ManageWise mired in transition

ManageWise mired in transition

Novell's latest upgrade to ManageWise, currently in beta testing and due out later this quarter, lays the foundation for reining in NetWare 5 while adding niceties for current NetWare shops. However, the platform's lack of integration with ZENworks leaves network managers with only a partial solution.

Finding the right balance of scalability, scope, and depth in a network management platform is always a challenge, but if your network responsibilities revolve around NetWare servers, few tools will offer as much depth as ManageWise 2.6.

The product remains a mid-range network management platform: its core strength lies in its integrated focus on NetWare-based servers. This beta release prepares ManageWise for Novell's forthcoming NetWare 5 and adds useful capabilities, such as the capability to run the ManageWise console - the product's main administration utility - from a Windows NT-based client.

But ManageWise 2.6 still pales in comparison to larger-scale enterprise management systems, such as Tivoli's Tivoli Enterprise and Computer Associates' Unicenter TNG. However, midsize to large NetWare shops will appreciate the power and ease that ManageWise provides for administering a large distributed NetWare environment.

ManageWise offers four key functions: server, network, desktop management, and client/server antivirus protection. The antivirus capabilities come from Novell's bundling of Cheyenne's InocuLAN, which Computer Associates recently acquired.

In the server management arena, ManageWise does a great job of handling remote administration of NetWare 3.x and 4.x servers. In order to manage my servers from ManageWise, I had to install a NetWare Management Agent (NMA) on each server I wanted to access. However, ManageWise made this easy to do with a feature that allowed me to simultaneously deploy the NMA to several servers.

Easy to view

Once the agent is in place, ManageWise makes it very easy to view and set server configuration settings, monitor various NetWare performance statistics, and configure and track SNMP alarms. Novell has also added the capability to trap server Abends, or abnormal endings, in this version. This is particularly useful given NetWare 4.11's Abend auto-recovery feature, in which a server could crash and recover automatically and the administrator would have no idea that a fault had been encountered.

Although ManageWise does a great job of making NetWare easier to manage, it offers little help for other platforms. Novell provides a management agent and console support for Windows NT-based servers, but this capability is reserved as an add-on product and not included in the core package.

Also, Novell offers practically no support for Unix-based platforms. I found that the product was able to detect my SCO UnixWare server; however, it was of little help from a configuration standpoint beyond some basic administrator-configurable information fields that I was able to set and the monitoring of SNMP traps.

ManageWise's network management features provide fair capabilities, but the product doesn't go far enough in some areas to be considered stellar. Like others in its class, ManageWise offers the capability to browse and compile Management Information Bases from third parties; however, this edition does not include enough support for specific third-party network devices out of the box.

Novell has improved the performance of ManageWise's auto-discovery feature in this version: It was able to detect my servers, workstations, and routers quickly and without incident. However, I had to add all of my network switch devices manually.

Novell's network-traffic analysis tool, LANalyzer, also picked up enhancements, most notably support for the capability to monitor traffic on FDDI segments. Plus, the tool includes new packet decodes for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, SMTP, and Bootstrap Protocol standards.

As a desktop management platform, ManageWise offers a reasonable capabilities set. But Novell is in the process of transitioning most of its desktop management capabilities into ZENworks. In fact, there is quite a bit of overlap in ManageWise and ZENworks, such as desktop inventory and remote control.

Integration benefits

For a complete range of capabilities from Novell, you really need both products. I was disappointed that ZENworks is not bundled with the core ManageWise product. (There will be a separate bundled package available.) Unfortunately, the two tools do not offer any real integration benefits at this point.

ManageWise is more extensive than ZENworks when it comes to desktop inventory. ZENworks provides just enough capabilities to support its application distribution feature, whereas Manage-Wise adds the software applications and more detailed hardware information to its inventory component. Yet I prefer ZENworks' user and machine profile management capabilities.

I really liked some of the unique features of the ManageWise desktop management console. In particular, ManageWise makes it easy to force a machine to reboot, execute a command-line, or initiate a remote-control session with a NetWare machine.

The product also makes it easy to quickly view summary details of workstation inventory properties from the console.

However, I found that with Windows NT-based clients, ManageWise supported only a subset of the features available for managing Windows 95 clients. I was not impressed with the remote-control performance when controlling an NT system from a Win 95 system.

Overall, ManageWise provides a fair solution for solving many key network management initiatives. However, its main components are still mid-range in scope, with one exception: managing NetWare. ManageWise is still the premier tool for managing NetWare.

But if you're considering this product as the cornerstone of a distributed management solution, you'd do well to complement it with other tools to gain a larger feature set.

The Bottom Line

ManageWise 2.6, beta

Novell's distributed management platform provides a mid-range solution for server, network, and desktop management, with a core strength of managing NetWare. This release includes a few nice additions and support for NetWare 5.

Pros: Excellent NetWare management capabilities; improved auto-discovery performance and graphics support for creating custom maps; added support for FDDI in network traffic analysis; year 2000 support fixes addedCons: Limited cross-platform support; no Windows NT Server management support in core product; full range of desktop management capabilities requires Novell's ZENworksPlatforms: Supports NetWare 3.x and 4.x; requires at least one NetWare 4.x server; client features vary in implementation on DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95/98, Windows NT, and OS/2Price: Not announcedNovellTel (02) 9966 1255channel surfingGreg Schroeder is the creative marketing manager for Edge Technology. His favourite Web destinations are a mixture of work and play. By Ellen CresswellWhite and Yellow Pages( sites continually crop up in Channel Surfing. Telstra must surely have noticed the drop in calls to "013" since these sites were put up.



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