Fujitsu claims to have produced the first device that can automatically predict server problems and SLA (service level agreement) breaches before they occur.

It's not just telecommunications that needs quality of service monitoring, it's servers too, according to the company. The company said that its QoS box, which has just arrived in the UK, will enable sysadmins to fix problems before they happen.

The QoS appliance takes information from agents running on servers and from SNMP and uses thisto monitor and forecast a number of key system metrics, explained Mike Tsykin, a senior business development manager and capacity planning expert at Fujitsu. The metrics include free disk space, CPU loading and so on. QoS can then extrapolate from these and issue a warning if a metric looks likely to break agreed thresholds.

"In the mainframe world, we could afford to spend months monitoring things. Now, a server is as complex as a mainframe but you can't afford to research it - why it misbehaves, why it went down. With Windows, all you can afford to do is reboot," Tsykin said.

QoS was developed by Fujitsu Australia and is derived from System Walker, a performance management tool that's popular in Japan and the Far East. It comes ready installed on an appliance, all you do is plug it in and use its Web interface to drag and drop software agents onto the servers you want it to monitor, said Tsykin.

"No-one else has an automated capacity planning appliance on the market," he claimed. "The major manufacturers were historically weak on capacity and performance management - I don't know why. You could write scripts for BMC Patrol to do forecasting, for example, or use freeware, but then you have to test, maintain and rewrite those scripts too."

The key QoS advantage is its ability to predict - to do what Tsykin called jeopardy management, or predictive SLA management. "Some technicians like the lack of discipline and rigour - it gives them something to fix," he said, adding that as compliance and governance rules are increasingly forced upon companies, this approach will become untenable. "If you want to be comply with BS15000, ITIL, Sarbanes-Oxley, the US Patriot Act, and so on, you have to automate this process or run out of money very fast," he said.

Fujitsu is to sell - or rather lease - QoS boxes in the UK via its partner UBT (Europe). Michael Willcocks, UBT's MD, said an annual lease would cost from £3,500, plus a licence fee per monitored server - there are agents for several flavours of Windows, UNIX and Linux.

Tsykin admitted that QoS currently lacks the ability to discover servers, but said that this will should be added in the next release. He suggested doing it in the mean time via freeware or an existing tool such as Tivoli.