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Microsoft updates Windows adviser tool

Windows Server 2003 Performance Advisor provides administrators with diagnostic reports that offer prescriptive advice.

IT administrators looking for more guidance on identifying problems in Windows Server 2003 can download a new version of a free tool that creates diagnostic reports that may help them to more swiftly take corrective action.

Late last week, Microsoft released the Windows Server 2003 Performance Advisor 2.0, a software tool that generates several specialized reports. A system overview looks at CPU and memory usage, busy files, TCP clients and top CPU consumers. It also creates reports for server roles such as Active Directory, Internet Information Services (IIS), DNS, Terminal Services, SQL Server and print spooler, according to Microsoft.

The software does not support Windows 2000 Server or XP.

Experts say there is a definite need for tools that give prescriptive advice, much in the same way as Microsoft's SQL Server and Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzers already do. The Performance Advisor will be useful in that it provides a basic level of information and help in cases where a customer does not have the resources to buy a full-service server management system.

Neil Macehiter, a principal at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, a U.K.-based consultancy, said the tool appears to provide baseline knowledge of Windows Server but it does not go as far as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), Microsoft's server management software.

"[The tool] appears to give IT personnel some insight as to what's happening," he said. "To many Windows professionals, the only other way they would get these performance metrics would be from a higher-level system environment, such as MOM."

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For customers that have MOM, there is also a management pack that passes data directly to MOM. The management pack is not included in the installation package for Server Performance Advisor 2.0, however. It must be obtained from the Management Pack and Product Connector Catalog, Microsoft said.

But for enterprise IT environments, the challenge is not just in knowing what is happening. These IT professionals also need to know what to do about it, which is where MOM comes in, Macehiter said.

Features in the latest version of this tool include tracking and reporting trends, the ability to use circular logging or the ability to stop logging when the disk reaches a preset limit of remaining free space and the addition of new XML templates for additional IIS roles, Microsoft said.

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