NetPro Computing Inc.s DS Expert 4.0 handily extends network managers control over Novell Inc.s eDirectory, allowing Windows 2000 and Solaris systems to be corralled into a single directory management console. For IT shops that run eDirectory on NetWare, Windows and Solaris, this version of DS Expert, which shipped late last month, should make short work of finding faults by automating most directory management tasks. In eWEEK Labs tests, DS Expert 4.0 made quick work of detecting a range of simulated directory problems, from stuck obituaries to invalid backlinks.
DS Expert 4.0
DS Expert 4.0, from NetPro, automates mundane eDirectory management tasks while notifying operations staff when it finds likely problems. Although IT managers might have to do a bit of analysis to justify the products cost, we think its a worthwhile effort. IT managers looking to leverage the directory to provide such things as single-sign-on capabilities should work to get DS Expert in-house.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
Novells announcements at LinuxWorld, in San Francisco, earlier this month—including a support pact with SuSE Linux AG—mean eDirectory is more likely to appear in cross-platform environments. This raises pressure on competitors such as BindView Corp. to make a more fully integrated monitoring and management platform. This shouldnt be hard: BindView already makes bv-Control for Unix as well as capable, competitively priced directory management tool suites for NDS (Novell Directory Services) and Microsoft Corp.s Active Directory.
DS Expert 4.0 licenses cost $12 per user. NetPro charges a 10 percent premium for each DS Expert user running on either Windows or Solaris, or $13.20 per user.
The new cross-platform DS Expert agents require eDirectory 8.7 Service Pack 1 with LDAP service enabled. In our tests, some Windows machines had eDirectory 8.6 installed, and DS Expert would not function until we upgraded. We recommend that IT managers consider upgrading eDirectory and applying the required service packs before installing DS Expert 4.0 agents to get the full benefit of the product.
NetPro has pulled out the stops to merge Windows machines with the DS Expert 4.0 console. We used the included MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) Management Pack module to integrate alerts from DS Expert with the MOM console.
We monitored Active Directory replication and Domain Name System functions to make sure that changes we made were properly rolled out to our test network. It was easy for us to get alerts about activities in our Active Directory domains and sites in the MOM console.
MOM provides extensive event and performance management notification for Windows systems, which is a big improvement over the previous version of DS Expert, 3.5, because it allows IT departments to use eDirectory for directory maintenance while working in a nondisruptive way with best-of-breed Windows management tools.
The alerting and notification capability of MOM Management Pack integrated nicely with Windows NT event logs. This integration let us track Windows service and security events while reducing the number of notification consoles we needed to keep open—always a benefit in the network operations center.
The alerts worked as expected when we loaded the DS Expert agent on a Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris 8 system running on a SunFire 280R. Although we seldom encounter eDirectory on Solaris, we were impressed with the ability of the agent to track and report problems to the DS Expert console.
Although this version of DS Expert focuses almost entirely on expanding coverage to Windows and Solaris systems, support for Novells DirXML—specifically, the ability to report when the engine starts and stops—has also been added. The reporting on DirXML activity is elementary, and not especially noteworthy, but it shows NetPro has an eye to the future because DirXML support will become more important as IT managers increasingly rely on directories to move closer to such things as true single sign-on.
Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at cameron_sturdevant@ ziffdavis.com.