouble shooting of the servers, then one
solution for this could be Windows RDP and an other solution could be VNC. In
both cases you are actually doing the same thing but using different
technologies. So which technology should you use? Or rather, which server
management tool should you use? The answer to this is not very easy, so in this
story we’ll take you through various types of server management tools, the kind
of features they offer and how does one go about choosing the right one. Let’s
start by looking at the kinds of features available in today’s server management
tools.

Auto discovery
Auto discovery is a common yet useful feature for discovering servers running on
the network. A good server management solution should be able to detect all
functional servers on your network, let them be in any subnet or behind a
firewall. These auto discovery agents should also be able to discover servers
using different types of protocols and not just TCP/IP.

After discovery of servers is through and details are stored in the database,
some server management solutions like Novell Zenworks could be used, which allow
you to set automatic discovery mode. In this mode, the software monitors the
network continuously over a given interval for new servers and also keeps the
network topology in its records up-to-date.

Monitoring
Monitoring is an integral part of any server management solution, as it provides
real time status of servers’ health. This includes monitoring server hardware
components like hard disk space, CPU usage, temperature, fan speed, etc. A lot
of server management solutions also support services, events and critical
processes monitoring. Most software provide real time summary of all monitoring
policies on the software’s main console or dashboard to give administrators
status of servers’ health. Another important feature is software license and
application usage monitoring, also known as software metering. A good server
management solution should also do agent as well as agent-less monitoring.

Alerts
Just monitoring servers and applications is not enough. Alerts in case of a
problem or even proactive alerts are very important to ensure that
administrators are informed instantly through e-mail, logs, sound, SNMP traps,
and through software’s console itself. Some solutions also provide Page and SMS
alerts.

Server inventory
This is also called assets management. It includes keeping track of hardware as
well as software installed on the servers. A good server inventory solution
should be able to track each and every component of your server and at the same
time can trigger an alert in case of any missing or malfunctioning hardware. In
some cases license management can also be a part of the server inventory module.

Patching up vulnerabilities
Detecting and then patching them up are also part of server management. Applying
OS and application updates as soon as they are released are some very crucial
tasks to be performed to avoid any exploits. Server management solutions allow
you to automate this whole process hence removing the need to manually update
servers, everyday. With this process automated, server management solution can
automatically scan all servers present on the network regularly and download the
patches for vulnerabilities detected and install them on respective servers.

It also maintains a recovery point which can be used for system roll back in
case a new patch causes an application error or a system crash.

High availability
Some server management tools such as OpenQRM provide high availability as well,
by doing automatic hardware failover. When a server failure occurs and after a
while when server monitoring component doesn’t receives any updates, it declares
the server dead and starts a new server or transfers its load to another server
running on the network. This kind of a feature can only be achieved if you use a
server management tool which works in centralized manner where all your system
settings and data including your OS are kept on the network (on a NAS or a SAN)
and servers are booted remotely.

Deploying applications
Software management tools provide an end to end seamless deployment of an
application on remote server. Some server management tools even let you remotely
install OS with applications. The OS installations are unattended and can be
performed from anywhere.

Intel Server Manager

This is an easy to use, basic server management solution. It lets you do
system inventory, monitor servers’ health, processes, services etc. It can
monitor various hardware sensors like temperatures, fan speeds, voltages,
chassis intrusions, RAID configurations, redundancy status of components etc. It
has a web based control where details of managed servers can be viewed. It
requires agents to be installed on the servers before it can monitor them.

Using Intel Server Manager


To configure Alert, open web console of the server manager. Under management
click on alerts. A window will appear which will show all supported alerts. To
configure the alert, click on the Alert and choose how you want to be alerted.
For example, if you want to set a temperature alert, click on Hardware Monitor
Internal Temperature alert. A window will appear; here if you want to get
alerted by e-mail, check on Send e-mail option. Similarly, you can also choose
to Play sound, or Display a pop-up window, or Send an SNMP trap. You can choose
different kinds of alerts for different situations. Once you have set the alert
action, just click on Apply and your alerts will be in place. To create reports
for a server, from the main console choose the server whose report you want to
create and click on Run report from the menu bar. In the Report type, choose the
type of report you want, i.e., BIOS or OS or Installed applications etc. Provide
a name for the report and click on Run. After it has finished the report it will
be shown in the Reports menu. Go to System reports and click on the name you
provided and you can see the report. You can also view details of every
component. Similarly you can view reports of all configuration changes, hardware
events archive, administrator log etc. You can also set performance counters for
every server.

You can set performance
counters for any hardware/software component in Intel Server Manager

NetDirector


NetDirector is a configuration management solution for Linux and Solaris
servers. It lets you configure changes to multiple servers through a single
console and also lets you implement one change to all servers or as many severs
as you want in one-go. In NetDirector you can schedule changes to occur in the
future across all servers at a particular time. You can also track all past
changes, like who made them, when and what exactly was changed. The changes can
also be rolled back to any previous state which can be handy during a server
crash and can help you reduce down time. It also supports cloning for servers
which can be useful when adding a new server to the network and for Disaster
Recovery.

NetDirector Server Manager supports two types of logins namely user and admin
logins. When you login as an administrator, you can define which users can
manage individual servers and services and set various role based policies. When
a user logs in, only the servers under his role are visible to the user.

NetDirector is also an agent based solution. When NetDirector’s agents are
installed, they connect over SSL to NetDirectror server. The agent is used to
monitor services, execute commands and perform tasks on the managed server.
NetDirector also allows users to create and run their own modules and scripts.

Managing servers
To start managing servers in NetDirector you need to install agents on them and
create roles for every server. Role is collation of system user, services
running on the servers and the services managed by user. To create a role from
the main console of NetDirector, go to Manage Roles. Here click on Add a new
Role and provide the Role Name and Description. Now Click on the Services &
Servers and Role Administration window will open. Here select the service you
want to manage from Services field and select servers on which the role has to
be assigned. If you want to clone a server, from the main console select the
server and its services you want to clone and click on the Clone button. It will
now clone the settings. Similarly from here you can manage services for various
servers.

NetDirector allows you to
review configuration changes and roll back changes with just one click

After you have made a change to a service, you can either choose to apply it
immediately or schedule the change to get it applied on a later date. If you
want to schedule a change, click on the calendar icon, which will pop-up a
calendar, here select the date and provide the time when the change has to be
made in 24-hour format and click on apply. You can also choose the same changes
to be applied to all servers or a group of servers from the schedule window. You
can also rollback these changes later on if required. To rollback go to the
Rollback option on the main window, select the service and than the server to
view the changes that you have made in the past. To rollback the changes, click
on the Restore tab. In NetDirector similarly you can easily configure and
monitor various other services like FTP, DHCP, Samba, Bind, Apache, etc.

Microsoft SMS Server 2003


Microsoft SMS Server 2003 provides hardware, software inventory, software
distribution etc. It allows you to manage software installed on other servers
with features like software monitoring and support for Add/ Remove programs. In
application monitoring, it provides detailed reports of applications being used
and can track usage based on servers, users and also keeps track of software
licenses. It also provides web based reporting and comes with huge amount of
pre-built report templates for server status, inventory, etc, which can be used
to create reports in just couple of clicks. Microsoft SMS Server 2003 remote
tools can be used across a WAN or Microsoft RAS Links to trouble shoot and
assist your remote servers.

Software metering in SMS 2003
In the main System Management console, go to Site Database and then right click
on Software Metering Rules. In the pop-up menu choose New Software Metering
Rule. A new window will pop up, here click on browse button on the filename
field and browse the application which you want to monitor. Provide a name for
the rule and click on OK to save the rule. Now SMS server will send across the
rule to all servers on the network and SMS agents will send back the data about
application usage back to the SMS server. Now you can run queries on your SMS
site database to find details of a monitored application. You can also view
reports of software metering, under reports menu in Software Metering category.

It allows you to monitor
all components of your servers for their performance. Get a dashboard view
of their status.

OpenQRM


OpenQRM provides automatic failover for servers under its control. In fact,
you can set up automatic failover from one OpenQRM managing server to another,
so there’s no single point of failure. The system also supports diskless
servers, which lowers cost and rates of failure. It can dynamically adjust the
amount of allocated servers according to actual usage and provides high
availability for enterprise services and applications. OpenQRM separates running
applications from physical servers, thereby allowing flexible use of resources
and ease of management. It supports booting of servers from local disk, NAS,
iSCSI, etc.

How to use?
To create a new virtual environment of these machines, which we just booted with
OpenQRM image, browse to virtual environments. In Tools, click on New Virtual
Environment. A window will open where you have to name the virtual environment.
Next it will ask you to choose a kernel image.
Click on the Edit Tab. Here, by default, you will see three images. Choose qrm
image and provide the Filesystem Image. Click on the add button. By default,
there will be two images-small_iscsi and small_nfs, choose the one according to
your need. Now you need to design the nodes’ hardware profile. For this, specify
the RAM amount, number of CPUs and CPU speed for every node. If you are not sure
about this, you can just leave it to any values, letting OpenQRM decide those
things.

To set the policy for the virtual environment, click on the Provisioning and
Policy tab. Here you can define the minimum, maximum and the number of nodes,
which the OpenQRM should use during the start. You can also define policy for
the maximum load for a node. Now you can also click on High Availability tab to
define whether the virtual environment should use Automatic Application Recovery
(AAR) or not. Similarly, you can also choose the support for Automatic Hardware
Failover (AHF) and the number of minimum resources OpenQRM should use for it.

In application recovery,
when an application crashes, it restarts the application in any other
available node

After giving all these details, click on ‘save changes’ and the virtual
environment will be created. To start this virtual environment, get to Action
drop-down tab and click on ‘start’. Once you start the virtual environment, one
of your nodes will reboot and will bring up a small linux kernel shipped with
OpenQRM.

Now, to check the High Availability feature of OpenQRM, unplug the network
cable or just pull the power source from your first node to simulate a failure.
In a few seconds, or as configured by you, OpenQRM will detect that it has not
received any heartbeats from the assigned node.
Failover will initiate causing OpenQRM to de-assign the node from the virtual
environment and assign the remaining idle nodes. This is to show how OpenQRM
will automatically keep your applications running.

LANDesk Server Manager


LANDesk Server Manager can constantly monitor all servers on a network and
provide details about servers’ health in real time. LANDesk also provides
management capabilities, like remote OS, Patch, and Application deployment. It
can automatically detect all the devices present on the network and sort them
into categories like computers, printers, and infrastructure etc, however to
start monitoring/managing a server, a client agent needs to be installed on
those servers. LANDesk server manager comes with an application called Server
Manager Dashboard which does the real time monitoring of all servers. The
dashboard runs in browser window and displays real time information about each
server’s current health status and live graphs. Digging deeper into details it
shows you all real time processes, services running on the system, hard disk
space available, memory used, logs and few other details. LANDesk server manager
also provides real time alerts to the administrators if a problem arises or an
event happens. It can be configured to issue an alert in case of a hardware
failure/change. It can notify users through e-mail or paging. It can also be
configured to send an SNMP trap or to execute some program on the server, which
will show alerts.

Using LANDesk Server Manager
Once the agents are installed, we need to create the monitoring rule-sets to
monitor these servers. For this browse to monitoring, and create a new rule-set
in the same old fashion. Once the rule-set is created, click on it to edit the
details. Here you can choose what things you want to monitor in the server,
i.e., if you want to monitor free space available in a server’s hard disk, click
on Drive space, and check Turn on Monitoring for this item and give the time
interval after which you want LANDesk to check for it. You can also configure
the warning and critical threshold for it. Similarly you can create rule-sets
for Memory usage, Services, Drive failure predictions, and various other things.
Once the rule-set is created, click on update and now, to deploy these rules to
the target devices click on Deploy rule-set tab. Choose which Monitoring
rule-set you want to use and click on the deploy button.

It scans servers for
vulnerabilities, downloads their patches and automatically patches them

Software distribution
Now you need to install LANDesk server agents on the servers you want to
monitor. To do this click on Agent configuration, then click on New tab to
create a new agent configuration. A window will pop up, here provide a name for
the configuration, choose Microsoft Windows Server Edition option here and click
on ok. Now you can see the newly created Agent under Agent configuration tab.
Select the Agent and click on Edit to customize its default properties. Here you
can select which agents should be installed on the remote server, i.e., if you
want to perform Vulnerability scanning, Monitoring, Remote control etc, then
choose options according to your needs and click on save changes and click on
Save as File option, to save this agent as an executable package with the
filename same as the configuration name you specified. Now you need to run this
executable file on the remote server. Once executed, this file will install the
agents automatically.

ManageEngine Application Manager


This is an application management solution which can effectively monitor
critical apps running in your data centers. It allows you to monitor database,
web and application servers. It can monitor applications for various parameters
like end to end web transactions and databases for their usage and performance.
It supports Windows, Linux, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, FreeBSD and MAC Operating
Systems. The software also comes with an SLA management console in which you can
create SLA (service level agreements) for all monitor groups. In case of
violation, it can automatically escalate through e-mail. It also gives details
about ‘Mean Time to Repair’ and ‘Mean Time between Failures’ for in-depth
analysis.

It’s simple to use, just open the software from windows program menu. In Home
tab you can choose types of servers to be monitored by the software. To see the
details of any server, click on its name. Let’s see the details of this
whiteserver. Here you can see,+ its today’s availability stats through bar
graph. You can also see LIVE details of other monitors like CPU utilization,
response time, memory utilization, etc.

Application Manager’s
dashboard provides realtime details of servers’ health

In service details, you can see details of every service separately. Let’s
check out the details of event log. Here you can see details, such as downtime
and uptime of this service from today to one whole year. The software also lets
you create reports in a flash. to do this go to Reports tab on the main window.
Here you can create reports just by clicking on the templates available.

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