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Creating Data Collector Sets

Windows Server 2008 puts a new spin on the concept of collecting server performance data with the data collector set. A data collector set is basically a grouping of data collectors. These data collectors can be performance counters (such as the counters discussed in the previous sections), Event trace data, and even system configuration information such as Registry key values. So, in its most basic terms, a data collector set is just a convenient container that enables you to group different performance and system data collection entities. You can then quickly review the different data points in the data collector set, using the Performance Monitor, log files, or reports.

By the Way

Data collector sets basically replace the counter and trace logs that you needed to create in previous versions of the Windows network operating system.

To create data collector sets, you can use the Performance Monitor, use a data collector set template, or create one from scratch. Creating a data collector set via the Performance Monitor is extremely straightforward.

Did you Know?

Windows Server 2008 provides three premade data collector sets that can be found when you expand the System node (under the Data Collector Sets node) in the Reliability and Performance Monitor node tree. These data collector sets are LAN Diagnostics, System Diagnostics, and System Performances. Click on one of the data collector sets to view the trace, performance counter, and configuration events that make up that particular set. You can right-click any of the data points in the Details pane and the select Properties to view the specifics related to that performance counter, key value, or event trace. These data collector sets are not running (stopped) by default. If you want to experiment with a particular data collector set or all the sets, right-click the set node in the node tree and select Start from the shortcut menu.

Add the counters that you want to include in the data collector set to the Performance Monitor (as discussed in the previous sections) and then right-click the Performance Monitor node in the Reliability and Performance Monitor, point at New, and then click Data Collector Set. The Create New Data Collector Set Wizard opens. Supply a name for the data collector set in the Name box and then click Next.

On the next wizard screen, you are asked to provide a location where the data is to be collected. By default the data is kept on your system drive as a subfolder in the PerflogsAdmin path (see Figure 24.7).

Figure 24.7. Specify the path where the data is to be saved.

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You can use the default folder supplied or use the Browse button to specify another path. After specifying the path, click Next.

On the next wizard page, you specify whether you want to run the data collector set under the default username (the user currently logged on to the server) or another username (you can delegate ownership of this data collector set by using the Change button). You can also specify whether you want to start the collector set by selecting the Start This Data Collector Set Now option button. The default option is Save and Close (which for discussion purposes we use for this set). Click Finish to create and save the new data collector set.

The new data collector set appears as a new subnode when you expand the User Defined node in the Reliability and Performance Monitor node tree. To start the new data collector set, right-click the set’s node and then click Start. The various data collectors that you added to the data collector set (in this case all Performance Monitor Counters) begin collecting data.

You can easily add data collectors to this (or any) data collector set. Right-click the data collector set, point at New, and select Data Collector. The Create New Data Collector Wizard opens. After naming the data collector, you can select an event trace to add to the data collector via the Event Trace Providers dialog box, as shown in Figure 24.8 (click the Add button to open the dialog box).

Figure 24.8. You can add trace events to your data collector set.

As already mentioned, you can create data collector sets based on a template. Windows Server 2008 provides three templates: Basic, System Diagnostics, and System Performance.

The Basic template is designed for modification, meaning you will want to add additional data collectors to the set after you’ve created it. A data collector set based on the Basic template includes, by default, the Processor performance counters, the Windows Registry key (HKEY_LOCAL_MachineSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrent), and the Windows Kernel Trace (a trace event related to the Windows kernel).

The System Diagnostics template is designed to create a data collector set that enables you to maximize system performance. The report generated by this data collector set looks at hardware resources and system response times. A data collector set based on this template includes performance counters for the processor, physical disk, memory, and network interfaces. In terms of trace events, the Windows Kernel Trace is included. A number of Configuration data collectors, including those for the operating system, BIOS, and NTFS performance are included in a data collector set based on this template.

To create a new data collector set based on a template, right-click the User Defined node in the node tree, point at New, and then select Data Collector Set. By default, selecting the Create New Data Collector Set option creates the new collector set from a template (see Figure 24.9).

Figure 24.9. Create a new collector set based on a template.

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All you have to do is name the new data collector set and then choose one of the templates (Basic, System Diagnostics, or System Performance). After creating the new data collector set based on a template, you can add addition data collectors to the new data collector as needed.

Did you Know?

You can add or remove data collectors (trace events, performance counters, and configuration collectors) from any of the performance counter sets that you create. It doesn’t matter whether you create the data collector set from counters on the Performance Monitor, the data collectors provided by a template, or a data collector set that you have created from scratch.

Creating a Data Collector Set from Scratch

Probably the best way to start your exploration of data collector sets is to create a data collector set from scratch. The only real difference between creating a data collector set from scratch and using a data collector set based on a template is that you don’t inherit all the data collectors that would be provided by the template. This enables you to think through the process of what kind of data you would want to the data collector set to collect and then report.

To create a data collector set from scratch, follow these steps:

1. In the Reliability and Performance Monitor snap-in, right-click the User Defined node (under the Data Collector Sets node), point at New, and then select Data Collector Set. The Create New Data Collector Set wizard opens.

2. On the first wizard page, type a name for the data collector set in the Name box.

3. Click the Create Manually (Advanced) option button and then click Next.

4. On the next wizard page (see Figure 24.10), select the type of data collectors (data logs) you want to create. You can select to include data collectors from the performance counter, event trace data, and system configuration information by selecting the appropriate check boxes (let’s assume that you selected all three for this discussion’s sake). Click Next.

Figure 24.10. Select the data collector types you want to include in the set.

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5. On the next wizard page, add the performance counters you want to include in the data collector set. Click the Add button and select counters from the counter groups (exactly as you would when adding counters to the Performance Monitor). Click OK. The Performance counters you selected will be listed. Click Next to continue.

6. On the next wizard page, you select the event trace providers to be included in the data collector set. Click the Add button; the Event Trace Providers dialog box opens. Select the trace providers you want to include and then click OK. Repeat the process to add other event trace providers. The event trace providers that you have selected appear on the wizard page (see Figure 24.11). Click Next.

Figure 24.11. Add the event trace providers you want to include in the data collector set.

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7. On the next wizard page, you can add the Windows software Registry key to the data collector set (if you want to include it). Click Add and the software Registry key is added to the Registry keys list. Click Next.

8. On the next wizard page, you supply the directory where you would like the data to be saved. The default is a subfolder (based on your data collector set’s name) in the PerfLogsAdmin folder on your system drive. You can use the Browse button to specify another path if you want. Click Next.

9. On the last wizard page, you can delegate the data collector set to another user by using the Change button. By default it is owned by the user currently logged on to the server. To save and close (the default setting) the new data collector set, click Finish. You are returned to the Reliability and Performance Monitor. The new data collector set appears as a subnode of the User Defined node in the node tree.

After you have created the new data collector set, you can open the Properties dialog box for that set. The Properties dialog box for a data collector set enables you to set the directory for the set on the Directory tab (if you want to change it) and you can also set the security settings for the set (user permissions) on the Security tab.

Did you Know?

You can actually save a template based on a data collector set that you have created. You can then connect to other servers on the network and create a data collector set for that server based on your own template. Right-click the data collector set you have created and choose Save Template from the shortcut menu.

Two important settings that you can configure on the set’s Properties dialog box are the schedule for the set and whether you want a stop condition. To set a schedule for the set, click the Schedule tab and then click Add. The Folder action dialog box opens (see Figure 24.12).

Figure 24.12. You can create a schedule for the data collector set.

Configure the active range to include a beginning date and an expiration date (if you want to include the expiration date). Then, in the Launch area of the dialog box, specify a start time and the days on which you want the set to run. Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the Schedule tab.

To create a stop condition for the data collector set, click the Stop Condition tab (see Figure 24.13). You can set the overall duration for the set or specify limits based on duration or maximum size of the log file.

Figure 24.13. You can set a stop condition for the data collector set.

After you have specified the stop condition for the data collector set, click OK. This closes the Properties dialog box for the set and returns you to the Reliability and Performance Monitor.

Viewing Data Collector Set Reports

After you have created a data collector set (or sets) and then started a particular data collector set (either manually by right-clicking a set and selecting Start or using a set schedule), the data collector set collects data. After the data has been collected, you can view this data in a report.

The Reliability and Performance Monitor makes it very easy for you to view the data collected by your data collector set. In the node tree under the Reports node, expand the User Defined node (or the System node if you are using one of the predefined data collector sets such as LAN Diagnostics or System Performance). Expand a specific User Defined (or System) data collector set. A Report icon appears under the expanded node (there are multiple Report icons if you have run the set more than once). Select the Report icon and the report appears in the Details pane (see Figure 24.14).

Figure 24.14. You can set view a report generated for a data collector set.

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The report provides summary information based on the data collectors that you included in the set. For example, a data set collector that includes data collectors related to the CPU, disk usage, and memory (such as the one shown in Figure 24.14) provides summary data related to CPU, disk, and memory usage. A diagnostic results area contains performance information (if you included performance counters in the set).

You can see additional information by expanding a particular resource area such as CPU or Memory (again depending on the data collectors you included in the set). To view the statistics related to the report itself, expand the Report Statistics area. This data includes the start time and end time for the data collection and the number of processed events. It also tells you the files that are involved in the data collection.

Because performance counters are typically part of a data collection set, you can switch from the Report view (the default view for the data collector set report) to the Performance Monitor. This places a snapshot of the same data available in the report into the Performance Monitor (see Figure 24.15).

Figure 24.15. View the report data in the Performance Monitor.

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Click View Data in Performance Monitor on the Reliability and Performance Monitor toolbar. You can use the timeline scrollbar to move around the timeline to view the data. To return to the report, right-click the report icon in the node tree, point at View, and then select Report.

Data collector sets enable you to capture the data that you find the most important in terms of monitoring server hardware and software performance. As you collect data over time in your data collector set reports, you can compare these reports to see whether server performance is degrading or whether a change in the server configuration (such as the addition of a role) is causing performance issues.

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