LANDesk Software has always been a key player in the network management software market and the release of its LANDesk Management Suite 8 (LDMS) last year proved to be one of the most significant to date. Along with a completely revamped interface and plenty of extra features, a number of components have also been separated out and are now offered as optional extras.

One of a group of four options, Server Manager looks after, well, server management . It installs onto the same server running the LDMS core functions and adds a new configuration profile to the client setup folder in the main LDMS console. Deployment of the server client is simple enough as you can pull it from a shared folder on the core server or push it from LDMS to selected systems. Along with the Server Manager component the routine also loads a modified version of the LDMS remote control tool. As opposed to the workstation client, it loads at the application level rather than the driver level to reduce the risk of a remote control session crashing a server. It does result in poorer performance although we found the differences to be minimal.

Any server with the new client installed now appears in the network view of LDMS where you can view its inventory, initiate a remote control session and reboot, or shutdown, the system. Server Manager is, confusingly, accessed from the System Manager option in the drop-down menu whereupon a new window is opened for the selected system.

It’s only at this stage that we have any serious criticism, as performance was remarkably sluggish. The console, often taking over a minute to load while moving through the various options, also returned a lacklustre response. LDMS demands a hefty hardware specification for the core server but we felt that dual Xeon 1.7GHz processors, 1GB of PC2100 RAM and an Ultra320 SCSI storage system should easily be sufficient.

The System Manager window for the selected server is a simple affair which is easily navigable. It opens with a basic hardware summary showing areas such as the motherboard, processors and memory and tops this off with warnings if anything untoward has been spotted. The first menu option to the left provides full access to the system inventory where you can take an in-depth, if somewhat pedestrian, journey through the server’s hardware specifications. Inventory accuracy has been improved in this release so you’ll find plenty of information available about storage hardware and capacities, CPUs, memory and the installed OS. Services can be monitored but you can also remotely stop and start them from the same window. Processes also get the same treatment and the list showing their names and system utilisation also provides an option to end those indicated by a tick box.

A smart feature is the ability not only to identify a USB storage device being connected locally but also to send out warnings to administrators. This should stop anyone trying to pilfer data locally but this also extends to advising you if any analogue modem activity is detected as well. In fact, the Alerts tool is one of Server Manager’s key strengths as you can monitor a wide range of components along with system performance and pick from a variety of alerting methods. Just choose a component, set low and high thresholds where relevant and decide how you want to be notified if either value is breached. Alerting doesn’t get any better as should you decide Server Manager doesn’t have enough choices you can forward them onto the main AMS (Alert Management System) maintained by the core server. Along with overall system health you can keep an eye on performance using counters and graphs. The latter can be viewed in real time although historical data is also maintained and you can also apply thresholds that can be used to warn you if, for example, processor utilisation reaches a certain level.

The Server Manager component looks to be a valuable addition to the main LDMS console. It offers good remote management tools along with very strong monitoring and alerting features and brings them together into a tidy interface easily accessed from the main LDMS console.

OUR VERDICT

The key requirement for any network management software is that it must help, rather than hinder, support staff and any product that increases this burden is a waste of money. LDMS has always been one of the top choices in this field, as it offers a wealth of support tools accessed from a well-designed interface, and the Server Manager component looks to be a worthwhile addition.