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NetIQ Aims To Balance Simplicity, Flexibility

The latest entry in our APM Rolling Review, AppManager tries to keep up with the rapid-fire pace of change on today's networks without descending into complexity.

CLAIM:  NetIQ AppManager seeks to monitor, report on, and diagnose application problems common to enterprise networks. With AppManager, NetIQ is looking to make application performance management an efficient process by balancing ease of installation and use for fast ROI, with the ability to customize the product to keep pace with change.

CONTEXT:  AppManager was introduced in 1996 and is one of the first Windows application agents. NetIQ has stayed true to form and expanded on what it does best with AppManager 7. The product competes against appliance-based and agentless synthetic transaction systems. See other rolling reviews of APM competitors.

CREDIBILITY:  While NetIQ touts the ease of deploying, maintaining, and configuring agents in AppManager 7, organizations with multiple domains may have some hiccups. We saw advances in the product's visualization capabilities, most notably Service Maps, but IT will need to invest possibly considerable time to manually build and maintain these.

NetIQ has been in the APM game longer than most, but it's being challenged by a huge roster of rival application performance management vendors. And no wonder: This is a growth market, according to Forrester Research, which expects vendors to net almost $2.1 billion by year's end. Seems there's no time to waste on sluggish apps.

One challenge for new and established vendors alike is keeping their APM products easy to use in the face of increasing network complexity, while still providing for customization. NetIQ's AppManager 7, part of the NetIQ AppManager Suite, uses agents to provide monitoring, reporting, analysis, diagnostics, and resolution of common application issues. It mostly succeeds on the ease-of-use front, as we found in our testing. To further enhance the product's appeal, NetIQ offers optional modules geared toward monitoring such technologies as IBM WebSphere, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and VMware ESX Server. We also evaluated NetIQ's Analysis Center, using it to analyze performance data and run complex reports.


NetIQ advertises a zero-touch capability that lets administrators deploy agents from a central console. For this feature to work, however, the management server needed to be in an Active Directory domain with the client systems. Unfortunately for us, our test bed is distributed, so we had to install our agents manually.

We were most interested in trying out AppManager's ability to monitor end-to-end transactions, and we weren't disappointed. We configured AppManager to monitor a multitiered application, end to end, using a combination of synthetic transactions and an agent that looked at the performance of both the overall system and individual applications, such as Web servers and databases. NetIQ's Knowledge Scripts are the main technology behind AppManager monitoring. Knowledge Scripts are VB or Perl scripts that contain instructions for the agent to gather the data being requested. They ship with a number of preset thresholds to report performance problems and faults. Thresholds can be adjusted to suit your needs, but we found a lot to get started with right out of the box.

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AppManager ably reported on specific performance issues related to multiple independent components, including our Web and database servers, and placed discrete issues into the context of a logical application. It also did a very good job identifying specific problems, such as the failure of a process or step of a synthetic transaction. However, putting these alerts into the context of an application failure required manual intervention. Whether this will qualify as onerous depends on how complicated your application infrastructure is.

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