Configuration data: Go figure

Information technology departments are under pressure to cut or at least

hold down costs while delivering 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 disk space.

For management, ECM can help identify problem configurations, give a

clear picture of upgrade needs and report 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 it just fine.

The initial data collection 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 beefy

system as the collector server.

I found ECM's console 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, 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 I have tested, ECM is a well-focused product

that doesn't try to be everything to everybody. Instead, it 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. l

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.fundamentalsoftware.com

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

BY Eric Hammond
Nov. 6, 2000

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