Product Review: ManageEngine Applications Manager

by [Published on 24 July 2014 / Last Updated on 24 July 2014]

In this article the author reviews ManageEngine Applications Manager.

Product: ManageEngine Applications Manager

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Introduction

About a year ago, I reviewed ManageEngine Applications Manager for Windows Networking. In that review, I gave ManageEngine a perfect score. Those of you who regularly read my reviews know that this is well outside of the norm for me. In my opinion there is almost always something that can be improved, but when it came to ManageEngine, I just couldn’t think of anything that the company could have done better. It is quite possible that this is the only product for which I have ever given a perfect score (although I review a lot of products and it is possible that there might have been another perfect score somewhere along the way).

Since some time has passed since I last looked at Applications Manager, I decided to take another look. Rather than focusing on the deployment and basic functionality like I did last time however, I decided to write this review from the perspective of how well Applications Manager works with my virtualization infrastructure.

My primary lab environment is based on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V. It currently consists of four lab servers and two production servers. All of the Hyper-V hosts are joined to a management domain named mgmt.com. In preparing for this review, I installed Windows Server 2012 R2 onto a virtual machine and then joined the VM to my mgmt.com domain.

For the purposes of this review, I downloaded the 30 day free trial of Applications Manager version 11 from here. The download was a mere 69 MB in size and completed almost instantly. I won’t bother to rehash the deployment process since I covered it in the previous review, except to say that the installation process is absolutely painless.

Since I was already familiar with the product’s basic operation, I decided to jump right in and begin monitoring my Hyper-V servers. I began the process by creating a new monitoring group that I called Hyper-V. From there, I began defining monitors for my Hyper-V servers.

In case you are wondering, Application Manager is not limited to only monitoring Hyper-V. The software supports monitoring Hyper-V, VMware ESX / ESXi, and XenServer. In addition, the software provides monitoring capabilities for an impressive array of applications, as shown in Figure A. There is even an option to define a new monitor type.

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Figure A: Applications Manager supports an impressive variety of applications.

As you can see in Figure B, the process of setting up a monitor for a Hyper-V server is simple. I merely provided a display name, the server’s IP address, and a set of credentials for the server. After that, I selected the monitor group that I had previously created and clicked Add Monitor.

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Figure B: It was simple to set up a Hyper-V Monitor.

One thing that I especially liked about the process of setting up a monitor was the help that Applications Manager gave me. As you look at the screen capture above, you will notice the help card. The help card lists things like privilege requirements, firewall requirements, and license usage.

In spite of the fact that it was so easy to set up a monitor, I couldn’t help but wonder about setting up monitoring in larger organizations with hundreds of Hyper-V hosts. As I looked at the screen shown above however, I noticed the Bulk Import link. Clicking this link took me to a screen that gave me the chance to import a CSV file containing the data for all of my Hyper-V servers.

After setting up monitors for all of my Hyper-V servers and giving the Applications Manager time to collect some monitoring information, I decided to check on my Hyper-V servers. Much to my surprise, all of my Hyper-V servers were listed as being in a critical state, as shown in Figure C.

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Figure C: All of my Hyper-V servers had a critical health state.

The reason why the server health was listed as critical was because the Hyper-V Image Management Service and the Hyper-V Networking Management Service were both down. The problem is however, that these services do not exist in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V. It would be nice if Applications Manager had a way of detecting the Hyper-V version and monitoring accordingly. Fortunately, it was easy enough to disable the monitoring of the non-existent services.

The next thing that I wanted to check out was monitoring for virtual machines. When you create a Hyper-V Server monitor, there is a check box that you can select to monitor the performance of virtual machines. I went back and enabled this function for one of my host servers. It is worth noting that each monitored VM consumes a monitor license.

After I enabled performance monitoring for virtual machines, I decided to check out the reporting function to see what sort of information was being monitored. When I arrived at the Reports screen, I selected the Virtualization option and then expanded the Select Attribute drop down list. As you can see in Figure D, there are roughly about 25 different metrics that you can report on. Some of these metrics apply to the host server, while others apply to the virtual machines. The software also allows you to configure alarms based on threshold values for any of these metrics.

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Figure D: There are roughly about 25 different virtualization metrics that you can report on.

You can see what a report looks like in Figure E. This particular report displays the top ten host servers with regard to the number of VMs that are running on them. Keep in mind that this particular report only displays active VMs. VMs that are powered off are not included in the report. As you can see in the figure, you have the option of exporting the report to a PDF or CSV file. You can also E-mail or print the report.

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Figure E: This is what a report looks like.

While I was checking out the various reporting options, I decided to have a look at the Capacity Planning options. ManageEngine provides reports on undersized servers, oversized servers, and idle servers. For example, if you look at Figure F, you can see what the Undersized Servers report looks like. This report treats a server as undersized if the CPU or memory utilization is 90% or higher for at least 50% of the time. These threshold values can be adjusted in the event that you have different criteria for determining whether a server is undersized.

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Figure F: This is what the undersized server report looks like.

The thing that I like best about this particular report is that there is a very clear indication (in bright green in my case) as to whether or not a server is undersized. Just to the right of the diagnosis is the criteria used in establishing the diagnosis. This makes it really easy to determine at a glance which resources are undersized.

On a different note, I also really liked the SLA report. ManageEngine allows you to define a service level agreement for your network resources. You can then use a dashboard to see which resources are meeting your SLA.

To give you a more concrete example, take a look at Figure G. Even though I had not yet established an SLA for my servers, ManageEngine was smart enough to pick up on the fact that I had a major availability problem, with an overall availability of just 15.05%. The reason for this “problem” is that I keep most of my lab servers turned off when I am not using them in an effort to save power. Even though I knew the cause of the outage, I wanted to see what else ManageEngine could tell me. I was able to drill down and tell which servers were affected and how much down time had been recorded, as shown in Figure H.

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Figure G: ManageEngine does a good job of providing SLA data.

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Figure H: I was able to see availability information on a per host server basis.

Conclusion

Once again ManageEngine did not disappoint. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I did experience a problem with ManageEngine not being able to see some of my virtual machines. Oddly enough, the problem eventually went away on its own. I can’t fault ManageEngine with this problem however, because the problem could very well have been related to something on my network rather than to the software itself. Once I got ManageEngine up and running it performed flawlessly, so I have no reason to suspect that the communications problems that I experienced were related to a bug in the software.

With that said, I only had two minor issues with ManageEngine. First, I think that the interface could be a little bit more intuitive. I’m not saying that the software is difficult to use – it isn’t. It’s just that there was a slight learning curve associated with using the interface.

The other issue is that I wish ManageEngine would take the Hyper-V version into account when determining server health. As you will recall, all of my Hyper-V servers were listed as being in a critical health state simply because a couple of operating system services do not exist in the current version of Hyper-V.

When I write a review for this site, it has become customary for to assign the product a numerical score ranging from zero to five (with five being the highest) and corresponding award, based on the product’s performance. I decided to give ManageEngine a VirtualizationAdmin.com Gold Award with a near perfect score of 4.8. While it is true that there were some things that I didn’t particularly like about the product, those issues were very minor in the grand scheme of things. In my opinion, ManageEngine Applications Manager does an excellent job once you get it all set up.

WindowsNetworking.com Rating 4.8/5

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Learn more about ManageEngine Applications Manager or download a Free Trial!

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The Author — Brien M. Posey

Brien M. Posey avatar

Brien Posey is an MCSE and has won the Microsoft MVP award for the last few years. Brien has written well over 4,000 technical articles and written or contributed material to 27 books.