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Quest puts Spotlight on Windows management

Quest Software got into the Windows management solutions business in a big way last summer, buying FastLane Technologies, a market leader in that arena. In this exclusive Q&A, Quest executives describe the new products born of that union.

Quest Software set its sights on the Windows marketplace, and then followed customers' advice about the best way to make a splash in that arena. "Customers told us 'If you want to get into the Microsoft space, you should be talking to FastLane Technologies,'" recalled David Waugh, vice president of Microsoft product marketing for Quest, an applications management solutions company in Irvine, CA. Quest did more than talk, buying Ottawa-based FastLane and its line of Windows NT/Windows 2000 management applications for $100 million last summer. Since that time, the combined development teams of Quest and FastLane have created a dozen software management products for Microsoft products. Quest's new Spotlight suite for Microsoft applications promises to help Windows systems administrators pinpoint and solve application problems quickly. In this interview with Jan Stafford, searchWindowsManageability site editor, Waugh and John McIlwain, Spotlight product manager, describe Quest's mission in the Windows world and Spotlight's root-cause diagnostic features.

searchWindowsManageability: Why did Quest move into the Windows NT and 2000 market?

Quest began as a Oracle database management solution company and, as such, created many solutions that could be ported directly to the Microsoft space and other products that could easily be tailored for Windows. But Quest had no experience in that space. What better way to gain credibility in the Windows market than to buy a company, like FastLane, that had mindshare and a popular, well-established product line?

searchWindowsManageability: Could you describe the new Spotlight suite of solutions for Microsoft applications?

The new products provide support for Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS). Spotlight is an visual diagnostics solution that pinpoints the root-cause of performance issues. This can be especially important when applications are slow or email seems to be taking a long time.

searchWindowsManageability: How is Spotlight different from a basic application monitor?

Many environments have monitors that go out and ask each application or server, "Are you alive? Are you okay?" The monitors let them know there is a problem but rarely show the cause of the problem. Spotlight is complementary to the monitor and helps solve the problem before end-users start complaining.

searchWindowsManageability: In order to interpret Spotlight's information, wouldn't an IT administrator have to be very knowledgeable about the components of every application in a network?

No. Many administrators can look at this graphic and not know what all the different components of the application are. Not many people do know all of the components in detail. When you run Spotlight, you can just click on the trouble spot on the GUI. Spotlight will tell you what you're looking at and offer suggestions as to how to solve the problem with that component. You can also drill down to details, such as a list of e-mails that are backed up because of, say, an e-mail virus.

searchWindowsManageability: Does this eliminate a lot of troubleshooting?

It's a huge timesaver. Spotlight represents the whole architecture of, say, an Exchange server on one screen. That's a view that administrators have never had before. Spotlight offers a quick way to get to the root cause of a problem. It actually represents the application code graphically on the screen. This graphic illustration changes dynamically based upon the server load and shows problem areas real-time.

searchWindowsManagability: What kind of feedback do you get most often from first-time users of Spotlight?

When people first use Spotlight, they're often surprised to see trouble spots that they weren't aware of at all. Often, they weren't getting any trouble reports, because users hadn't noticed the problem yet.

searchWindowsManageability: Can you offer an example?

One administrator told us that he brought up Spotlight for the first time and noticed that mail was not being forwarded to another Exchange server. Messages were all backing up, but no one had noticed that e-mails weren't being delivered. It turns out that somebody had recently renamed and moved a server and didn't notify the administrator. On Spotlight, this showed up as a red area. The administrator clicked on that area and saw e-mail messages backed up. He renamed that server and moved it. Then he watched that queue get cleared up, right on the screen.

searchWindowsManageability: You've offered an example of an Exchange problem that could be pinpointed by Spotlight. Could you give an example of a common Microsoft SQL Server problem?

On the database side, there could be very long running SQL segments that an administrator might not be aware of. These could be created by, say, an ad hoc report. This report could be taking up a huge amount of server resources. Spotlight points out this resource drain.

searchWindowsManageability: What's on the drawing board for Quest in the Microsoft solution area?

Since Microsoft is coming out with .Net and really changing the focus from servers to services, we also need to adapt to that change. In an ideal application, services can be located anywhere and servers easily added to handle increasing user demand. It's a little early yet for .Net, but we think it is a great new opportunity for application designers and also for Quest Software.

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