Windows Server 2008 Reliability and Performance Monitor – Part 2

Part 2 – Performance Monitor Demystified

When considering the different tools that are available as part of the Windows Server 2008 operating system that will allow you to review and analyze system performance, the Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor can be leveraged by systems administrator to gather baseline information and to perform server tune ups. In this series of articles we will review the most common uses of the tool and break down some of the tool’s major functions.

Part 1 – Introduction to the Reliability and Performance Monitor took an overview look at the tool and the basic elements of function to get you familiar with the interface and some of the initial features and default settings.

In this segment, Part 2 – Reliability and Performance Monitor – Performance Monitor Demystified, I will go over some of the features and functions of the Performance Monitor part of the tool as well as some best practices with respect to collecting and working with Performance Logs.

What Can You Do With The Performance Monitor?

The Performance Monitor section of the Reliability and Performance Monitor tool can be used to view live performance data as a system is in use. It can also be set up to collect log files over a designated period of time so as to review snapshots of system performance for a historical reference in graphical or report format.

This allows you to have a known baseline for a system if a capture is made during first system build or around the time of initial deployment of a system into a production scenario. By having this baseline capture, you can use it to review against system performance results in the future when there are issues with system response time or if you are doing a capacity review of a server in a given role (e.g. Domain Controller, Database Server, etc).

In most cases, as the systems administrator of a newly configured system, you would want to have a baseline of corresponding performance counters that might be relative for the system’s intended workload.

While you might want to collect many of the base counters like Logical Disk, CPU, Network Interface (etc), you might choose to pick from system specific ones as well. If a system is being put together to be a print server you might want to collect information relative to that role (Print Queue) so that you would have the original baseline for the system.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] Server roles are not always sole designations any more as they used to be. Many systems are configured for dual or multipurpose use. When you are collecting baseline data to be saved as a Data Collector Set you’ll need to decide beforehand what you want to use as a base standard for all systems and then add custom counters for given server roles.

Using the Performance Monitor

The user account being used to leverage the Reliability and Performance Monitor MMC needs to be in the local Performance Log Users group or will need at least those minimum permissions in order to use the tool successfully to set up standard data collections. In some instances you may need full Administrator permissions to collect certain data from some counters.

You can use Performance Monitor to view real-time performance data on a remote computer as well as a local system. When you start the Performance Monitor MMC the default configuration forces you to the local system.

To connect to a remote computer with Performance Monitor you would need to right-click Reliability and Performance, and then click Connect to another computer. The Select Computer dialog box will appear and you would then type the name of the computer you want to monitor or click Browse To in order to select it from a system in the browse list.

For the remainder of this walk through we’ll assume we’re using the local system.

When you take simple view of the tool once Performance Monitor is accessed, the default screen will show the Current Activity view for the % Processor Time counter for the Processor object.

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FIGURE 1 – Performance Monitor showing the Processor Time counter

If you want to edit the view of a current counter you can go to the Action Menu item and select PROPERTIES which will bring up the properties page and you can adjust your settings from there.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD]You can also configure these settings by right clicking your mouse in the Performance Monitor display area and clicking Properties. The right click menu also allows you to save the current Performance Monitor display as a web page or to save the current Performance Monitor display as an image.

On the General Tab you can add or remove the Legend, Value Bar and Toolbar elements as well as change the report and histogram data. You can also make adjustments to your sample time and duration from here as well.

On the Data Tab you have the ability to make additional configuration changes to the graph color, line width and scale of the measured output.

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FIGURE 2 – View of the Performance Monitor Properties Data tab

If you need to add additional counters, you can do so by right clicking anywhere in the results pane and selecting Add Counters from the popup menu which will bring up the Add Counters property page. This can also be done by choosing the green plus (or green cross) on the upper display elements toolbar. You can also use the CTRL+I keyboard shortcut as well.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD]You can delete counters by highlighting them and by selecting the red X.

Creating Data Collector Sets

Data Collector Sets are used to organize collected data for review in Performance Monitor. The collected data can also be leveraged to generate alerts when upper or lower thresholds are reached.

Data Collector Sets will generally contain Performance counter information, Event trace data, and system configuration information from registry key values.

You can create your own Data Collector Set or leverage preconfigured templates that focus on performance data and / or general system diagnosis information for corresponding installed applications, or based on server roles deployed on the system.

To create a Data Collector Set from Performance Monitor you would either right click at the Performance Monitor in the tree view and select New, then choose Data Collector Set. This will start the Create New Data Collector Set Wizard, but you can also select that action from the Action menu option. This will allow you to have the customer Data Collector Set that will contain all of the live data collectors / counter selected in the current Performance Monitor view.

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FIGURE 3 – Starting the Create New Data Collector Set Wizard

From here you would choose a name for your Data Collector Set and click Next.

The default location of %systemdrive%PerfLogs will contain the saved data collected by the Data Collector Set but you can change the location if you want to store the Data Collector Set elsewhere and this can be done by entering in the path or by browsing to a location.

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FIGURE 4 – Showing the default file location of the custom Data Collector Set from within the Create New Data Collector Set Wizard

You would then choose Next to define a specific user account for the Data Collector Set to run as (or you can leave it as <default>)

Before you click Finish to save your current settings and exit the wizard you have the option to change the Save and close radio button to Start this data collector set now if that is what you’d like to do.

Rather than do that for this walk through we will just save the custom Data Collector Set and exit the wizard.

Using Predefined Data Collector Sets

Instead of creating your own Data Collector Set you can use one of the predefined ones on the system. In the console tree you would expand Data Collector Sets, expand System and choose one of the sets shown.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD]By left clicking one of the sets shown you can see in the results pane all of the counters that have been configured by default for a given collector set. In the screen capture below you will see the defaults for System Diagnostics on my system. You will notice as well that defaults for System Diagnostics on my system are actually configuration types as opposed to performance counters.

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FIGURE 5 – Showing the results pane view of the default configuration for System Diagnostics Data Collector Set.

The description for the System Diagnostics Data Collector Set reads:

“Generate a report detailing the status of local hardware resources, system response times, and processes on the local computer along with system information and configuration data. This report includes suggestions for ways to maximize performance and streamline system operation. Membership in the local Administrators group, or equivalent, is the minimum required to run this Data Collector Set.”

If you want to start the process you would right click the custom or default Data Collector Set you want to use and choose Start.

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FIGURE 6 – Starting the Data Collector Set

Once the data collection starts you’ll see Report Status showing as “Collecting Data for 60 seconds” after which you’ll be able to review the results.

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FIGURE 7 – Showing the data collection process.

Once the data collection is completed you are able to review it either in report form or you can view the results right in the Performance Monitor as a graphical representation of the data collected.

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FIGURE 8 – Report format of the results of the data collection.

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FIGURE 9 – Performance Monitor view of the results of the data collection.

As you can see from Image 8 I have a warning message regarding low disk space (and that is shown as well in the Basic System Checks under Disk Checks if that field were expanded) and there are a couple of informational messages there as well regarding my anti-virus not showing up in the Security Center part of the check.

Lower in the report (not shown in the screen shot) is detailed information on my software configuration showing my settings and the results for “OS Checks” as well as Security Center Information, System Services, and Startup Programs.

In the Hardware Configuration details section there is information supplied for Disk Checks, System, Desktop Rating, BIOS and Devices.

There are also separate sections that outline the details for CPU, Network, Disk Memory and Report Statistics.

Windows Server 2008 includes operating system performance counters that are enabled by default which can be used by Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor. Additional details on these counters are available on the Windows Performance Counters page which is a subsection of the Windows Server 2008 Technical Library.

Next Time …

So that ends my overview of the Reliability and Performance Monitor with respect to the Performance Monitor section.

In Part 3 – Reliability and Performance Monitor – Reliability Monitor: What’s Working and What’s Not I will go over some of the features and functions of this part of the tool as well as going over some best practices with respect to troubleshooting problems found in the tool reports.

I hope you found this article informative and I am looking forward to any feedback you have on it.

Additionally, I would welcome any topics of interest that you would like to see and based on demand and column space we’ll do what we can to deliver them to you.

Best of luck in your studies.