Quest 'bet the farm' on Microsoft's security model

While every software vendor must watch where Microsoft is going, doing so is critical for companies developing Windows management tools. That's why Quest Software Inc. of Irvine, Calif., hopes -- and perhaps prays -- that Microsoft can persuade administrators to move to Active Directory, Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000, for which Quest develops management software.

Microsoft knows that its success in getting admins -- and their bosses -- to upgrade this year will in large part determine the success of its .NET-based platforms. But getting admins to upgrade can be a mammoth task that involves getting a slice of shrinking budgets, loads of time and a healthy dose of corporate politics, according to Keith Millar, director of product management for Quest's Microsoft solutions.

Quest won't announce a new product at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, but in an interview with SearchWindowsManageability.com, Millar discussed Active Directory migration, how Trustworthy Computing has affected his company's strategy and how Quest plans to demonstrate its claims that it can provide tighter integration with Microsoft Operations Manager 2000.

In the area of Windows management, where do you think Microsoft can improve?
To manage patches as they get deployed, especially on the client side. Companies spend an inordinate amount of money on desktop management. And one of the challenges is managing the complexity around the group policy infrastructure with many different settings. All those settings can get quite confusing. It's a great problem for software to solve. Have you done anything in tandem with Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative?
We made a decision five years ago to rely on Microsoft's security model, so we don't build a layer of security on top. We've made a corporate decision to rely on Microsoft security on Active Directory and Exchange. We've bet the farm that Microsoft's security and reliability will be there for the products we deliver. Do your Windows management products work with MOM and SMS?
MOM sends an e-mail or page saying, 'Hey, I've got a problem here.' That's where the Quest diagnostic tools come in, complementary with MOM. Just makes sense to not compete.

We don't have any technical integration with SMS at this point. The people using SMS are using it for asset management and applications deployment. As they use Active Directory more and more, there will be some logical tie-ins. It's something we're watching. Has Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative affected your product development?
It had little to no impact. It's really for the customers to get a better comfort level. If that wasn't there and people didn't have that confidence, Active Directory migration would be scary. More and more people are moving to SQL Server because of that confidence. Microsoft is getting there. They're delivering on their promises. If [the initiative] wasn't there, admins would just stay where they are, fortify their doors and not go anywhere. How are the needs of administrators changing?
With NT 4, we ran into companies with 1,000 domains. When you unify domains, you see all those incremental costs. This is being highlighted more because of the unification of the Active Directory, Windows 2000 and Exchange environments. And there's a need in security. Lots of companies have frequent visits by auditors, and they need automated tools to answer auditor questions. What are the biggest challenges for admins today?
Admins are being asked to move over to Active Directory with very restricted budgets. Companies have taken a significant bite out of their budget. Sometimes they're asked to pull of a big project, like upgrading servers with very few people and very little money.

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