Dell Inc. server users can now get all the features and functions of Dells OpenManage 4.0 suite inside Microsoft Corp.s Systems Management Server 2003. For IT managers, this means one less management console is needed to keep software—and now hardware, including BIOS versions—up-to-date.
The integrated tool is called SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates and is a no-cost (for current SMS users) download available at www.microsoft.com/management/
SMS 2003 Inventory Tool for Dell Updates should be welcomed by IT managers in organizations with many Dell servers running Windows. However, the first version of Inventory Tool for Dell does have some worrisome bald spots. For one thing, the one-key-click updates arent digitally signed. Thus, even though Dell supplies fully tested and authorized updates via an FTP download that IT managers initiate through the Inventory Tool for Dell, the actual patches are only weakly protected with CRC (cyclical redundancy checking).
Despite these weaknesses, Dell has good basic security building blocks in the hardware, including hard-coded chip identification that provides the basis for updates to be more thoroughly checked. Inventory Tool for Dell resides inside SMS 2003, and, for now, it has adequate security protections.
eWEEK Labs also advises IT managers to allow adequate time for staff to learn SMS 2003 before pulling the plug entirely on using OpenManage to maintain Dell hardware. Although the tools in OpenManage are available in the Inventory Tool for Dell, the procedures for distributing firmware updates, for example, are different in SMS 2003. The disruptions to daily data center operations should be minimal if the two management tools are run in parallel until all the glitches in Inventory Tool for Dell are worked out.
Putting all the management functions for maintaining the Windows operating system and the Dell hardware on one pane of glass is a big step forward for both companies, but its hardly a new idea. IT framework management tools from IBMs Tivoli unit and Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter tools have done this for years with varying degrees of success.
The most important difference between these tools and Inventory Tool for Dell is that Inventory Tool takes only a baby step in providing multivendor support in a single tool. Thus, although our examination of Inventory Tool for Dell showed minimal management of Hewlett-Packard Co. equipment, IT managers wont be able to stop using specialized HP tools to manage HP hardware.
Based on our tests, however, the trend indicates that integrated management of hardware running Windows is only a matter of time.