Zenprise Eases BlackBerry Management

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2008-09-15 Print this article Print

Although Zenprise for BlackBerry and Exchange is limited in what it supports, the product has everything an IT administrator needs to manage mobile e-mail delivery in BlackBerry and Microsoft Exchange environments.

Zenprise for BlackBerry and Exchange has everything a company needs to monitor and troubleshoot mobile e-mail delivery-as long as that environment comprises BlackBerry smart phones at the edge and Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry Enterprise Server at the core. Despite this somewhat limited scope of supported environments, Zenprise for BlackBerry and Enterprise hits the mark with an outstanding combination of analysis capabilities and troubleshooting recommendations, earning an eWEEK Analyst's Choice recommendation.

Zenprise shines because it aggregates its forensic data from numerous networks and back-end applications to identify e-mail delivery problems anywhere in the chain. The product will monitor the health of a company's Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry Enterprise Server instances, detect problems in both the enterprise network (including the local Active Directory and DNS servers) and the ISP's cellular network, and find problems that may exist in Research In Motion's own mail delivery network.  Slowdowns can occur at any step along this complex path, and Zenprise provides excellent insight into each of these elements.

While I'd like to see Zenprise expand its support to include Windows Mobile-based devices using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for management and mail delivery, right now that is only on the company's road map. Given that Zenprise got its start as an Exchange monitoring solution (Zenprise for Exchange), I have hope that support will extend to Microsoft-based devices sooner rather than later.

What's needed to manage a mobile platform? Find out here

For this review, I tested a late beta version of Zenprise 4.0 for BlackBerry, which will be available in September. Version 4.0 adds support for 64-bit hardware and operating systems, which allows Zenprise to scale support for a greater number of managed servers (up to 120 AD, MS SQL, Exchange or BES servers with a single Zenprise iteration). Version 4.0 also improves Zenprise support for newer Exchange 2007 e-mail environments.

Pricing for Zenprise for BlackBerry is based on the number of devices supported through the system, so all the centralized elements of the system are rolled into that price-including the centralized Zenprise server software, the reporting engine (which is based on Microsoft SQL Reporting Services), and agents for installation on all the servers Zenprise will manage. For 1,000 users, Zenprise for BlackBerry and Exchange costs about $40 per user.

To kick off my tests, I ran a discovery of my network to find all the components of the mobile mail system in order to add them to the Zenprise database (which runs on MS SQL 2005). The detection discovers all the server nodes for BES, Exchange and the Active Directory infrastructure-plus any BlackBerry devices that are currently managed by BES-and begins monitoring many of them immediately for signs of trouble by collecting standard Windows instrumentation.

However, to collect the BlackBerry-specific device and network information from the BES server, Zenprise requires an agent be installed on all BES instances, which administrators can push out directly from the Zenprise Console once the initial discovery completes. Administrators can also install agents on Exchange and Active Directory components of the infrastructure. The agent allows greater monitoring efficiency and can limit transmissions to known errors. It also can store and forward logs in case of network outage, and allows the administrator to perform real-time diagnostic tests for various services.

Zenprise administrators should run the discovery process frequently to recognize changes made within the BES server, as newly activated BlackBerry devices will not be recognized until the discovery occurs. Discovery events can be run manually or automated periodically.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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