You've made your list, now check it twice

What would be on your wish list for 2002 if you had an unlimited budget? For some IT pros the answer is simple: Tools that make management easy and a trustworthy version of Windows.

Close your eyes and imagine your chief financial officer has just told you have an unlimited 2002 budget. Sure, it's tough to dream the impossible, but just say he did give you carte blanche to stock your shop with the latest and greatest.

What would be on your list?

According to a random sampling of IT pros, their list would be short, naming mostly software tools that make hardware and software management easier. Here's their top picks.

Application management and performance management tools.

Faster, easier access to information about how infrastructures and applications are performing will be needed, said Richard Ptak, senior vice president at Framingham, Mass.-based Hurwitz Group. These will be management "point-of-view" tools, he said. For example: Tools that give insight into Java components. Specifically, how the components are being used and performing.

That information will be especially helpful in the delivery of business services. "Better support and service will help business mangers achieve goals," he said.

2. Microsoft Windows improvement tools.

Perhaps one of the top areas where Windows systems administrators will want improvement in 2002 is in the Windows operating system itself. They want "a version of Microsoft that is more reliable, less prone to attack, and more interoperable," said David Strom, an expert on network and Internet technologies and president of the consulting firm David Strom, Inc.

According to Strom, this list includes:

  • A version of Windows that only crashes once a week and can still run all corporate applications.
  • A version of Internet Information Server (IIS) that doesn't require daily patching for security weaknesses.
  • A version of Outlook or Outlook Express that doesn't propagate viruses so easily.
  • A version of Office that could run on Linux and still exchange documents with Windows Office users.

3. More, more, and more security tools.

"Integrated security solutions that can correlate data from intrusion detection systems, pattern recognition systems, and transmission encryption systems will be wanted," according to Audrey Rasmussen, research director at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates.

Symantec NetRecon and Symantec Intruder Alert were listed by Shahin Yousefi, a DBA at Linthicum, MD-based Ciena, Corp., in his list of top five tools. NetRecon automatically scans systems and finds vulnerabilities before intruders can attack. Symantec Intruder Alert monitors systems to prevent unauthorized activity. Customized intrusion detection policies can also be created.

In terms of firewalls, SonicWall Pro VX was listed by Tony Conte, director of information and business systems at Racine, Wisc.-based Horizon Retail Construction, as "product of the year." Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SonicWall's ProVX is affordable and has features that rival that of Cisco System's firewalls, which can be very expensive but are chock full of useful features, he said.

Conte also suggested Antigen by East Northport, NY-based Sybari Software, Inc. for Microsoft Exchange anti-virus/filtering software. "It comes with two built-in scan engines of your choice." The software is unique, Conte said, because it has automatic content filtering and automatic update and scanning features.

4. Quick to deploy and easy-to-use tools.

Administrators want tools where they get the most bang for their buck, noted Ptak. That means tools that have easy implementations, yet can free up human resources.

5. Automated management and predictive analysis tools.

"Administrators will want management tools for applications that can predict provisioning needs," said Rasmussen. "These are tools that will help better capacity planning and analysis," Ptak added.

In the coming months, Conte said he will especially be looking into tools that track software and hardware. He noted that Microsoft's Systems Management Sever (SMS), which includes that kind of auditing capability, has too much of a resource overhead. It also "lacks a lot of the finer points that most other commercial products that perform similar functions have." So, Conte said he'll be looking elsewhere.

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