Monitoring transfers of mission-critical data across a network is a tricky business. Whether you are simply updating Web content or exchanging business-to-business fulfilment orders with electronic data interchange (EDI) applications, you are responsible for managing the copious conditions that can arise. You not only have to bridge the gaps between disparate OS platforms and protocols, but you have to be ready to face problems with security, network health, and intermittent user connectivity, all of which can wreak havoc on successful data interchange.
Computer Associates recently released a software solution that improves the management and efficiency of data transfers.
TransportIT 1.0 centralises the management and data transfer tools as well as network performance monitoring. The end result is an enterprise-level client/server mechanism for securely collecting and delivering data across heterogeneous environments and optimising network utilisation.
Administrators of medium-to-large organisations - especially retail chains - who use store-and- forward applications or transfer data between enterprise resource planning applications such as SAP or Baan, will appreciate TransportIT's abilities beyond traditional FTPCompanies that deploy TransportIT will net time savings, improved efficiency, and guaranteed delivery of business-critical data at an affordable price.
Compared to far less sophisticated solutions, such as FTP or MIME transport, or more expensive and less flexible solutions such as Sterling Commerce's Connect: product line, TransportIT 1.0 offers the most comprehensive and affordable means of centralised data transfer management I have seen.
Based on Computer Associates' Unicenter TNG Data Transport Option, TransportIT installs under a subset of the Unicenter TNG Framework, adding many beneficial features such as network autodiscovery and network management. In addition to keeping tabs on network components, the TNG Framework provides constant monitoring of network health and ensures optimum utilisation of the network during data transmission.
When I installed the package onto a server running Windows NT 4.0, TransportIT guided me through configuring the required components, including the three Object Server modules - called Network, Transfer, and Schedule - that respectively manage a repository of machines, transfers and groups, and scheduling tasks.
I then installed TransportIT's client-side Agents, which are responsible for the negotiation of data transfers to the machines in the field. In addition to negotiating transfers, the Agents can be polled to reveal machine configuration and information on the status of transfers. Computer Associates requires you to purchase a separate client-side licence for each managed machine.
As soon as I installed the client-side software, I used the autodiscovery module from the server to identify TransportIT-ready machines on the network. TransportIT correctly detected the available machines and logged them to a network database, allowing me to organise and group them by category, such as business line, for easy reference.
I found the familiar Windows Explorer-like graphical interface easy to navigate. TransportIT had me setting up transfer jobs with a minimal learning curve.
TransportIT provides complete autonomy over policy settings on transfer parameters, such as data size, allowing you to prioritise and override tasking assignments.
It also monitors routing patterns and packet transfer time to automatically determine the optimum delivery path for transmitting data.
You will also appreciate TransportIT's architecture, which stores network configuration data separately from transfer parameters. As your network topology grows and changes, the overhead necessary for reconfiguring the system is greatly reduced.
TransportIT supports several transfer protocols, including TCP/IP, IPX, Systems Network Architecture, UPD/IP, and Point to Point Protocol for dial-up connections, and can synchronise communications across any OS platform.
In addition to standard point-to-point FTP, TransportIT offers optimised distribution methods such as fanout, broadcast, and multicast transfers that will greatly reduce network congestion.
You can also count on better security and reliability with TransportIT. It not only supports encryption keys, but also offers checkpoint restart, session retry, and pre- and post-processing capabilities that provide complete end-to-end management of transfers.
When I foiled a transfer attempt by removing the recipient machine from the network, TransportIT indicated the error and attempted to reconnect the specified machine several times. When the recipient was brought back online, TransportIT resumed and completed the transfer flawlessly.
Job transfers were easy to set up and schedule from the readily navigable tabbed interface. I followed TransportIT's step-by-step process of choosing files for transport, instituting transfer security passwords between the server and client, and setting directories for file delivery and collection.
Although TransportIT takes much of the detail out of the setup process, it does not do so at the expense of customisation. TransportIT lets you apply filtering options on a per-file basis, allowing each to be tailored with encryption keys, virus scans or compression algorithms that can be custom designed to meet your organisation's needs.
In addition, its object-oriented interface lets you easily re-purpose jobs or schedules. For example, I was able to schedule and initiate jobs, as well as check on the statistics and progress of jobs pending or already underway. TransportIT's Event Monitoring capability further provides for prompt unattended response to error conditions, which can be set to trigger alerts or launch predefined corrective actions to be taken.
The low initial investment, both in terms of cost and setup, will assuredly reap dividends through improved reliability of data transfers and network utilisation. And TransportIT's open API and command-line capability provide an unparalleled ease of integration into existing infrastructure.
Regardless of the size of your organisation or supported client base, Computer Associates' TransportIT 1.0 is unsurpassed in providing extensible and reliable flexibility to the data transfer requisites of a growing enterprise.
The bottom line ****
Summary: This tool provides integrated, centralised management of data transfers and network optimisation. Its client/server mechanism delivers reliability better than traditional transfer mechanisms and reduces bandwidth overhead.
Business Case: Any organisation that transfers data between sites will benefit from the time savings and network management facilities offered by TransportIT. Medium-to-large companies moving large amounts of data between Internet-commerce or enterprise resource planning applications will appreciate the ease with which TransportIT can optimise network utilisation.
Pros: Centralised management, varied distribution methods, network optimisation, supports multiple protocols, extensibleCons: Needs proprietary TransportIT Agents, no mechanism for rapid deployment or configuration of client agentsCost: Approximately $1800 for server; $170 per desktop client.
Platforms: Windows 95/98, Windows NT Server or Workstation, NetWare, Unix, OS/390, OS/2, and AS/400.
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