PAL vs 2003 Performance Advisor

Sep 16, 2008 at 12:19 AM
Edited Sep 16, 2008 at 12:24 AM
A friend sent me a link to 'Microsoft ® Windows Server ™ 2003 Performance Advisor' the other day.
"[...] a simple but robust tool that helps you diagnose the root causes of performance problems in a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 deployment. Server Performance Advisor collects performance data and generates comprehensive diagnostic reports that give you the data to easily analyze problems and develop corrective actions"
Looking at it, it seems similar to PAL.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts regarding the differences between each tool, specifically the output and threshold analysis. (not so much data collection or method of processing)

Thanks,
Chris

Been using PAL for the last few months, now. A PFE introduced my team to it while he was on site. It's an excellent tool and we all appreciate the work you've put into it, Clint!
Coordinator
Sep 23, 2008 at 4:41 AM
The Microsoft Windows Server Performance Advisor (SPA) tool is an excellent tool! I use it a lot. As a matter of fact, I have modeled much of the PAL tool's report page from the SPA tool's report. Great timing on this question because I mentioned the differences between it and the PAL tool in my latest blog entry:
http://blogs.technet.com/clint_huffman/archive/2008/09/21/the-need-for-a-performance-analysis-of-logs-tool.aspx

Here is the excerpt from my blog:

Microsoft Server Performance Advisor (SPA): SPA was written by the Windows Fundamentals team. It analyzes perfmon logs and ETL (Event Tracing for Windows log). It does a great job of aggregating data, but analyses are based on XPath statements which unfortunately is not flexible enough to consider all of the factors in analyzing performance. Furthermore, the problem must be reproduced while it’s gathering data. The tool should only be ran for short time periods due to the large amount of data it gathers, and finally takes in *all* of the data points in the logs as its average values – meaning if the problem occurred for 1 minute and the collection period is 20 minutes, then the averages are skewed. In any case, I am very fond of this tool and highly encourage it's use. As a matter of fact, I'm reusing many of it's concepts in the PAL tool today. SPA has the right idea, it just needs to be taken to the next level. You can download it at: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=09115420-8c9d-46b9-a9a5-9bffcd237da2&DisplayLang=en

Also, note that the SPA tool ships with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 as part of the operating system.

Adding a bit more to this... I meet with the Windows Fundamentals team (creators of Perfmon and the SPA tool) about once every two months to talk about the future of Windows performance. Currently, they are heads down working on the Windows Resource Monitor tool which helps to diagnose performance issues live. They have some very cool stuff coming down the pipes, but unfortunately these features are targeted for future versions of Windows. Also, they are focused on the new Microsoft xPerf tool which is hands down the next generation performance analysis tool. It's only drawback is that it doesn't have any analyses - meaning manual analysis of the data. It's great advantage is the way it parses Event Tracing for Windows (ETW). I want to add ETW analysis into PAL, but interpreting the data is very tedious.

Another exerpt from my blog:

Microsoft xPerf/xTrace: Written by the Windows Fundamentals team. This the latest/greatest tool out there for perf analysis. Unfortunately, it is currently lacking an intuitive UI and analyses around the data collected. With that said, they are rapidly improving it. Like many of the other tools you must be able to reproduce the problem as it is occurring. Furthermore, it only runs on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Unfortunately, customers are not continuously logging ETW data, so this doesn’t help me much for post analysis. Finally, it only analyzes ETL – no other log format. This would be like asking a crime investigator to analyze a crime scene using only one type of evidence. If that type of evidence isn’t available, then no analysis can be done. xPerf is part of the Windows Performance Toolkit located here: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/sysperf/perftools.mspx






 

Coordinator
Sep 23, 2008 at 4:44 AM
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I wrote a white paper on how to use the SPA tool to analyze disk performance issues. ETW is such a great thing and is hands down the future of Windows performance analysis.
http://www.codeplex.com/PerfTesting/Wiki/View.aspx?title=How%20To%3a%20Identify%20a%20Disk%20Performance%20Bottleneck%20Using%20SPA1&referringTitle=How%20Tos

In the meantime, tools like PAL are filling in the gaps of log analysis.