Rolling Review: NetIQ Aims to Balance Simplicity, Flexibility

As the latest entry in our APM Rolling Review, AppManager tries to keep up with the rapid-fire pace of change on today's networks without descending into complexity.

September 22, 2007

7 Min Read
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NetIQ has been in the APM game longer than most, but it's being challenged by a huge roster of rival application performance management vendors. And no wonder: This is a growth market, according to Forrester, which expects vendors to net almost $2.10 billion by year's end. Seems there's no time to wait on sluggish apps.

One challenge for new and established vendors alike is keeping their APM products easy to use in the face of increasing network complexity, while still providing for customization. NetIQ's AppManager 7, part of the NetIQ AppManager Suite, uses agents to provide monitoring, reporting, analysis, diagnostics and resolution of common application issues and mostly succeeds on the ease-of-use front, as we found in our testing. To further enhance the product's appeal, NetIQ offers optional modules geared toward monitoring such technologies as IBM WebSphere, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and VMware ESX Server. We also evaluated NetIQ's Analysis Center, using it to analyze collected performance data and run complex reports.

Invisible Touch

This article is the fourth of a series and is part of NWC's Rolling Review of Application Performance Management . Click on that link to go to the Rolling Reviews home page to read all the features and reviews now.

NetIQ advertises a zero-touch capability that allows administrators to deploy agents from a central console. For this feature to work, however, the management server needed to be in an Active Directory domain with the client systems. Unfortunately for us, our testbed is distributed (see RR kickoff for details), so we had to install our agents manually.

We were most interested in trying out AppManager's ability to monitor end-to-end transactions, and we were not disappointed. We configured AppManager to monitor a multitiered application, end-to-end, using a combination of synthetic transactions and an agent that looked at the performance of both the overall system and individual applications, such as Web servers and databases. NetIQ's Knowledge Scripts are the main technology behind AppManager monitoring. Knowledge Scripts are VB or PERL scripts that contain the instructions for the agent to gather the data being requested. They ship with a number of preset thresholds to report performance problems and faults. Thresholds can be adjusted to suit your needs, but we found a lot to get started with right out-of-the-box.AppManager ably reported on specific performance issues related to multiple independent components, including our Web and database servers, and placed discrete issues into the context of a logical application. It also did a very good job identifying specific problems, such as a process or step of a synthetic transaction failing, when they occurred. However, putting these alerts into the context of an application failure required manual intervention. Whether this will qualify as an onerous process depends on how complicated your application infrastructure is, and how much of it you want to monitor. We found the process very similar to building a Visio diagram of the application using icons that are representative of monitored objects.


FEATURED PRODUCTNetIQ AppManager; Pricing begins at $995 per server. As tested, $1,595 per server.

ABOUT THIS ROLLING REVIEWApplication performance management products are being tested at our Real-World Labs at Windward Consulting Group. We're assessing the breadth of support for existing applications, how well the product detects and reports on performance problems, how well the architecture supports distributed application performance monitoring, and whether the software supports a tiered architecture with native high availability and failover capabilities. We'll also explore how well the offering detects the true performance issue and how seamlessly it integrates with the surrounding environment.

NEXT UPCompuware

OTHER VENDORS INVITEDBMC, CA/Wily, HP/Mercury, EMC/SMARTS, IBM, Infovista, NetScout, Network General, Nimsoft, Oracle, ProactiveNet, Quest Software, and Symantec

THE PREMISENWC's Rolling Reviews present a comprehensive look at a hot technology category, beginning with market analysis and wrapping up with a synopsis of our findings. See our kickoff to this series at

But if You Build It, Can You Maintain It?AppManager 7's Service Maps—graphical representations of the network, applications or services—enable IT to chart application dependencies. Service Maps help isolate root cause and show the logical flow of application performance.

We built a simple Map depicting an application that combined system-, network- and application-related metrics so that individual alerts, when they occurred, were displayed in the context of the application as a whole. During our testing, we were able to see critical alerts depicted in the service flow so that root causes were clearly identifiable.

The downside is that you'll need to build Service Maps manually. This requires an understanding of all the components of an application and how they relate. And, while NetIQ calls Service Maps "selfmaintaining," that assumes there will be no changes to the application infrastructure. Back in the real world, Service Maps must be manually updated as large, distributed applications change form over time. In a dynamic environment, this level of maintenance could get tiresome fast. And if you use virtualization, that will definitely make "find the server" a much more difficult game to play. However, while the VM may move from physical host to physical host, the IP and routing information will not. Further, as performance statistics are represented as a percentage of the total, assigning additional resources to a VM to adjust for performance should not break any of the Maps.

We liked the Analysis Center tool, which enabled us to produce detailed application reports showing the Web response times of a synthetic transaction on a step-by-step basis, as well as health statistics for our database, Web server and system, all in one report. Graphs can be as granular as your raw data permits and can go as far back as you've enabled retention.

The Bottom LineIn terms of ferreting out information, AppManager's use of agents definitely gives it a leg up over agentless or appliance-based competitors. Organizations will need to weigh whether the depth of information AppManager yields is worth the resources to swap out or install and maintain new software agents on every box.

We liked the Service Maps a lot, and if AppManager could have built and updated application services on the fly, this product would be a home run. As it is, however, we can see a lot of organizations not taking full advantage of this capability.

Overall, we found AppManager on par with other agent-based APM products we've seen, so if agents are no problem for you, consider whether you can commit to the care and feeding needed to make this product sing. NetIQ will likely have a lead over the competition is in areas where it supplies application agents; the list of supported agents, which includes VMware ESX Server, SharePoint, Blackberry Enterprise Server and many Windows-based enterprise applications, is available online.

While a la carte pricing is available for the various components of the NetIQ App-Manager suite, the product is also sold in foundation packages that bundle various consoles, modules and capabilities. Pricing for foundation modules begins at $995 per server. The foundation bundle that would include all the components tested in this review would cost $1,595 per server.

Michael Biddick and Randy Aldea are with Windward Consulting Group, a firm that helps organizations improve it operational efficiency. Michael is also contributing editor for Network Computing/Information Week. Write to him at [email protected].0

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