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Microsoft recently released version 2.0 of the Windows Server 2003 Performance Advisor, a data-collecting and data-analyzing tool that produces detailed reports about the performance of a Windows 2003 Server computer.
The new version has several useful improvements. The reporting functions are highly customizable. For example, you can produce reports on specific subsystems, such as one that concentrates on the performance of SQL Server or on low-level functions like CPU and physical memory usage. The reports are saved as XML files and can be published as a standalone report.
One thing to keep in mind is that version 2.0 runs only on Windows Server 2003 with the .NET 1.1 Framework; it will not run on earlier versions of Windows Server or Windows XP.
Version 2.0 is backwards compatible with version 1.0 reports. If you have 1.0 already installed, 2.0 will retain any previously generated reports from the earlier version. The original version of the program is also still available.
Here are some of the new features and functionality changes included with 2.0:
- Circular and limited logging of data keeps the amount of logged data from ballooning to an unreasonable size. You can either use circular logging (newer data overwrites older data) or a fixed log size, or you can create retention rules to dispose of older archived data when it's no longer needed. The amount of data that can be generated from the program's logging can be quite large (especially if you're collecting kernel-level data; see below for more on that).
- Trend reporting gives the user at-a-glance summaries of trends in key performance counters. These trends can be reported weekly, across the entire existing span of reports (warning: it may be slow) or across a custom time interval. Tracking week by week over the course of a year, for instance, can give you a good idea of how system usage changes seasonally. Note that trending requires SQL Server 2000 or better to store and analyze the data; this feature does not work with the standalone version of Performance Advisor.
- New analysis templates come packaged with the program and let you perform analyses in specific, predefined ways. The Server Roles template, for instance, gathers data as it pertains to different server roles (DNS, IIS, SMTP, etc.). The Kernel Tracing template concentrates on data collected from kernel trace providers, which is useful for examining the low-level behavior of drivers. Note that the Kernel Tracing template generates an enormous amount of data in a short time, so it should not be run without constraining either its runtime or the size of the log file produced.
- Support for x64-based versions of Windows Server 2003 is now available, too.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!