Mid-Comp Overhauls Snapshot/400 to Improve Real-Time Monitoring
April 12, 2005 Alex Woodie
Mid-Comp International is now shipping a new version of its popular performance monitoring tool for OS/400 servers, called Snapshot/400. The Australian software developer says it completely re-wrote the product for version 10, which is now called Snapshot/TSC (for Total System Control), to reduce the impact of real-time monitoring, make it easier to add new reporting modules, and to include the new generation of i5 servers for capacity planning purposes.
Snapshot is a client-server application, with agents that deploy on the OS/400 server to continuously collect performance data and monitor queues, and a Windows-based component where administrators can “see,” via colorful graphics, the current state of their monitored systems through “snapshots” taken at two-, four-, or 10-minute intervals. The Windows-based Snapshot console is also where administrators can play with the “what if” capacity-planning module that uses collected performance data, and also where they receive alerts about potential performance problems (although these alerts also can be sent via SMS messaging on GSM phones, too).
Mid-Comp says Snapshot this release takes advantage of new APIs in OS/400 and reduces any impact the tool itself has on iSeries performance. Obviously, performance is a concern to anybody using this software, but some degree of overhead for the privilege of obtaining information in close to real-time should be expected. Otherwise, IBM‘s monthly data-collection service for strategic planning purposes would be adequate. That service, however, doesn’t do much to help with the tactical, on-the-spot decisions that iSeries administrators are often called upon to make.
Snapshot/TSC was developed to minimize its impact on iSeries systems, says Bjarne Matzen, technical director with Mid-Comp. “The design goal was to reduce overhead and resource usage while providing a new modular design that allows simple upgrades and the ability to add new modules without affecting the existing ones,” Matzen says. “We also wanted to maintain the ‘easy-to-use’ interface that our customers like so much.”
In addition to streamlining Snapshot/TSC performance, Mid-Comp delivered some new reporting capabilities–including monitoring and reporting on job queues, output queues, library growth, logical partitions, and subsystem usage–and improved existing features, such as reporting on the usage of CPW, disk, user pools, top jobs, remote response, and message queues.
New Control Points
Perhaps the most important improvement delivered with Snapshot/TSC is a new modular architecture on the PC client. Mid-Comp says this release delivers a new “snap-in” framework that allows new data modules to be used with the product, without re-installing the whole kit and caboodle. “This enables simple upgrades and the ability to add new modules without affecting the old ones,” the company says.
To further reduce overhead on the iSeries, Mid-Comp now gives users the option of having certain data-collection engines automatically turn on when Snapshot/TSC is started. The amount of data polling between the OS/400 server and the PC has also been reduced with this release. Once a connection has been established, most of the traffic between the two servers is coming from the iSeries.
There are also some new features in Snapshot/TSC, aside from improvements in application design. The gathering of disk information with Snapshot/TSC has been improved, and information is captured from each individual disk, including the number and MB value of disk reads and writes, disk seeks, the size of disk, and the amount of disk that’s used and available.
Snapshot/TSC also includes daily statistics on library usage, including the growth of libraries, the number of objects in each library, and the amount of occupied disk space per library. This information is collected once every 24 hours. Users can also perform ad-hoc inquiries into single library sizes at any time.
This release also adds information about output queues and job queues. Snapshot/TSC now reports on all output queues with spooled files, and provides information on the number of spooled files, according to the status (which could be RDY, SAV, HLD, or others) and the size of the spooled files, by status. Snapshot/TSC also provides information on job queues, including how many jobs are waiting in a queue, the name of the job, the job number, the user submitting the job, the time the job was placed in the queue, and when it was released for processing (jobs that are currently running).
Top 100 Jobs
Do you remember the “Top 10 Jobs” list from previous releases of Snapshot/400? It allowed you to see the 10 jobs hogging the most resources on your machine (and keep a watchful eye on that evil CPW sucker, CFINT). Well, this popular feature has been expanded ten-fold with Snapshot/TSC, and now it could be called the Top 100 Jobs list (although technically it tops out at 99 jobs, according to how many jobs a user wants to display, but Top 99 Jobs just doesn’t have the same ring to it).
Also improved is the product’s “SnapShot Groups” feature, which allows administrators to monitor and compare iSeries performance according to groups of users, such as the amount of iSeries interactive processing consumed by the accounts payable departments versus the warehouse department, or response times for offices in New York and Los Angeles. The maximum number of members in a group has been increased from three to five, and the total number of groups monitored has been increased from 99 to 999 groups.
The product’s “remote response” network monitoring capability has also been enhanced with this release to allow for “greater reporting precision,” Mid-Comp says. Administrators can view the remote response statistics in terms of minimum, average, and maximum values, and it has added a packet-loss percentage measurement for the selected time interval, as well.
Message queue monitoring has also been improved with this release. By processing messages concurrently, multiple messages queues can be monitored without performance degradation.
Finally, the product’s capacity simulator has also been upgraded with the latest performance characteristics of the eServer i5 line. “One of the least used but most important features of Snapshot is the capacity simulator,” Matzen says. “When IT managers are requesting budgets for new systems, they need to be sure that their new system will provide growth and performance for their workloads.”
Snapshot/TSC was initially released to select beta sites in late 2004, and was made generally available last week. The new version requires either OS/400 V5R2 or V5R3 (i5/OS) on the iSeries, and Windows NT, 2K, or XP on the PC client.
Snapshot/TSC is available from several licensed distributors in the United States, including Affinity Technology Solutions in the Eastern U.S., OZ Global Software in California, and California Sales Company, which distributes the software in the western U.S. Prices are tier-based, and you can expect to pay between $7,000 and $17,000 for a license for Snapshot/TSC.