Configuration data: Go figure
- By Eric Hammond
- Oct 02, 2000
Information technology departments are under pressure to cut or at least
hold down costs while being asked to deliver improved services to users.
Fundamental Software Inc.'s Enterprise Configuration Manager (ECM) offers
IT managers an opportunity to make gains on both fronts at once.
ECM maintains a repository of system configuration information, including
hardware configuration, storage parameters and registry settings. You can
use this information for many purposes. You can monitor changes, such as
memory being removed from a system, or plan rollouts of new technology by
checking to see which systems have enough free space on their disks.
For management, ECM can help identify problem configurations, give a
clear picture of upgrade needs and provide reporting on how technology is
deployed throughout an organization.
Primarily geared toward Microsoft Corp. Windows NT and Windows 2000
networks, ECM uses a Microsoft SQL database as its repository. The tool
consists of several pieces, including agents that run on remote systems,
a data collector and a console. The entire system can easily be installed
from the master console, remotely deploying the agents from the machines
to the network.
Fundamental Software provides an engineer to help with the setup of
the product, though most IT shops could probably get through the deployment
just fine. The initial data collection after install is a bit resource-intensive,
as the agents and collector gather the numerous bits of information needed
for the repository.
I ran the console, data collection agent and database on a single NT
server with a 400 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium II processor. This configuration
would not be adequate for a typical enterprise, because ECM requires a pretty
beefy system as the collector server.
I found ECM's console to be easy and intuitive to work with, rare qualities
in Microsoft Management Console-based applications. The ECM console provides
several different views of the information collected by ECM, each of them
useful for drilling down to specific information in a different way.
ECM includes some nice features that help you start benefiting from
the product right away. Chief among those are the Windows 2000 migration
reports, which provide a wealth of information needed to make the transition
to Win2000 go as smoothly as possible, including reports that show noncompliant
Although I tested Version 3.0 of ECM, Fundamental Software recently
shipped version 3.1, which includes better support for mobile Windows NT
and 2000 systems and advanced SNMP alerting capabilities that integrate
with enterprise-level network management products from Computer Associates
International Inc., Hewlett- Packard Co. and Tivoli Systems Inc.
Compared with other tools that I have tested, I found ECM to be a well-focused
product that doesn't try to be everything to everybody. Instead, ECM takes
on one job — configuration management — and does it well. The product didn't
have the klutzy, nonintuitive feel that other products in this category
If your agency is looking for tools to help reduce the cost of ownership,
ease the administrative burden and increase the end-user value of your IT
infrastructure, a tool such as ECM is a critical piece of the management
puzzle. I recommend you at least take ECM for a test drive. An evaluation
copy is available on Fundamental Software's Web site.
—Hammond is a freelance writer and a technical director at XLeration, a Denver-based
company that specializes in building IT infrastructure.