A. Watson's Database Monitoring Tools Review

Introduction

Monitoring is one of the most important roles of database administration, but it can also be one of the most tedious, time-consuming and inconvenient. This article provides a high level overview of three tools, Informix Server Administrator (ISA), BusyBee and ServerMetrics, which take some of the drudgery out of this task.

Objectivity

Although I have evaluated the tools objectively, I should in the interests of fairness declare that my company, Ardenta, is a distributor for ServerMetrics.

ISA

Being IBM Informix's own tool ISA is unsurprisingly the most ambitious of the three tools, offering a GUI alternative to the command line both from a monitoring and administrative perspective. It is well-organised into related aspects of the engine with the capability to drill down to a high level of detail. ISA provides options to perform administration tasks appropriate to each level. For this reason it could be a very useful tool for a novice DBA or a non-dedicated administrator, as it requires knowledge of concepts rather than the detail of commands. There is also a good level of transparency for the commands being run and the capability to run commands manually so it could also act as a learning tool.

However there are flaws with ISA in that it cannot store historical data or provide notification when configured thresholds are breached. In addition, the administrator must still have a good working knowledge of commands and their output, as functionality is incomplete.

BusyBee

BusyBee is a simple-to-use tool concentrating solely on monitoring, with one configuration and one log file for each instance being monitored. BusyBee is written in Python and, although it is available free-of-charge, the source code is not currently distributed.

BusyBee's configuration file can be customised to set the frequency of checking for each item and thresholds at which to deliver different levels of warning. A one-line entry is reported to the log for each time an item is checked, along with any warning messages and values where appropriate.

The user can create custom scripts in any language with which they are comfortable. These scripts can be triggered as a result of different events to provide either notification or corrective action. This makes BusyBee very useful to an experienced DBA having complete control over the information collected and how it is used.

Where the DBA is required to provide reports on server performance/status over time however, they must do this themselves, as there are no tools supplied for this purpose. However, the simple structure of the log file combined with careful manipulation of threshold settings makes the collection of historical data from the log a straightforward process.

ServerMetrics

ServerMetrics is a web-based monitoring tool that can be implemented very quickly. It is written in Java. ServerMetrics' unique selling point is that it requires no client installation whatever, just a standard web browser on the subnet(s) to be monitored. The administrator is able to configure thresholds for the items to be monitored, to create graphs of historical information, and to grant limited monitoring access to other users. These users are then able to view a console-style window, which displays colour coded messages of events occurring in the engine.

ServerMetrics is simple in concept and is very easy for anyone with limited knowledge beyond the engine to understand and work through. It also provides useful graphs and regular output to give that warm feeling that everything is working and that potential problems are being pro-actively monitored.

ServerMetrics has two versions. One is for DBAs who monitor instances within their company, while the Enterprise version allows ISVs/VARs and consultants the ability to monitor instances inside their clients' networks.

Summary

As it can be seen each tool has its own strengths. The significance of these strengths depends upon the situation in which the tool is deployed, as well as the DBA skill level of the user(s).

More details can be found at:
 
http://www-3.ibm.com/software/data/informix/tools/isa/
http://www.herber-consulting.de (BusyBee)
http://www.servermetrics.com

Andrew Watson
IIUG Member
Ardenta Limited
February 2003

Published by IIUG Enews (Enews@IIUG.org), 19 February 2003.