Systems Management - 29 Aug 2006

Active Directory Management Tool. In this highly competitive category, Microsoft Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) pulled away easily as our readers' choice for Best Active Directory (AD) Management Tool for the second year in a row. GPMC is a solution for Group Policy administration that lets you manage sites, organizational units (OUs), domains, and forests in a single UI with drag-and-drop support. GPMC supports import, copy, backup, restore, and reporting of Group Policy Objects (GPOs). Scripters enjoy additional benefits because each GPMC operation can be scripted for customizable and automated management. You can use GPMC to manage Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Group Policy implementations.

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Applications and Operations Management Tool. The ability to monitor multiple computers and Microsoft applications such as SQL Server, Active Directory (AD), and Exchange Server, might be the reason why Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 is our readers' choice—for the second straight year—as Best Applications and Operations Management Tool. MOM provides three essential functions for managing a Windows environment: it identifies problems, streamlines the process for determining the root cause of problems, and facilitates quick resolution to restore services and prevent additional problems. Management packs monitor your servers, alerting you to problems and helping you resolve them. Management packs are available to enable MOM to manage non-Microsoft applications.

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Asset Management Software. This year, Help Desk Technology International's HelpSTAR pulls off an upset win over Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS), the winner of this award for the past four years. HelpSTAR is Help desk software with asset management features that let administrators track and manage the assets in their company to determine workstation configurations and service histories, track and manage asset maintenance, and monitor software-licensing compliance. In addition, HelpSTAR generates reports so you can review your technology investments, prepare future budgets, and plan technology upgrades. HelpSTAR's asset management features also provide additional functionality to Help desk staff, who can scan for particular hardware and software in various support-call scenarios.

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Capacity Planning and Trend Analysis Software. VMware's Capacity Planner, a hosted IT capacity analysis and planning tool, took the lead in the Best Capacity Planning and Trend Analysis Software competition by a strong margin. The product helps users quickly determine whether their current hardware is fully utilized and identify areas in which consolidation and virtualization can benefit their IT environment. Specifically, Capacity Planner lets administrators gather performance metrics during peak usage times and collect data that gives a clear picture of how servers and applications are used—or underused. An enterprise can use this information to help develop a server consolidation strategy and discover where virtualization opportunities exist.

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Disk Imaging Software. For the past three years, Symantec Ghost Solution Suite has been the winner in this category. An enterprise imaging and deployment solution that comprises Symantec Ghost, Symantec Client Migration, and the Deploy-Center Library imaging technology, Ghost Solution Suite lets administrators create OS, application, and user settings images. You use the images to quickly migrate to or deploy new OSs, restore PCs after a system crash or failure, install application upgrades, and deploy new systems, all from a central management console. You can use the Ghost Boot Wizard function to create a bootable CD-ROM ISO image, then use any CD-writing software to write the image to a CD-ROM. The latest release lets you image drives as large as 2TB.

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Change and Configuration Management Tool. ScriptLogic Desktop Authority took this award from Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003—the winner for the past two years. Desktop Authority lets administrators configure and manage Windows workstations by providing the capability to add and remove printers, install applications, and maintain email profiles from a central location. ScriptLogic's patented Validation Logic technology applies desktop configurations according to validation-type settings for client OSs, Group Policy, Active Directory (AD), organizational units (OU), and registry and file properties. From any Java-enabled browser, an administrator can manage services, processes, and drivers; edit file systems and the registry; manage applications; open files, DLLs, and registry keys; and take control of a remote workstation. Desktop Authority collects configuration, and hardware and software details and generates built-in reports.

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Compliance Reporting Solution. ScriptLogic's Enterprise Security Reporter is our readers' pick for Best Compliance Reporting Solution, a brand-new award in the Readers' Choice competition this year. ScriptLogic describes this product as "an agent-less, fast, comprehensive discovery and reporting solution for analyzing file security, group memberships, and other security settings on Windows servers." Enterprise Security Reporter provides a new UI that quickly collects data to prove compliance with regulatory and best-practice standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The Delta Reporting function lets administrators select two discovery snapshots to use to compare for security-related changes made to files, folders, the registry, file shares, and Active Directory (AD).

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Event Log Manager. The Event Log Manager award is new to Readers' Choice this year. By a wide margin, readers chose NETIKUS.NET's EventSentry as the winner. EventSentry lets you configure event filtering so captured events route to the appropriate department. You can also exclude events that aren't relevant to you. Because EventSentry monitors Windows-based workstations' security event log, you can use the product to help gather information required for compliance regulations. The Event Log Consolidation feature stores event log entries in a central ODBC database. You can then use the information to create reports and print them through any popular Web browser or export them to comma separated value (CSV) files.

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Help Desk Software. For the second straight year, Help Desk Technology International's Help-STAR takes the Best Help Desk Software award. (In 2004, BMC Remedy and HelpSTAR were declared co-winners of the award.) HelpSTAR tracks requests and provides a self-service portal for end users. A library of standard reports let you identify problems, detect trends, and view representative activity. Custom reporting is also available. HelpSTAR version 9.0, released in 2006, includes project templates that facilitate IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework change-management processes, an email Inbox processing function that lets you create a service request by dragging and dropping an email message onto a related HelpSTAR icon, and a new Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Audit function that scans networked PCs to obtain hardware and software configuration information.

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Meta/Virtual Directory. Windows Server 2003 R2 Distributed File System (DFS) wins Best Meta/Virtual Directory, the third new award in the Systems Management category. DFS is part of Windows Server 2003 R2 OS and provides two key technologies: DFS Replication and DFS Namespaces. These technologies ensure that offsite users stay connected to the files they need and that local servers are backed up correctly after system changes are made. DFS Replication supports replication scheduling and bandwidth throttling and uses Remote Differential Compression, a protocol that updates files over networks with limited bandwidth capacity. DFS Namespaces provides the ability to group shared folders from across various servers and present them to users as a virtual tree.

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Monitoring and Alerting Software. Repeating last year's neck-and-neck race for this award, Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 took the honors this year by just one vote—the exact number by which it lost in 2005. MOM 2005 features an extensive Knowledge Base that includes comments and practical information from users. The Alert View function lets administrators view various alerts, examine alert details, see the rule that generated the alert, and resolve the alert from within the Operator Console. MOM 2005 highlights critical alerts that need immediate attention and provides a state and topological view that administrators can use either to survey a selected system's current state or to drill down into to pinpoint the root cause of a problem.

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OS Migration Tool. Taking a second award in the Systems Management category, ScriptLogic's Desktop Authority has been named Best OS Migration Tool by our readers. The software also won three other awards in the Systems Management category: Change and Configuration Management Tool, Registry Management Tool, and Remote Management Tool. Desktop Authority uses a centralized management console with ScriptLogic's proprietary Validation Logic technology to facilitate Windows OS migrations. Desktop Authority profiles eliminate the need to customize user settings during a migration. The software automates tasks such as printer and drive mapping, folder redirection, and mail profile setup. In addition, the software establishes new user settings during the first logon after any configuration changes, creating a seamless transition for users.

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Patch Management Tool. Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) took the Patch Management Tool award for the second year. Readers like for them to for Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Office, as well as the Windows OS. WSUS classifies each fix or patch with a label, a system that administrators can use to download only patches in particular classifications. The new Auto Approval Option detects which patches a specific client is missing and sends this information to the server. With this information, an administrator can determine how many workstations need particular patches and schedule the downloads.

Registry Management Tool. ScriptLogic Desktop Authority is on a roll in the Systems Management category, taking its third award, for Best Registry Management Tool. For administrators, changing registry settings isn't a difficult task; the real problem lies in knowing which users' machines should apply registry changes. Desktop Authority's patented Validation Logic technology helps administrators determine which users' machines need to apply a particular registry change. Validation Logic consists of 40 elements that allow for granular identification such as for group affiliation, Active Directory (AD) site, computer name, and MAC address, and it employs Boolean logic in the form of AND, OR, and NOT statements.

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Remote Management Tool. An obviously versatile tool that readers believe in, ScriptLogic's Deskop Authority takes a fourth award in the Systems Management category, this time as Best Remote Management Tool. Desktop Authority lets an administrator connect to a user's desktop through any Java-enabled Web browser and provide assistance without disrupting the user's workflow. A number of tasks can be performed, such as editing the registry, examining services operation, or monitoring system performance. And when it's necessary, Desktop Authority lets you take control of the desktop. The product provides various levels of access, allowing you to control who can remotely log on to a desktop and which tasks that person can perform.

Performance Tuning Tool. Identify Software's AppSight for Microsoft Windows/.NET continuously monitors application execution and identifies the causes of application failure. The AppSight Application Problem Resolution System recognizes common problems associated with application and system performance, application and system configurations, user errors, and application migration and upgrade problems. The system contains four modules that identify and correct problems in Windows and .NET applications to help fine-tune application performance: AppSight Black Box records all application-problem data; AppSight Console allows users to collaborate and pinpoint application problems; AppSight Server is the central repository for all Black Box data; and AppSight Application Monitoring continuously monitors the health of your environment and automatically resolves problems.

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Software Deployment Tool. For the third year, Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 is our readers' choice for Best Software Deployment Tool. SMS gives administrators the tools to distribute crucial applications to users and specify when and where the distribution should take place. It integrates and makes more manageable the process of planning, testing, analyzing, optimizing, and deploying applications. SMS lets you perform compatibility testing and planning to determine whether software you plan to deploy might cause problems with existing hardware and software, then it helps you mitigate those problems. SMS's hardware and software inventory component features integrated Web-based reporting.

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Virtualization Software. In 2005, VMware ESX Server occupied third place in the competition for Best Virtualization Software; this year, ESX Server 3 takes first-place honors. ESX Server 3 lets you directly partition hardware into virtual machines (VMs) and virtual resources without requiring a host OS because the application runs directly on hardware. You can create as many as 128 VMs on a single server for Windows, FreeBSD, Linux, and Novell NetWare OSs. VMware states that "ESX Server 3 has broader x86 support that unlocks the power of newer dual-core processor hardware and added NAS and iSCSI networked storage compatibility. Expanded virtual machine memory limits and new 4-way Virtual SMP further enable the most memory and processor-intensive server applications to run in virtual machines."

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Active Directory Management Tool
1st—Microsoft Group Policy Management Console
2nd—ScriptLogic Active Administrator
3rd—Sunbelt Software Directory Inspector

Applications and Operations Management Tool
1st—Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005
2nd—VMware VirtualCenter
3rd—Identify Software AppSight for Microsoft Windows/.NET

Asset Management Software
1st—Help Desk Technology International HelpSTAR
2nd—Numara Software Numara Track-It!
3rd—Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003

Capacity Planning and Trend Analysis Software
1st—VMware Capacity Planner
2nd—BMC Software Performance Assurance Suite for Virtual Servers
3rd (tie)—Quest Software MessageStats
HP OpenView Performance Insight

Change and Configuration Management Tool
1st—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority
2nd—Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003
3rd—DesktopStandard PolicyMaker

Compliance Reporting Solution
1st—ScriptLogic Enterprise Security Reporter
2nd—Shavlik Technologies NetChk Compliance
3rd—HP OpenView Compliance Manager

Disk Imaging Software
1st—Symantec Ghost Solution Suite
2nd—Altiris Deployment Solution
3rd—Acronis True Image Series

Event Log Manager
1st—NETIKUS.NET EventSentry
2nd—GFI Software GFI LANGuard Security Event Log Monitor
3rd—TNT Software ELM Event Log Monitor

Help Desk Software
1st—Help Desk Technology International HelpSTAR
2nd—Numara Software Numara Track-It!
3rd—Citrix Systems Citrix GoToAssist

Meta/Virtual Directory
1st—Windows Server 2003 R2 Distributed File System (DFS)
2nd—HP OpenView Select Identity
3rd—Availl WAFS

Monitoring and Alerting Software
1st—Microsoft MOM 2005
2nd—Numara Software Numara Network Monitor
3rd—Netikus.NET EventSentry

OS Migration Tool
1st—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority
2nd—Altiris Deployment Solution
3rd—LANDesk Software LANDesk Management Suite

Patch Management Tool
1st—Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)
2nd—Numara Software Numara PatchManager
3rd—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority

Performance Tuning Tool
1st—Identify Software AppSight for Microsoft Windows/.NET
2nd—HP OpenView Performance Manager
3rd—Embarcadero Technologies Embarcadero Performance Center

Registry Management Tool
1st—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority
2nd—DesktopStandard PolicyMaker Registry Extension
3rd—Altiris Software Virtualization Solution

Remote Management Tool
1st—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority
2nd—VMware VirtualCenter
3rd (tie)—LogMeIn IT Reach
Altiris Client Management Suite

Software Deployment Tool
1st—Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003
2nd—VMware Workstation
3rd—ScriptLogic Desktop Authority

Virtualization Software
1st—Vmware ESX Server
2nd—Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2
3rd (tie)—Altiris Software Virtualization Solution
Swsoft Virtuozzo for Windows

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