Performance Sentry and the Performance Monitor (Perfmon) or System Monitor all access the same performance data and all access it the same way. This performance data encompasses an enormously rich set of metrics on resource usage of key hardware and software components that is available on every Windows server and workstation. We think this is a very strong statement about the fundamental importance that the vendor places on performance management. Microsoft also includes excellent performance monitoring tools like Perfmon and the System Monitor in every version of the operating system that is installed.
Nevertheless, the built-in tools Microsoft provides fall short of the precision tools that experienced professionals demand, especially those that are responsible for managing multiple machines that are part of a larger, enterprise computing infrastructure. Because Performance Sentry was designed for centralized administration of Windows performance data collection across hundreds or thousands of machines, there are some crucial differences between our product and the freebie utilities that Microsoft includes. Some of these crucial differences are summarized below:
- Performance Sentry runs as a service and collects Windows performance data continuously. Perfmon and Sysmon have to be invoked for data to be collected (Perfmon and Sysmon do have a logging function, which we will address next). Typically with Perfmon or System Monitor, you are trying to determine what the cause of a problem is after the problem is discovered. Said another way, someone will call the help desk with a problem, you log into Perfmon and view the current status of the system. More than likely, the data you need to analyze the cause of the problem is gone. Since Performance Sentry is collecting data continuously, on an interval basis, the data you need to analyze your problem has been collected, before and while you realize a problem exists.
- Performance Sentry runs in background mode and has close to zero impact on system performance. When Perfmon logging is turned on it can use as much as 40% of the CPU Utilization and the file sizes can be enormous. Collecting data in text file format suitable for analysis by an application other than System Monitor, for example, you are likely to find that the overhead of System Monitor is prohibitive.
- Performance Sentry augments the information available through the standard Windows performance monitoring interface with static configuration data so that you have all the information required for management reporting, asset and inventory management, and capacity planning at your fingertips from a single source.
- Performance Sentry logs the performance data in an open, comma delimited format designed to be processed readily by third party products like SAS and MXG. This allows you to create Windows performance charts with the same look and feel of your other platforms. Data from virtually any number of machines can be correlated to analyze trends and for performance tuning and capacity planning.
- Performance Sentry has filters for process and thread data that allows you to collect data only when it exceeds thresholds that you define. This ensures that you can see detailed enough data to detect, diagnose, and resolve most common performance problems without collecting excessive amounts of data.
- Performance Sentry is designed for hassle-free, automated, unattended operation. It has built-in scheduling facilities that are used to automate routine data file consolidation and aging, for example. It also supports an automation interface that you can use to control the operation of the collection agent using a .bat file or script.
- Performance Sentry has a single GUI interface which makes it easy for to establish and maintain uniform data collection procedures for all of your Windows servers.