Enterprise Management Systems Finally Working

Enterprise Management Systems, commonly thought to be a dead end only four years ago, are now very much alive. That's good for IT managers.

Enterprise Management Systems, commonly thought to be a dead end only four years ago, are now very much alive. Thats good for IT managers.

Although none of the management suites dares call itself an enterprise management system because of the bad rap earlier products rightly got, that is what NetIQs management suite and products like it are becoming.

IT managers have always needed to monitor heterogeneous operating systems in data centers. The best approach was to manage these disparate platforms, along with the myriad business-critical applications running on those systems, with a unified event management console.

The traditional behemoths of enterprise management are Computer Associates Internationals Unicenter and IBMs Tivoli management family. There are a host of would-be management platform products that faded at the end of the 1990s, such as Aprisma Management Technologies (then Cabletrons) Spectrum. And it is true that the initial, unified approach taken by these products resulted in grand management projects that often collapsed during the planning stages because they tried to be all things to all people. (Im not considering Hewlett-Packards OpenView to be in the same category because HP has always insisted that OpenView is intended for network management.)

There are three main reasons why these tools are working better today and why they have a bright future. The first is the dominance of IP networking. Earlier tools had to accommodate a variety of network protocols, including NetWare IPX and Token-Ring. The management tools were already trying to work with the limitations of early Windows networking protocols, not to mention the slower processors and slower LANs of the day. In my testing experience, the multiple-LAN protocol support often proved to be one complication too many. These products were so complicated that at large companies I visited at the time, it was common to have staff from the enterprise management system vendors working full time on-site.

The second reason the new management tools are better than the first- generation tools is that the agents are much better at minimizing the WAN traffic that they generate. The agents weve seen in eWEEK Labs tests are also generally much easier to deploy and update.

The third reason is that the suites let IT managers choose management components such as software distribution or inventory without having to get the entire ball of wax. This new flexibility often comes from the fact that enterprise products are much easier to integrate with third-party, best-of-breed tools. The mix-and-match approach means that management projects are much more likely to succeed because success is often measured by the reduction of the number of management interfaces needed to monitor and maintain the network.

Its ironic that IT managers can get broad enterprise management from products that go out of their way not to be identified with the failure of the unified tools that left many IT managers stranded in the late 1990s. Just two examples that Ive seen in eWEEK Labs have shocked me with the breadth of management they offer. NetIQ and System Management Arts have the ability to monitor and manage a wide range of operating systems and applications.

Another striking trend: Microsofts long trek toward making Windows servers and desktops more manageable is paying off. IT managers should see more management tools that hook into Microsoft Operations Manager 2000s event notification and management features. I review on Page 54 a recent example: Smarts InCharge Connector for MOM 2000.

I dont blame IT managers who are gun-shy after working with first-generation management tools. Ill never forget the software deployment guide I discussed with a project manager at a major airline. The tome to support software deployment was nearly 3 inches thick—and that was just for the pilot project. The new tools show vendors have learned from mistakes. Reducing the consoles needed to manage an enterprise infrastructure should be one of your goals. These new management tools can help.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.