Software

SolutionBase: Monitoring Exchange Server 2003 with Microsoft Operations Manager

Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) provides a framework for monitoring systems and applications. Here's how the Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager can help you monitor and maintain your Exchange 2003 servers.

If you're familiar with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM), you know that it provides a framework for monitoring systems and applications, generating event notifications, and responding to problems as they arise. While you can use MOM on its own to monitor and manage a range of systems and applications, you get the most from MOM when you use application-specific management packs. Here's how the Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager can help you monitor and maintain your Exchange 2003 servers.

What can MOM do for Exchange Server 2003?

MOM provides several features, but the key features include monitoring, event generation and a framework by which you can track issue resolution progress. Management packs for MOM take much of the work out of creating computer and processing rule groups, defining filters and events, configuring alerts, and adding all of the other structures to MOM needed for monitoring and managing a specific operating system or application. The Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack is no exception.

When you integrate MOM with Exchange Server, a MOM agent runs on each Exchange server being monitored. The agent collects information from several sources on the server and forwards that information to MOM's data consolidator and agent manager, where it gets processed before being passed to the data access servers and ultimately to MOM's central database. When you install the management pack for Exchange Server 2003, the agent will collect the following information from your Exchange servers:

Performance counters

The management pack configures the agent to collect a preconfigured set of performance counters that track the server's health overall and in the specific context of Exchange Server. Having this information in the database will help you identify potential problems, such as a lack of sufficient server resources to handle the messaging load on the server.

Warnings and errors in the event logs

The management pack enables the agent to track and report Exchange Server-specific events in the server's application log, providing event consolidation and reporting to help identify specific problems.

Disk capacity data

When the disks start to fill up on an Exchange server, problems start to appear, including disconnected databases and, ultimately, users who can't get their e-mail. The management pack monitors disk capacity on the target server and reports the information back to the central database.

Exchange service information

Exchange Server relies on several services to function properly, and the management pack monitors Exchange Server and related services to help you identify and react to service failures.

Connected Exchange databases

Having Exchange's services running doesn't guarantee that users can get their e-mail. The management pack performs MAPI client logons to verify that databases are connected and mailboxes are accessible. The ability to log on also validates connectivity to the Active Directory.

Message queue lengths

The management pack monitors Exchange Server's queues to identify potential routing and processing problems so you can address problems that are causing a queue to clog. Quick notification of queue problems enables you to address the underlying problem before it begins to cause disk capacity problems or users start to complain about message delays.

Mail flow

The management pack, in addition to monitoring the mail queues, checks mail flow by sending messages across the organization to test and verify mail delivery.

Network connections

To protect against denial-of-service attacks, the management pack monitors the number of network connections to each server and generates notifications when the number reaches a specified threshold.

In addition to these components, the management pack for Exchange Server 2003 also includes predefined processing rule groups and rules to help you begin processing Exchange Server events right out of the box. The rules fall into four main groups:

  • Availability
  • Exchange Events
  • Health
  • Performance

The rules in the Availability group monitor Exchange Server to ensure that the server(s) are running. Rules in this group monitor Exchange services, front-end servers, database connection, MAPI logon, mailbox availability, and mail flow. The Exchange Events group contains rules that monitor the Exchange store, the System Attendant, SMTP, the Message Transfer Agent, message routing, IMAP, and POP3. The rules also monitor Outlook Web Access, Outlook Mobile Access, ActiveSync, connectivity with Active Directory and Active Directory Connector, and users' free/busy information.

The Health and Performance groups monitor overall server health and performance. The rules in this group collect information about the server, such as disk capacity, mail queues, the SMTP service, and other server performance data. The rules also collect additional information used by MOM to generate reports about server health and performance. You can modify these rule groups and rules, and create additional ones as needed to suit your Exchange Server organization and monitoring requirements.

Collecting information is just one aspect of what MOM does for Exchange Server. Without notification, all this information would be largely useless. As with other management packs, the management pack for Exchange Server includes preconfigured alerts for various severity levels including service unavailable, security breach, critical error, error, warning, information, and success. The first four by default generate an administrator page, while the others do not. You can modify properties for alerts as needed.

In addition to the features and components I've already mentioned, the management pack for Exchange Server also includes information to help you analyze and manage the information it gathers about your Exchange servers. For example, the management pack includes Knowledge Base information specific to Exchange Server to help you diagnose and troubleshoot problems when they arise. As with other applications and systems monitored by MOM, you can add your own information to the Exchange Server Knowledge Base for problems and solutions specific to your organization.

In addition to the Knowledge Base content, the Management Pack for Exchange Server includes several predefined reports:

  • Exchange 2000 and 2003 Health Monitoring and Operations—This category includes a range of customizable reports for Exchange Server including disk usage, server availability, system and Exchange Server configuration, Outlook client monitoring for response times and errors, distribution of mailboxes across storage groups and databases, and database component and aggregate sizes.
  • Exchange 2000 and 2003 Protocol Usage—This category reports on usage for protocols such as IMAP, POP3, and SMTP, as well as activity reports for the Information Store service, mailbox store, public folder store, MTA, and Outlook Web Access.
  • Exchange 2000 and 2003 Traffic Analysis—This report category summarizes message traffic by message count and message size for recipient and sender domains to help you analyze traffic and adjust bandwidth, policies, and other properties accordingly.
  • Exchange Capacity Planning—Use this category to analyze client logons, messages sent and received, work queues, and other properties to shape current and future server configuration for capacity planning.
  • Exchange Mailbox and Folder Sizes—This category helps you analyze mailbox usage by number of messages and size of messages, as well as other properties. These reports can be very useful in identifying users who overextend their mailboxes and in developing messaging policies to control archiving and other usage considerations.
  • Exchange Performance Analysis—Use this report to summarize Exchange Server performance counters and analyze queue performance.

If you don't have a homogenous, Exchange Server 2003-only environment, you can still take advantage of MOM for all of your Exchange Server analysis, alerting, and reporting. Microsoft offers management packs for Exchange 5.5, 2000, and 2003, which should cover most of today's Exchange shops.

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