Windows Server 2008 R2 monitoring and troubleshooting : Performance Monitoring

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As a Windows administrator, it is critical that you understand how to properly monitor your Windows servers for errors and warnings that may indicate problems. Additionally, you need to understand how to ensure that your Windows servers are performing optimally. You also need to know how to use the various tools available to troubleshoot problems with the operating system and applications.

Performance Monitoring

As a Windows administrator, it is important that you monitor the performance of your servers. Performance monitoring should be done proactively and used to create baseline performance statistics for your servers. By establishing baselines for “normal” performance, you can locate performance issues more quickly by looking for deviations from the baselines established over time. Some performance statistics do have best practice results that have been established by Microsoft product groups; however, this does not negate the need for you to establish your own baselines.

Understanding Performance Monitor

Windows Server 2008 R2 includes the Performance Monitor utility to help administrators easily gather and analyze performance data. Using Performance Monitor, you can monitor and capture data from various counters provided by the operating system. Before using Performance Monitor, you should understand the following terms:

  • Performance counters —Counters are the various components and objects that can be monitored using Performance Monitor. These are installed either as part of the operating system or by an application running on the server. Counters are also added when new roles are added. Examples of counters include % of Processor Time, Memory—Available Bytes, Logical Disk—% Free Disk Space.

  • Instances —Instances allow you to view data more granularly from a specific counter. For example, you may want to use the Processor “% of Processor Time” counter to view processor utilization. You can use the instances option to limit viewing the utilization of processors 1 and 3 only or of all the processors in the server.

In the following exercise, we will go through the process of using Performance Monitor to view performance data in real time and start collecting data to establish a baseline for some key performance indicators.

Performance Monitor is located under the Diagnostics node in Server Manager. To open Performance Monitor, perform the following:

Open Server Manager.

Expand the node Diagnostics | Performance | Monitoring Tools.

Select the node Performance Monitor (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Windows Performance Monitor.

To monitor performance of a specific Windows component, you simply need to add it to the Performance Monitor main window. This is done by clicking the Add button at the top of the Performance Monitor window. This button is represented by a green plus sign as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Add Performance counters.

After clicking the Add button, the Add Counters window will appear (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Add Performance counters.

In this window, you can select the counters and instances you want to monitor. If you need a brief description of a counter, you can select the Show Description option. Table 1 lists some of the common objects and a brief description of what each object’s counters captures:

Table 1. Common Performance Objects
Logical diskLogical disk counters gather performance data related to logical disk drives (C:, D:, etc). These counters include % of Free Space, % Disk Read Time, % Disk Write Time, Average Disk Queue Length, and Free Megabytes. You will especially want to establish thresholds for free disk space counters to ensure you don’t run out of free space on your server disk drives.
MemoryMemory counters allow you to monitor everything from available free megabytes to number or pages per second. Memory is often the number one bottleneck on servers so you should pay special attention to these counters. Since Windows servers page certain memory information to disk, you will want to ensure that excessive paging does not occur by monitoring Pages Per Second. You additionally will want to monitor available megabytes and committed bytes.
ProcessorThe processor performance counters monitor various aspects of processor performance. Though modern day processors are very fast, some processor intense applications such as SQL Server, can still see bottlenecks caused by poor processor performance. You will specifically want to monitor % of Processor Time. If you see a processor flat lined at 100% utilization, you know your server is very unresponsive and need to action immediately.
Physical DiskPhysical disk counters are used to measure the performance of the physical disk drive. Common counters include % Disk Read Time, % Disk Write Time, and Average Disk Queue Length.
Network InterfaceNetwork Interface counters allow you to measure the performance of server network adapters including bytes sent or received per second, Current bandwidth, Packet Outbound Errors, and Packet Receive Errors. These counters can be helpful in monitoring utilization of the network adapter and troubleshooting adapter connectivity issues.

Notes From the Field

Performance Monitoring management server

Performance Monitor can not only monitor the local server, but also has the ability to connect to remote servers and workstations to collect performance information from them as well. You may find it beneficial to set up a management server to centrally collect performance data from a set of servers opposed to running Performance Monitor on each system individually.

Now that you have an understanding of Performance Monitor, let us take a look at adding counters to be display performance information:

Within the Performance Monitor window, click the Add button to open the Add Counters window.

Select a counter you wish to monitor, such as the % Processor Time counter. Select the instances; in this case, we wish to monitor all the processors in the system so select All Instances. Then click Add. This will move the counter to the Added Counters pane as seen in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Select counter to view.

Click OK. You will see a line graph with lines representing the percentage of utilization for each processor in the system (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Processor utilization performance graph.

You can optionally change how you view the graph, using the change graph button (see Figure 6). You can choose between a line, histogram bar, or a table displaying values.

Figure 6. Change performances graph type.

Later in this chapter, we will explore using Data Collector Sets to capture performance data over a period of time.

Notes From the Field

Where is the reliability monitor?

You may remember that Windows Server 2008 R1 included the Reliability Monitor that continuously monitored your system for reliability. This included critical system errors and configuration changes such as installing new applications. You will notice that the Reliability Monitor is no longer available in Server Manager in Windows Server 2008 R2. The monitor still exists and is disabled by default. To enable the reliability monitor, you will need to change the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWRE\Microsoft\Reliability Analysis\WMI. Set WMIEnable equal to “1.” You will then need to ensure that the RacTask scheduled task is set to run. You can then access the reliability monitor from the Windows Action Center.

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