Unicenter Tools Deliver

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2003-06-23
 
 
 

Unicenter Tools Deliver


Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter Asset Management and Unicenter Software Delivery just got a lot simpler to use, and both products are well worth a look by IT managers who need to rein in operational costs while controlling a broad array of IT chores spanning midsize and large enterprise networks.

Unicenter Asset Management and Unicenter Software Delivery, both now at Version 4.0, are significant advances over previous versions because they include improvements that should shorten implementation times and reduce the complexity of performing common asset management and software distribution tasks.

eWEEK Labs tests showed that some single-purpose products—such as New Boundary Technologies Inc.s Prism Pack (on the software distribution side) and Tally Systems Corp.s TS.Census (for asset management)—were sometimes more effective in particular areas, but the Unicenter products overall were more useful for large, cross-platform installations.

Weve tested Unicenter products for more than seven years, and the latest versions of Asset Management and Software Delivery were the easiest Unicenter modules weve ever installed. This is an important step forward for the product family because it shows that an old dog—CA—is able to learn a new trick: ease of use.

To get a better idea of what was new under their respective hoods, we looked at the Unicenter products separately, although they are designed to work together as well as fit into CAs IT management platform.

In the past, weve knocked the Unicenter-integrated network and system management platform for being costly and troublesome to implement. However, the separated platform components worked well in tests and will likely alleviate cost and setup snags. Therefore, we believe both are worth consideration.

Asset Management


Asset Management

Unicenter Asset Management 4.0, which shipped in April, is priced at $65 per seat for a single license. Version 4.0 boasts much simpler installation and, more importantly, a number of new wizards that eased our configuration of complex jobs. IT managers of midsize-to-large operations, especially those that span a wide range of hardware and software platforms, should consider using Unicenter Asset Management.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Unicenter Asset Management 4.0
Unicenter Asset Management tracks hardware and software details across a wide variety of hardware platforms and operating systems. Computer Associates has done a good job of overcoming some of the biggest barriers to using the product, by simplifying the installation process and including configuration wizards and a Web-based monitoring console.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY GOOD
CAPABILITY EXCELLENT
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY EXCELLENT
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY EXCELLENT
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Comprehensive inventory of hardware and software across a heterogeneous range of systems likely to be found in a midsize-to-large enterprise.

  • CON: Wizards made it easy to create confusion by implementing too-detailed groups—IT managers will need to keep tabs on novice users to rein in potential misuse of the feature.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    IBMs Tivoli Configuration Manager • Tally Systems TS.Census

    IBMs comparably priced competitor, Tivoli Configuration Manager, is an inventory/software distribution product that gives Unicenter Asset Management and Unicenter Software Delivery a run for the money. We advise IT managers to evaluate the products and service offerings that come from IBM and CA to determine which product will provide the best fit at the right price.

    We installed Unicenter Asset Management in a test network with a mix of systems running Windows 2000 and Server 2003, Novell Inc.s NetWare, Red Hat Inc.s Linux, and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris. The testbed also included a collection of Windows XP and 2000 Professional systems as well as Hewlett-Packard Co. iPaq handheld devices.

    The new express installation procedure enabled us to load Unicenter Asset Management and create management domains with little effort. Once the product was installed, it was easy to deploy Unicenter Asset Management agents to machines in the LAN using simple scripts.

    Unicenter Asset Management 4.0 includes new wizards that simplified many tasks that were sometimes quite daunting in the previous version. For example, we used the grouping wizard to quickly create and rearrange collections of computers so that it was easier for us to track hardware and software assets for specific machines.

    Although it was easy to create groups, we found that it was also possible to get carried away with the feature. Here we identified the dual edge of CAs ease-of-use sword. Because the group creation wizard is powerful, novice users of the system could easily create a confusing jumble of computer collections. The configuration and task wizards make it much easier to delegate management tasks to lower-level staff, but IT managers should set strict limits and use the tools in Unicenter Asset Management to keep a tight rein on which staffers get full access to the product.

    We used the new Web-based console to get access to the Unicenter Asset Management console. The console let us get a quick take on the status of inventory jobs and spot-check individual asset information for particular machines. This is a handy addition to the product and a compelling reason to consider upgrading.

    Unicenter Software Delivery


    Unicenter Software Delivery

    Unicenter Software Delivery 4.0, which shipped last month and is also priced at $65 per seat, includes many of the same implementation wizards we found in Unicenter Asset Management. However, the wizards in Unicenter Software Delivery proved to be more valuable in many ways because software package distribution is an oft-repeated task that benefits from simplification.

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    Unicenter Software Delivery 4.0
    Unicenter Software Delivery 4.0 deploys applications and operating systems across the spectrum of hardware platforms that are found in large organizations. The product provides a single platform from which to deploy software, thereby consolidating software distribution activities and likely reducing operational costs.
    KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
    USABILITY GOOD
    CAPABILITY EXCELLENT
    PERFORMANCE GOOD
    INTEROPERABILITY EXCELLENT
    MANAGEABILITY GOOD
    SCALABILITY EXCELLENT
    SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Good software packaging utilities; extensive command-line operations ease batch processing.

  • CON: Advanced operations still require extensive training to use effectively.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    IBMs Tivoli Configuration Manager • LANDesk Softwares LANDesk Management Suite • New Boundary Technologies Prism Deploy

    We were able to package common Microsoft applications, including Word and Excel, and distribute them with a minimum of fuss—an experience that was on par with our tests of tools such as LANDesk Software Ltd.s LANDesk Management Suite. We also had success using the enhanced Unix Packager and created several stand-alone software distributions that we deployed to a Sun 280R server.

    Unicenter Software Delivery excels at providing a unified platform for delivering software packages, and this is its chief advantage over the less costly and more limited single-purpose products. In the long term, we think IT managers will save substantial operational costs by consolidating software deployment processes on a single platform.

    However, our tests also showed that IT managers will need to invest upfront to get this long-term payoff. For example, it took us almost a week to master the new Reinstall After Crash feature, which allowed us to rebuild all packages on a restored system.

    Furthermore, because Unicenter Software Delivery offers sophisticated packaging options and uses a variety of distribution methods to reduce network load, IT managers will likely need to devote several experts to guide implementation of the product.

    We used Unicenter Software Deliverys command line to improve the efficiency of many deployment tasks. CA has extended the command-line capabilities to include nearly every function in the product, and many expert users of Unicenter Software Deployment will see big improvements in productivity. Using it allowed us to create batch jobs and manage the actions of target computers—management functions that were either limited or unavailable in previous versions of the product. For security reasons, CA has done away with Unicenter Software Deliverys reliance on writable network shares for communication. Our software distribution job output files were reported back via an agent/server socket connection that we modified to a port that wasnt well-known. Getting rid of writable network shares makes the product less susceptible to virus attacks.

    Two new user interface features in Unicenter Software Delivery, View Jobs Per Target and Renew Failed Targets Immediately, will likely bring welcome relief to longtime users. After starting distribution jobs in our tests, we always used the View Jobs Per Target feature to identify distribution problems.

    Renew Failed Targets let us restart jobs before the entire distribution task was completed. This is a good feature but often didnt yield a successful result in our tests because failed target machines needed some modification for a successful distribution.

    Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

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