NetIQ AppManager 6.0 (Beta - March 2004)

Release date:  July 2004
Review date:  June 30, 2004



Unlike many major product upgrades, the important news about AppManager 6.0 is not that it breaks new ground with its core features.  Rather, the big news is that AppManager 6.0 will be the first of several new products and add-ons that, taken together, will extend NetIQ's overall reach in Systems Management to the enterprise playing field.

While the current version, AppManager 5.x, is typically deployed to multiple departments in an enterprise in an administratively disjointed and physically disconnected manner, AppManager 6.0 will consolidate the administration into new consoles that can view the enterprise from an unlimited number of perspectives.  It will also be the platform for other enterprise-class Systems Management features which will be delivered by other products, some enhanced and some new.

The new platform will accomplish these broader capabilities through four major enhancements:

  1. AppManager 6.0, the core product which many large customers typically deploy departmentally throughout their enterprise, will scale to almost double the number of agents per management server as it could in prior versions.  NetIQ claims that sites which currently manage from 400 to 600 agents per management server will be able to manage 1,000 agents per management server with the same performance and improved reliability——i.e., fewer grayed-out machines.
  2. Analysis Center 2.0, the data warehouse for reporting that consolidates the performance metrics from multiple AppManager 6.0 databases, will introduce a highly flexible .NET-based console with drill-down reporting capabilities similar to those found in NetIQ's award winning WebTrends product line.
  3. Control Center 1.0, a new product, is designed to enable large enterprises to be managed from a single console. For example, NetIQ's testing labs have timed the console load times with 10,000 managed agents and 100,000 open events. While any user with 100,000 open events is probably suffering other pains that new technology alone cannot address, the good news is that the Control Center console only slows down at these high volumes, with load times in minutes, and doesn't break altogether. Control Center will also feature a graphical design interface, called Service Maps, that will allow users to create multi-layered maps of their servers and applications in graphical layouts and bind those graphical objects to AppManager agents with leaf-branch-root roll-up and information drill-down.
  4. From either AppManager or Control Center consoles, users will be able to launch NetIQ's powerful realtime Diagnostic Console for Windows NT/2K/2K3, Exchange 5.5/2K/2K3 and Active Directory.

We will review Control Center 1.0 and Analysis Center 2.0 in separate reviews later in the year.  Since most of the features of AppManager 6.0 are already familiar to AppManager users, we will concentrate this review on the broad steps of the ugprade process.

For administrators who have performed AppManager upgrades in the past, a lot of this material will be familiar.  For managers or developers who will not have to perform the actual upgrade but still would like to see the process without reading the manuals, this review offers them a useful shortcut.  In either case, this review is not intended as more than a starting point for your own testing.  The actual upgrade to your production systems will require much more detailed planning and testing.  Also, keep in mind that this review was made with the final beta code, dated March 26, 2004, and there will definitely be changes to the official AppManager 6.0 release, which is scheduled for July 2004.

Installation Checks

AppManager was one of the first products to provide an automated pre-installation check as part of its installation. Today this feature is a de facto requirement for any professional product.  AppManager 6.0 offers two methods of agent installation:  the command line (Setup.exe) and the AMAdmin_Upgrade Knowledge Script.  Both of these methods performs a pre-installation check.  Since the first component to be upgraded must be the repository, this upgrade can only be done with the command line.

NetIQ Components Upgrade Method Comments

QDB, MS, Agent, RT

Command line Windows 2000/SP4, SQL 2000/SP3a, Active Directory Domain Controller, Response Time agent

Web MS, Agent

Command line Windows 2000/SP4, IIS 5.0, Netuitive Analytics Server, Microsoft Reporting Services Server


Knowledge Script Windows 2003, Exchange Server 2003, IIS 6.0, Microsoft Analytics Server, Microsoft Operations Manager 2000/SP1, SQL 2000/SP3a

Note to administrators:  The installation checks are a great benefit because they identify the obstacles in your particular environment that need to be cleared up.  All of the requirements listed in the installation checks are covered in the documentation, but not as concisely.  For the Demo site, the following warnings are shown:

Setup Process

Here are the screen shots of the Setup.exe process from start to finish for the repository, management server and an agent.  They are, for the most part, self-explanatory.  Note that the screen shots are low-resolution, and so do not have the colors and saturation of the original dialog boxes.

Sequence Description
1Upgrade Not For Production
2Installation Directory
4Unsupported Apps
6License Keys
7Name And Org
8Repository Config
9SQL Login
10Old Jobs KS
11Netiq SQL Password
12Confirm Upgrade
13Upgrade Security Info
14QDB Connections
15Agent Monitored Apps
16Response Time Apps
17Agent Config
18Agent Config SQL
19Console Components
20Stop "One Point"
21QDB Connections
22Setup Is Complete

Notes on screen shots:  A few changes to past versions of AppManager include the following:

After screenshot 21, the "Generating KSDiff Report" progress bar appears, followed by the "Checking in 6.0 Knowledge Scripts" progress bar.  This is followed by another "Generating KSDiff Report" progress bar.  Finally, the usual DLL registration steps take place and, if there have been no critical errors, the starting of services.

Upgrade Jobs

UpgradeJobs is a powerful tool that answers the key questions for any AppManager administrator:

The utility can be launched from the command line as UpgradeJobs.exe or from the AMAdmin_UpgradeJobs KS.  The benefit of the KS method is that the SQL connection to the repository does not need to be specified.  Both the KS and the executable run in one of two modes: Query or Upgrade.  As the names imply, Query mode reports on the jobs or agents to be upgraded, while Upgrade mode performs the upgrade.  Both modes generate reports of their results in text files under the AM "Temp" directory.

Here are two screen shots of the AMAdmin_UpgradeJobs results:

Up-to-date Parent Jobs
Out-of-date Parent Jobs

SQL Database Changes

SQL Database:  Developers will be glad to learn that there are very few changes to the repository schema, at least not for the upgrade from a 5.0.1 repository.  For the most part, the new functionality and increased performance of AM 6.0 have been enabled by means of upgraded stored procedures, of which there are many.

Two tables have been replaced by Views:  PortalMasterEventSummary and PortalSeverityEventSummary.  Two new tables have been added to support the new KS category controls in Security Manager (see Utilities below):  SRoleKS and SUserLookup.  Lastly, four new tables have been added with double-underscore names:  __KS, __KS_ObjectType, __VirtualKS and __VirtualKS_ObjectType.

Agent Access Database:  Changes to the Local-Repository.mdb file include additional fields in the data collection and event tables to accomodate "knowledge base" content in a future release.

Knowledge Script Differences

As with the database schema, the basic KS implementation remains unchanged.  However, there have been some sweeping changes in the areas of KS look-and-feel and stability.  Simply stated, past versions of AppManager have introduced slightly different approaches to the visual organization of KS parameters and the formatting of event messages.  The result in the current 5.0.1 version is a variety of different styles.

NetIQ describes these enhancements as "more consistent event formatting & readability" and "better parameter usability".  NetIQ enjoyed abundant user feedback in the setting of the new standards and the selection of new KS to add to AppManager's already comprehensive monitoring functions.

Here are lists of the 11 new and 28 upgraded KS.

11 New KS

28 Upgraded KS

Event Formatting & Readability:  Most of the event messages have been formatted as simple HTML tables.  Wherease messages in the current version are normally formatted as a line or two of text, the new KS will format the message like this example from the NT_ServiceDown KS.

One side effect of presenting the event messages as HTML tables is that customers who are using a proprietary program to parse AppManager events may need to revise these programs.  Typically this type of revision can be made to a small number of Action KS, and AppManager 6.0 includes a method, "EventXMLToPlainText", that handles this conversion internally.  NetIQ is enabling their existing connectors with a configuration option to strip the new formatting so that the data is passed through as text as in the current version.

Parameter Usability:  The new standard of arranging and grouping the parameters tab of the KS properties panes consists of separate groups for threshold settings, data collection settings, and event settings.  This scheme does require more mouse clicks to see and set all the parameters, but the fact that the parameters are grouped logically within each KS and consistently across all the KS helps give the administrator a sense of confidence in setting KS properties and starting to use the product right away.

Action Script Messages Are Parameterized:  Developers who customize their own Action KS will welcome the ability to reference individual words in the event "short" and "detail" messages.  Individual words and ranges of words can be parsed and filtered.

HTML Data Details and Analysis Center:  One of the AppManager 6.0 features that will work in tandem with NetIQ's other enterprise-ready components is the formatting of the details of collected data to be compliant with Analysis Center.  AppManager and Analysis Center have always shared formatting of the data stream legends, but conforming the details as well will make for a more powerful reporting capability when the data is viewed through Analysis Center's OLAP data warehouse.

Changes to Utilities

Here are our observations on the main utilities that supplement AppManager.

NetIQCtrl and Repository Browser:  These utilities seem to be unchanged.

Chart Console:  Administrators can now reserve the "Public" folder of the Chart console to share chart settings between users.  Access to view and/or edit the charts in the public folder are controlled in the Security Manager.

Security Manager:  This utility is mostly unchanged with the following exceptions:

Web Console Enhancements

While the operator console remains relatively unchanged, the web console has been enhanced with three long-awaited improvements:

The first time you load the web console from any workstation you will need to download the "NetIQ Component Checker".  Also, in order to view charts in the web console your users will have to download and install the NetIQ Chart Component that runs on Windows NT/2000/XP/20003.  Since this component is an executable file, administrators will have to coordinate with clients beyond their firewalls if the downloading of executable files is prevented.


AppManager has matured through major revisions based on user input since its initial release in 1995.  While AppManager 6.0 in no way detracts from those features, it also does not introduce major new advancements such as Unix/Linux monitoring, policy-based monitoring, or the dedicated report agent.  Instead, NetIQ has strengthened its core platform to handle a much larger deployment of agents per management server——an enhancement which we were unable to test in our demo site——and to serve as the foundation for more enterprise-class features which it will deliver through other products.

2004 could prove to be a pivotal year in the Systems Management arena, both for NetIQ and for the other vendors who are also releasing major product upgrades.  See our Reviews page for further information on these upcoming releases.