Since few IT shops run purely on Microsoft software, good cross-platform management tools are like gold to administrators.
Few software companies offer broad multi-platform management support that covers not just Windows but Unix and Linux as well. Quest Software Inc. is one company in particular that is vying for the hearts and minds of IT administrators.
After roughly 35 acquisitions in six years, Quest is working to consolidate products that include utilities and applications that address Windows management, security and administration. The inherited products come from such companies as Aelita Software Corp., an Active Directory tools manufacturer and, more recently and notably, Vintela Inc., which lets IT administrators use Active Directory to manage Unix, Linux, Mac and Windows using a single Windows console.
The Vintela acquisition offers the most promise for IT administrators who are pursuing a dual Windows and Linux strategy. "Customers might have Windows at the client and server for print and file services, but they have a desire for delivery of Web services and an application server delivery system as well," said Earl Perkins, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "These users would like to weave together an authentication service [and] an ID infrastructure and manage it all together from a common infrastructure like Active Directory," Perkins added.
Centrify Corp., which is based in Mountain View, Calif., tackles a similar job.
The Quest technology has helped out IT shops in different ways. IT managers at Home Shopping Network (HSN) have order taking and credit card data on 185 servers running Unix and Linux. Each server has its own password file.
Vince Arcuri, manager of Unix administration at HSN, which is an operating business of InterActive Corp., in New York, briefly considered using cross-platform management software made by Computer Associates International Inc. or IBM Tivoli in order to get single sign-on capability across the multiple non-Windows servers in the company.
HSN wanted to be sure its PeopleSoft HR and Financials applications, which link to users via Active Directory, could provision all new accounts and expire accounts globally when an employee was terminated.
The integration of Unix and Linux servers via Active Directory dramatically cut the number of help desk requests for password resets. "We were generally seeing between 20 and 30 [tickets] a week with a peak of 48 tickets when we first implemented 90-day expiration," Arcuri said.
"The monthly average was 110 or so, and now we don't handle any tickets outside of adds/reconfigurations -- Group Policy changes per system -- because our help desk can do an account reset or re-activation in Active Directory," he added.
Data Research and Analysis Corp. is a small defense contractor that used the Vintela software to let two Linux workstations log into an Active Directory domain, within a classified computing environment. The software allows the computers to be authenticated, which was necessary for the required Defense Security Service approval, said David Glick, network administrator at the Alexandria, Va., company.
Already, the Vintela software has been integrated into Quest's product strategy. Quest has already completed functional integration of its Quest ActiveRoles provisioning software and Vintela Authentication Services, which is the product that lets a Unix or Linux client become a full member of the Active Directory domain.
Vintela has retained and will continue to release products within its original road map. This week the company released an updated version of Vintela Authentication Services. Some new features include support for Solaris 10 and Linux on Advanced Micro Devices 64 and Intel EM64T 64-bit processors.
Quest's biggest challenge, however, won't come from Vintela. Instead, it will be from the integration of the multitude of other companies it has acquired, all of which build on the Windows, database and management strategy. Aside from Vintela and Aelita, other acquisitions included Wingra Technologies Inc., a messaging and migration software company, and Fastlane Technologies Inc., a directory management company.
Quest has done a good job addressing this market, Gartner's Perkins said. But there is almost too much in the store. Quest will have to consolidate all of those products, he said.