Configuration data: Go figure

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

hardware.

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

have had.

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.

REPORT CARD

Enterprise Configuration Manager

Score: A

Fundamental Software Inc.

(719) 447-4600

www.fundamental
software.com

Price and availability: The cost of Enterprise Configuration Manager is $775 per server and $30per workstation.

Remarks: Enterprise Configuration Manager is a powerful tool that provides systemmanagers and support staff with detailed information about the configurationof networked and stand-alone systems.

"Tools you can count on" [Federal Computer Week, July 21, 1999]

A Software Engineering Resource List for Software Configuration Management

BY Eric Hammond
October 02, 2000

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