Computer Performance Monitoring

Computer Performance Monitoring

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Introduction

The task for this week's assignment is to discuss specific common areas of concern in reporting hard drive, network, and memory issues, explaining what to look for in these areas.
Overview
Regular performance monitoring ensures that administrators always have up-to-date information about how their servers are operating. When administrators have performance data for their systems that cover several activities and loads, they can define a range of measurements that represent normal performance levels under typical operating conditions for each server. This baseline provides a reference point that makes it easier to spot problems when, or before they occur. In addition, when troubleshooting system problems, performance data gives information about the behavior of the various system resources at the time the problem occurs.
Hard Drive Monitoring
There are many factors that need to be monitored to determine the performance of a hard drive system. For the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on two areas that I feel are important. They are disk space and disk efficiency.
Disk space is important to monitor because some applications may fail to run if they can't allocate the required space needed to work. Also, low disk space can limit the ability of the paging file to grow as needed, which in turn affects the system's virtual memory. If the paging file can't grow then virtual memory is severely limited which could slow down or crash a system.
Using the built-in monitoring utility Performance Monitor (Perfmon.msc), under the category Add Counters/Performance Object/LogicalDisk, there are two counters that can be used to monitor disk space. They are "% Free Space" and "Free Megabytes". The % Free Space counter displays the percentage of total usable free space on the selected logical drive or drives. This is a much better indication of free space than right clicking the drive and viewing its properties. The Free Megabytes counter basically provides the same type of information, but in a different format. It displays the available free space in megabytes instead of percentages. If after running these counters it's determined that space is running low, the administrator should try running "Disk Cleanup" from within Performance Monitor, compress the hard drive if feasible, or move some files to another disk drive.
Monitoring disk efficiency is a little more complicated than monitoring free space, but is necessary to ensure that the disk drives are running at peak performance. There are a few steps that should be taken prior to monitoring disk efficiency.

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They are:
• Save disk logs to a different hard drive if possible so they don't interfere with the disk's performance by being written to the disk being tested.
• Be sure to defrag the disk drive before testing. Testing a severely fragmented drive will only return poor results because of the amount of seek time required to look at each sector of free space.
• Be sure the disk to be monitored is not compressed or encrypted because this will only add time to the results.
For best results, you would want to test the drive for maximum throughput. To do this requires the use of more counters than what was used for the free disk space tests. The recommended counters are listed below and should be monitored from the both objects PhysicalDisk and LogicalDisk. They are:
• Avg. Disk Bytes/Read – the average number of bytes transferred from the disk during read operations.
• Avg. Disk Read Queue Length – the average number of read requests that were queued for the selected disk during the sample interval.
• Avg. Disk sec/Read – the average time, in seconds, of a read of data from the disk.
• Disk Read Bytes/sec – the rate at which bytes are transferred from the disk during read operations.
• Disk Reads/sec – the rate of read operations on the disk.
Once the results of the tests have been gathered and it's determined that the maximum throughput could be better, try adjusting the load on the disk to increase performance and prevent it from becoming a bottleneck on the network.
Network Monitoring
Reliable communication across a network is extremely important in today's work environment. Similar to disks on a system, the behavior of the network has an impact on the operation of your computer. The best way to optimize a system's performance is to analyze the network's traffic and resource utilization. The two primary tools to do this are the Network Interface Object which is part of the Performance Monitor, and Network Monitor which needs to have the driver installed on the system you want to test, and then gets configured via the Control Panel.
There are a total of 17 different counters to use under the Network Interface Object to help determine a network's reliability. The counters that I'll be focusing on are:
• Output Queue Length - the length of the output packet queue (in packets). If this is longer than two, there are delays and the bottleneck should be found and eliminated if possible. Since the requests are always queued by the Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) in this implementation, this will always be 0.
• Packets Outbound Discarded - the number of outbound packets that were chosen to be discarded even though no errors had been detected to prevent transmission. One possible reason for discarding packets could be to free up buffer space.
• Bytes Total/sec - the rate at which bytes are sent and received over each network adapter, including framing characters. Network Interface\Bytes Received/sec is a sum of Network Interface\Bytes Received/sec and Network Interface\Bytes Sent/sec.
The set of counters listed below will be available once the Network Monitor driver has been installed on the computer and configured. They are:
• Broadcast Frames Received/sec – used to establish a baseline when monitored over time to allow a reference point.
• % Network Utilization – used to reflect the percentage of network bandwidth used for the local network segment.
• Total Frames Received/sec – used to indicate when bridges and routers might be saturated.
These are the minimum counters to monitor when trying to determine the reliability of your network. Monitoring various system level counters via System Monitor will also aid in discovering issues with network performance by showing you how the system itself is reacting to the network. There are also many third party tools that could be used to monitor the network's performance and help isolate any problems that are showing up.

Memory Monitoring
Low memory conditions can slow the operation of applications and services on a computer and impact the performance of other resources in that system. When a computer is low on memory, the paging activity can be affected, which would result in more work for the hard disks on the system. Because it involves reading and writing to disk, this paging activity may have to compete with other disk transactions that are being performed at the same time, resulting in a disk bottleneck. As a result, applications and services become less responsive.
Before monitoring a system's memory you would want to verify the amount and type of memory in use, and compare it against the minimum operating system requirements to ensure the memory meets those requirements. You would also want to establish a baseline for memory usage by determining averages for low, average, and peak usage times. Lastly you would want to optimize the memory configuration based on computer workload, as well as verify the cache and page file sizes.
Once again, Performance Monitor is where you would run the counters to check on the system memory. The two Performance Objects that will be providing those counters are Memory and Paging File. Here are the two counters to use under Memory:
• Pages/sec - the rate at which pages are read from or written to disk to resolve hard page faults. This counter is a primary indicator of the kinds of faults that cause system-wide delays. It's the sum of Memory\Pages Input/sec and Memory\Pages Output/sec. It's counted in numbers of pages, so it can be compared to other counts of pages, such as Memory\Page Faults/sec, without conversion. It includes pages retrieved to satisfy faults in the file system cache (usually requested by applications) non-cached mapped memory files.
• Available Bytes - the amount of physical memory, in bytes, available to processes running on the computer. It's calculated by adding the amount of space on the Zeroed, Free, and Standby memory lists. Free memory is ready for use; Zeroed memory consists of pages of memory filled with zeros to prevent subsequent processes from seeing data used by a previous process; Standby memory is memory that has been removed from a process' working set (its physical memory) on route to disk, but is still available to be recalled. This counter displays the last observed value only; it is not an average.
The Paging File object has one counter that we would use to check memory issues. That counter is:
• % Usage - the percentage of the amount of the Page File instance in use.
Once you've gathered the results from these counters you would compare them to your baseline numbers to determine where the problem may be. Additional testing may be required to isolate specific issues. Purchasing new or additional memory may help resolve some problems, but chances are system modifications pertaining to how the computer handles requests for memory access, and which processes use that memory will have to be performed.
Conclusion
This paper has touched briefly on just some of the counters that can be run from the Performance Monitor to check the performance of various system resources such as disk drives, network connectivity, and memory. The amount of system information that could be gathered using all aspects of Performance Monitor is incredible and can be a valuable tool for those who choose to use it.

References

Microsoft.com. (2005). Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kits. Performance Monitoring.
Retrieved from the Internet on September 25, 2005 at:
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/Windows/2000/server/reskit/en-us/Default.asp?url=/resources/documentation/Windows/2000/server/reskit/en-us/core/fnca_pt3_intr.asp
Microsoft.com. (2005). Microsoft Windows XP Professional Product Documentation.
Retrieved from the Internet on September 25, 2005 at:
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/nt_command_perfmon.mspx
WindowsNetworking.com. (2005). Windows Server 2003 Performance Tuning.
Retrieved from the Internet on September 25, 2005 at:
http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Windows-Server-2003-Performance-Tuning.html
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