Enterprise network management software tends to fall into one of two categories. On the one hand there are those that plod along for years receiving scant attention from the parent company and on the other there are products that are regularly updated to keep in step with demand. Microsoft's SMS (System Management Server) falls into the former category while LANDesk Software's Management Suite (LMS) is firmly a member of the latter. Historically, LMS is a comparative old-timer having been first launched way back in 1985 by LAN Systems and sucked into the Intel empire in 1991. Last year saw the product break free as an independent company in a move that allowed Intel to concentrate on its core chip products. LMS has always been a fully-fledged network management package offering a wide range of features designed to reduce management overheads and simplify support issues. Along with workstation hardware and software inventory, server management and software distribution, you get plenty of help-desk related tools such as remote control and file transfer. This latest version also adds license monitoring, improved OS migration tools and support for Mac OS X systems. Streamlined agents
LMS groups network devices together in domains each requiring a core server. A management database is also needed to store inventory data and smaller networks of less than 250 nodes can use the bundled copy of MSDE. Installation is remarkably smooth and a useful new checker utility confirms that all the various pre-requisites have been met. All the action starts at the Desktop Manager from where all managed systems are viewed and controlled. This also incorporates a Server Management component for monitoring areas such as processor activity, available storage space or memory usage, and displaying real-time graphs for many areas. Agents are required on workstations and servers that are to be included in the LANDesk domain and deployment has been nicely streamlined as you can install them manually, use a login script or push them to selected systems. A wide range of options are made available including remote control, license metering, scheduling, inventory and server management. You can choose which ones you want to deploy and whether users can interact with them. Help desk functions are easily accessible as you can browse the network, select a client and initiate remote control, transfer files or have a text-based chat. Inventory accuracy has never been a strong feature of LMS and although it has been improved overall detail is still comparatively limited. LMS provides a basic rundown of hardware and software components and had no problems identifying the various Windows OSes on our test network and which service packs had been applied. Change tracking could prove useful as you can select any component identified by the inventory scan and ask to be notified if it changes. Agents: licence to use
The new software licensing feature uses local agents to keep an eye on running applications to keep you on the right side of the law. Metering is simple to set up as you select the application executable to be monitored and add the number of licenses purchased. LMS keeps track of usage and will deny a user access to an application if running it will exceed the license count. A key area that LMS is now aimed at is OS installation to new workstations or migration of existing systems using image deployment. LMS comes with its own imaging tool but also supports Microsoft Sysprep images and those created by other products such as Drive Image and Ghost. These are stored on a separate server and you can use a PXE proxy or LMS agent to boot selected clients ready to receive an image over the network. The Targeted Multicasting feature will prove useful on large networks as it allows packages to be distributed to multiple clients simultaneously by making one transfer to each subnet. When compared with other cumbersome network management products, LMS looks ever more nimble. It has benefited from a continuous development program. Although inventory is a weakness it still delivers a fine range of management tools, brings them together in a single central interface and tops them off with excellent reporting and alerting facilities.