LANDesk gives users a grip on desktops, servers

Intel Corp.'s LANDesk Management Suite 6.3 actually is more of a desktop management tool than a local- or wide-area network manager. It offers some of the functionality of a complete enterprise management suite, but it lacks the network monitoring functionality of network management tools such as Hewlett-Packard Co. OpenView and the application monitoring capabilities in enterprise management suites by Tivoli Systems Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc.

LANDesk is tightly focused on managing desktops and servers in a networked environment. It gathers and maintains software and hardware inventories of PCs on the network, enables support personnel to remotely control PCs and helps deploy software to PCs. LANDesk also includes tools for performing configuration, administration and support tasks on desktop and server machines.

We configured LANDesk Management Suite on a simple network with a few client machines and two servers. While this is decidedly smaller than the typical network managed by LANDesk, we were able to try out the program's functionality and get a feel for how LANDesk is deployed and then used to manage clients.

LANDesk was easy to set up once we installed the prerequisite Microsoft Corp. Windows NT Service Pack 5 and Microsoft Data Access Components Version 2.1. After installing LANDesk's management console, setting up clients was easy. The program creates shared directories on the server, giving access by clients to specified components, such as remote control and software inventory. The desired LANDesk components then can be installed remotely on clients.

We liked the simple interface of LANDesk's management console. It enabled us to view information about the machines on the network, including software and hardware inventories. System information displayed by LANDesk can include ROM information and information about software running on the system. This information is handy for support personnel trying to trouble-shoot a problem.

We also were able to remotely control a machine by right-clicking on it and selecting the appropriate menu item. With remote control, support personnel can view the screen of a user's computer in a window on the support person's screen, saving a trip to the user's desk.

The suite also supports remote software distribution, enabling the administrator to configure the distribution and then deploy it remotely on a predetermined schedule. Additionally, the product provides software metering to help IT organizations manage critical license issues.

We like the fact that LANDesk is built on open standards. Rather than a proprietary framework, LANDesk supports several database systems for its repository of system information. The product also includes some datamart functionality to roll up data for rapid reporting. Much of the LANDesk functionality also can be accessed through a browser, making it that much easier for administrators to remotely manage systems.

LANDesk offers similar support for server management as it does for client systems. You can remotely control a server, deploy software on a server, and monitor the health of the server. It is possible to reboot the server remotely and generate reports to show trends over time on the server.

As noted, LANDesk does lack some of the major tools to be found in broader enterprise management products. For example, the program doesn't offer diagnostic tools for monitoring the health of your network. LANDesk can monitor Simple Network Management Protocol traps and convey alerts to administrators through its console, but the suite does not offer any direct packet or other network diagnosis and analysis.

Also, while LANDesk does support Novell Inc. NetWare and Microsoft Windows NT servers - as well as DOS, Windows, OS/2 and Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh clients - the product doesn't support Unix systems, a major drawback for many government users.

However, LANDesk provides more depth in desktop management than you'll find in the enterprise packages, and many shops will want to employ LANDesk along with higher-end network management tools.

LANDesk is slightly less expensive than enterprise management suites, so if you don't need the higher-end network and application analysis tools, you can save a lot by opting for LANDesk.

We found street prices as low as $43 per seat for 100 users and about $33 per seat for 1,000 users. At those rates, most shops should recover their investment in a year or less through time savings for IT staff.

Hammond is a free-lance writer based in Denver. He can be reached at ehammond@earthlink.net.

***

LANDesk Management Suite 6.3

Intel Corp.

(408) 765-8080

www.intel.com

Price and Availability: Available directly from Intel for $6,250 for 100 users; $50,000 for 1,000 users.

Remarks: LANDesk doesn't offer the network diagnosis and monitoring tools of higher-end network management suites but it does offer a powerful and easy-to-use set of tools for managing desktop systems and servers, including remote-control and inventory tools.

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