Configuration data: Go figure
- By Eric Hammond
- Nov 05, 2000
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
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
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.