Altiris Manages Desktops

CMS 6.0 is easy to use but requires prime hardware.

In eWEEK Labs tests of Altiris Inc.s Client Management Suite 6.0, we found the latest edition of the desktop management software is significantly easier to use than previous versions, and its comprehensive set of systems management components improves integration with installed software.

We were most impressed with CMS 6.0s intuitive Web console, with which we could perform virtually every aspect of systems management. IT managers of distributed Windows environments should consider this well-designed, robust package for Windows-based networks. However, they should also note that the program demands high-end hardware for optimal performance. In addition, we encountered some installation hiccups during tests.

Altiris CMS 6.0 was released last month. Its price is unchanged from the previous version, 5.6, at $80 per node. CMS 6.0 is also available for a free 30-day trial download from Altiris Web site.

CMS runs atop the Altiris Infrastructure, the companys term for notification, deployment, recovery and application software components that support the Altiris management modules. The Infrastructure components can be downloaded free. Infrastructure 6.0 gains Windows NT and Active Directory authentication support, better scalability with support for 50,000 nodes per site, and Altiris software agent enhancements that include data compression and bandwidth throttling.

The Notification System is the core of the Altiris Infrastructure and consists of one or more servers that run the Altiris management console and inventory databases, as well as the software package and agent deployment services. In tests, we installed Notification Server 6.0 on a system running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition; Notification Server 6.0 also supports Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003.

A Software Prerequisite Wizard is provided to determine if a target system has the necessary software—including Microsoft Corp.s .Net Framework, ASP.Net, SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 3, IIS (Internet Information Services) and FTP services—but its performance was spotty in our Notification Server installation tests.

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For example, the wizard discovered that our test system didnt have .Net installed and prompted us to install it, but didnt detect that IIS and SQL Server 2000 were missing. Because IIS and SQL Server 2000 are required for Notification Server to run, we believe the wizard should be able to determine if theyre installed.

After we installed Notification Server, Altiris Console launched a configuration wizard that allowed us to easily set user security, e-mail notification and SQL database settings. To install CMS 6.0 and other Altiris software modules, the Altiris Consoles Solutions tab directed us to either download software from the Web or install it locally from a disk.

The console itself shows significant improvements. Every task—from pushing Altiris agents to network clients to conducting hardware/software inventory, delivering software packages and client monitoring—is performed via the Web-based administration user interface.

In tests, Altiris Console was easy to use and provided intuitive links to management tasks. We could drill down to granular settings when performing tasks such as computer inventory. We could also personalize the console so the user interface would show the last task performed, which was a real timesaver.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at