I will take a guess based on vague distant memories for a while back. I want to say that either the "tabadmin status" or "server status page" ping the port that is supposed to be open and if the port isn't open then it reports as down. But, it may be inconsistent across.
We also have a script that checks status that is deployed within our monitoring app. It looks at the XML admin status page. And it seems to work for the most part (99%), but on occasion we do get false alarms. Are you familiar with the XML status page? http://my_tableau_server/admin/systeminfo.xml
Jeff, yes, I remember the xml. I haven't used it for quite some time and my process is coded around using the tabadmin status output. I used the xml on my Server and the output was the same as the Server Status so, in my eyes, it is more accurate than the tabadmin command.
if you want the script, it's a perl script that runs within our monitoring app. just email me.
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Just a heads up, before you upgrade to 9.3, and your script stops working, and you don't know why (that was a fun morning).
thanks for the heads up, but at the end of the article is specifies that "systeminfo.xml" will still be available.