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Monitoring Performance and Scalability Metrics

Both Sun's Solaris and Microsoft's Windows 2000 Server operating systems continue to offer tools for measuring level of scalability. The ASPs you're considering need to have a strong knowledge of both the Sun and Microsoft tools now included in the baseline configuration of their respective operating systems. Microsoft's Performance Monitor has been included in all versions of Windows NT and is now included in Windows 2000 Workstation and Server. Performance Monitor is easy to use and efficient at tracking overall performance metrics. Obviously, you don't need to run these metrics yourself (that's for your ASP to do); however, you do need to know that Performance Monitor is available and so widely used today that the ASP and hosting company together should be able to quickly isolate any scalability issues before any application-threatening events occur.

Performance Monitor uses an object/counter approach to defining performance variables and the relative level of performance that the system should be accomplishing. Figure 1 shows an example of Performance Monitor tracking memory and network usage on a dual-processor Intel-based Xeon server.

Figure 1

Using tools such as Performance Monitor gives your ASP the chance to predict whether the scalability issues of serving multiple customers will dictate the need for additional hardware and network resources.

Make sure that the ASPs you're considering are actively using Performance Monitor if the server complex is running on Windows 2000–based systems. If your ASP has its own data center, ask to see the relative performance data over time for the servers in the center. You can learn how the data center is run by seeing the data—and by seeing if the data is available at all.

You don't have to be an expert on systems scalability when contracting with an ASP, but it is important to have the right questions in mind as you qualify one. You should ask the ASP if they use or plan to use additional tools for gauging relative system scalability. One of the more popular tools is the BlueCurve DynaMeasure application, which can measure throughput, response time, and processor use. BlueCurve is tightly integrated with Microsoft applications, including BackOffice, Exchange, and SQL Server. Redhat's acquisition of BlueCurve during 2000 promises to bring the same level of analysis to Linux servers, which are the most often-used in e-commerce applications.

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