Clint Huffman's Windows Performance Blog

Clint Huffman's Windows Performance Blog

How to use the PAL Tool for BizTalk Performance Analysis

How to use the PAL Tool for BizTalk Performance Analysis

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Sorry, I haven't blogged much in the past few months. I've been heads down on several exciting BizTalk projects which I'll blog about soon after this one. For now, I want to get more of the word out about the Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) tool that I wrote in collaboration with other people on my team and how to use the tool to analyze BizTalk servers. I use the PAL tool when I conduct BizTalk Health Checks for customers. I'm a field guy (Microsoft Premier Field Engineer) who lives for performance issues and the tool takes the mundane work out of performance analysis. With that said, PAL is not a replacement for performance analysis - it is simply a really nice time saver!

The PAL (Performance Analysis of Logs) tool is a new and powerful tool that reads in a performance monitor counter log (any known format) and analyzes it using complex, but known, thresholds (provided). The tool generates an HTML based report that graphically charts important performance counters and throws alerts when thresholds are exceeded. The thresholds are originally based on thresholds defined by the Microsoft product teams, including BizTalk Server, and members of Microsoft support. This tool is not a replacement of traditional performance analysis, but automates the analysis of performance counter logs enough to help save you time. This is a VBScript and requires Microsoft Log Parser (free download). The tool is available at http://www.codeplex.com/PAL.

BizTalk Performance Counters

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 shipped with about 294 performance counters. This means a BizTalk Server implementation with at least 2 servers for redundancy means there are at least 588 BizTalk performance counters that may need to be analyzed. Therefore, a performance monitor log analysis tool is helpful with analyzing BizTalk performance counters.

Consider the Operating System Performance

Many BizTalk performance issues can be narrowed down by analyzing the resources of the operating system (CPU, disk, memory, and network). For example, if the tracking (DTADB) database file is heavily using a disk, then reducing the amount of tracking would be a logical step towards alleviating the bottleneck.

Usage

The PAL tool is can be used to create a Microsoft Performance Monitor (perfmon) template file from PAL threshold files and can analyze the perfmon log after its collection period. In this example, we will create, gather, and analyze a BizTalk performance monitor log file.

Collect a Microsoft Performance Monitor (perfmon) log

1. Export a Microsoft Performance Monitor Log from the BizTalk Server threshold file.

a. Selecting the Microsoft BizTalk Server Server 2006 threshold file and clicking the Export… button, then save the file. This is a perfmon template file.

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2. Copy the perfmon template file to the BizTalk server(s) you have chosen for analysis. This includes the Microsoft SQL Servers hosting the BizTalk databases.

3. Create a new performance monitor log using the template exported in step 1. For more information on how to create performance monitor logs from a template file, please refer to the Windows help documentation.

a. Adjust the perfmon log settings if needed.

4. Start the new performance monitor log. Stop the perfmon log when the collection period is over.

5. Copy the perfmon log to the installation directory of the PAL tool.

Filling out the PAL Wizard Form

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  1. Counter Log Path: Specify the path to the Microsoft Performance Monitor (perfmon) log. The log can be in any of the known perfmon log formats such as BLG (binary) or CSV (text). Use the ellipsis button to browse for the perfmon log. If the perfmon log file is in the installation directory of PAL, then use the drop down arrow to select one of the perfmon log files.
    Note: Multiple log files can be merged by separating them with semicolons, but this may produce unpredictable results. PAL is best used with logs containing data from a single computer.
  2. Date/Time Range: This is the date/time range that you can restrict the analysis to. For example, if you did load testing on BizTalk during a specific time.
  3. Threshold File Title: This is the threshold file that you want to use to determine thresholds that will be analyzed by PAL. If you do not see a product specific threshold file, then consider using the default System Overview threshold file. The System Overview threshold file analyzes the basic operating system performance counters only.
  4. Question Variable Names: The question variables will be different depending on which threshold file is selected. Click on each question variable name and answer the question in respect to the perfmon log chosen earlier.
  5. Analysis Interval: Specify the time (in seconds) that you want the PAL tool to analyze the perfmon log. Choose “AUTO” to have PAL automatically detect and choose an appropriate interval size. Choose “ALL” to have PAL analyze all of the data in the perfmon log. Be careful about choosing “ALL” because it is extremely resource intensive. The Analysis Interval determines how the perfmon log will be broken up when analyzed. For example, if you gathered a 24 hour log and choose a 1 hour analysis interval, then PAL will analyze each hour in the log for minimum, maximum, average, and thread values for that time interval. The data points in the charts generated by PAL are based on the analysis interval. “AUTO” is the default and is recommended.
  6. Output Options: You can optionally specify an output directory for the output, the file name format for the HTML report, and an optional XML document output. The XML output is useful if you want to analyze the results using another tool.
  7. The Queue: The queue is really just a batch file with line feeds for readability.
  8. Execute:
    • Execute: Execute what is currently in the queue.
    • Add to Queue: Do not execute yet, but add the current configuration into the queue and restart the wizard allowing you to add more. This is useful if you intend to "batch" the processing while you go to lunch or overnight.
    • Execute and Restart: This executes what is in the queue now and restarts the wizard. This is useful if you want to start processing one of the logs right away while answering the questions for the other logs.
  9. Execute as a low priority process: This will run the PAL.vbs script at a low process priority so that when PAL.vbs is running, it will have the little to no impact on your computer. PAL processing can be very resource intensive. This option will make the processing take longer.

Interpreting the Report

The report generated by the PAL tool is simply an interpretation of the perfmon log data using generalized thresholds. The intention is to assist with performance analysis, but not to replace traditional performance analysis. Therefore, you should have a working knowledge of the BizTalk architecture and BizTalk performance analysis.

The thresholds used in the BizTalk threshold file include operating system thresholds (CPU, disk, memory, and network), Microsoft SQL Server counter thresholds, and BizTalk counter thresholds. The BizTalk thresholds generally focus on host throttling, adapter latency, service instance statistics (suspended, dehydrated, etc.), database sizes, and memory usage.

The PAL report is separated by categories and in each category is a collection of analyses. Each analysis focuses on a specific performance counter. If any of the thresholds are exceeded, then an alert is raised. The number of alerts in each analysis and the alert condition (typically Warning or Critical) typically indicate the severity of the results. For example, a critical alert in Pool Paged Bytes is a very serious condition and should be resolved immediately. When critical alerts occur, go to the analysis section associated to the alert. In the analysis section, there is typically a description of the analysis, a description of the thresholds used, and a link for more information on the topic.

The analyses in the report contain content describing the purpose of the analysis, why the thresholds are there, and references to more information. To learn more about interpreting the PAL report for BizTalk analysis, then read the following article:

Using the Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) Tool
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc296652.aspx

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Comments
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  • Clinth, I have just came across yoiur tool and found it very interesting. You indicate "This includes the Microsoft SQL Servers hosting the BizTalk databases", what happens if SQL is on a remote machine.

    I have developed a tool, Biztalk dashboard which mainly works on perf counters, you can read about it at my blog salam.hd.free.fr/.../Biztalk-Dashboard.aspx . or read more details in Biztalk hotrod Issue 9 Q1 2010. First version I will make available reads and displays counter values, I am adding currently 2 new functions, one of them is to write those values to CSV.  Is it possible to customize the tool to read different formats, not only the counters you provide in your templates?

  • How effective is the PAL tool in reporting problems?

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