Networking and Hardware Blog

Free Tool of the Week: The Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) Tool

image Frustrated by the time-consuming task of analyzing Performance Monitor data? It's not an easy task. It usually means you have to study Performance Monitor logs in graph view, and hope that you have the expertise to understand the voluminous information in front of you. In these days of dwindling IT resources, it's a tough proposition.

Now, more than ever, a tool such as Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) is indispensable. Free from Microsoft’s CodePlex site, PAL analyzes your performance counter logs and provides HTML threshold reports. You can use preset threshold counters (available for most major Microsoft products) or customize your own counters.

We've covered PAL in the magazine before, and it's worth looking at the tool's previous coverage. In "Get a Handle on Windows Performance Analysis" (InstantDoc ID 101162), Michael Morales writes the following:

"A tool that Microsoft support relies on to analyze Performance Monitor logs is the Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) Tool. Clint Huffman, a Microsoft senior premier field engineer, wrote the 6,000-line VBScript tool, which is free and open source. PAL lets administrators easily analyze Performance Monitor logs without requiring them to be experts in performance counters or Windows architecture.

"PAL contains a wizard-based UI that asks specific information about the system, which PAL passes as arguments to the VBScript program. PAL picks up where other log analyzers leave off, such as taking into account whether the system is 64-bit or 32-bit, whether the /3GB switch is used, and how much physical memory is installed—all variables that affect system performance. PAL uses these variables along with known thresholds, which were determined by engineers with years of experience, to determine the analysis that’s displayed. PAL provides a chronological order of alerts, so that you can correlate your system’s performance to any problems that you noticed at specific times.

"PAL also can provide application-specific analysis for applications such as Microsoft BizTalk Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft IIS. So as an administrator wearing several hats, you can have application-specific performance data analyzed without being an expert in the performance counters for an application. PAL can make your life easier by providing analysis for baseline data when performance is typical or to help pinpoint the root cause of a performance issue when a problem occurs.

"PAL’s user-friendly UI walks you through the few steps necessary to start the analysis process. The analysis report that PAL generates is an .html file that’s stored by default under the My Documents\PAL Reports folder. The report contains hyperlinks and graphs that enable easy interpretation and navigation, and the file’s portability lets you easily store it in a convenient location."

In "Two Exchange Server Tools You Should Know About" (InstantDoc ID 100132), Paul Robichaux focuses on the tool's Exchange benefits:

"[PAL] is a free tool available from Microsoft's CodePlex. The concept behind PAL is simple: It ingests Performance Monitor log files from a server running Exchange, Microsoft IIS, Microsoft BizTalk Server, or several other Microsoft applications, then provides charts, graphs, and alerts for the most significant application-related performance counters. PAL is driven by XML files that specify which counters are important for a particular application. The tool ships with an XML file for Exchange 2003 that's based on Microsoft's 'Troubleshooting Microsoft Exchange Server Performance' white paper. The Exchange 2007 counter file is based on the list of counters in the Exchange documentation article 'Monitoring Without System Center Operations Manager.'

"PAL is straightforward to use: You install it (and its prerequisites, which include Log Parser, the .NET Framework, and the Office 2003 web components), then run it and use its wizard-like interface to select the counter file you want to process and, if you're on Exchange 2007, the server role that generated it. Depending on the role you choose, you might need to answer questions about the selected server, such as the number of processors or the amount of RAM. After you've done so, PAL processes the logs and renders HTML reports that highlight the most notable performance data from the server. You can use PAL to get a quick overview of how an Exchange Server is performing, then drill down to get more detail on specific counter sets that give information about a specific subsystem or component."

Download PAL today!


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