Product Reviews

Only the Kitchen Sink is Missing

NetIQ's DRA and ExA provide comprehensive administration of all facets of Exchange 5.5, 2000 and Windows domains and computers.

If you're looking for a comprehensive administration tool that deals with Active Directory, Exchange 5.5, Exchange 2000 and, with the optional File System Administrator, files and folders, NetIQ has a product for you. By comparison to the features and functionality provided by Directory Resource Administrator (DRA) and Exchange Administrator (ExA) from NetIQ, ExMS and Aelita's Enterprise Directory Manager seem like small fry. NetIQ has almost put all of its eggs in one basket with this suite.

Product Information

Directory and Resource Administrator 6.4
Exchange Administrator 6.4
, $9/user
NetIQ Corporation
San Jose, CA

For more Exchange tools, see "Keeping Exchange Running" in the May 2002 issue.

The power behind DRA comes from its three-tier architecture where an administration server sits between the client console and the various AD, Exchange, and other servers being managed. You can create ActiveViews, which present a specific view of various objects, the rules applied to the objects, and any assistant admins and roles allowed to manage them. From an Exchange perspective, this was the only product reviewed that allowed management of both Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 servers, as well as Active Directory.

Installing this product was easier than you'd imagine given its scope and breadth. The installation program installed an Extensible Storage System database to hold its configuration information policies and other elements, which was a bit surprising considering most of the competition use SQL Server or MSDE. Nonetheless, once installed and the domains and Exchange server mailboxes, both 5.5 and 2000, were configured to be administered, the policies that were configured and the objects that they were applied to all worked as expected.


NetIQ DRA and ExA provide the ability to manage Active Directory, Exchange5.5, and Exchange 2000 servers from the same console. (Click image to view larger version.)

The capabilities of this product blew me away. In larger organizations you can configure multiple administration servers to distribute the workload and take into account network topology. Managing user, groups, Exchange 5.5 mailboxes, Exchange 2000 servers and storage, and almost everything else that you can find in a Windows 2000 or Windows NT environment is possible. Creating policies to automate many repetitive administrative tasks across a wide breadth of servers make this one a must-have.

Perhaps the only downside is that DRA and ExA try to do too much. The resources needed to run them are significant, although only an Access database is required for reporting (unlike the Aelita tools that require MSDE or SQL Server). It can take some time to learn the product but the upside can be quite tremendous.

About the Author

Damir Bersinic, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCT, is an independent consultant, trainer and author.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Mar 30, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

good article, but is better than Patrol?

Thu, Apr 10, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

What the review fails to explain is the slow performance of the DRA administrative interface. Even when logged directly into a idling DRA server, the performance is considerably slower than the standard AD/NT4/Exchange administration tools. This defies logic since all of the data is cached locally on the DRA server. Also, a DRA server can potentially take hours to effectively start up as DRA caches objects from managed & trusted domains.
Addtionally, the review did not mention how cumbersome configuring DRA active views can be, especially when compared to delegating permissions within Active Directory.
All is not bad with DRA, however. The best feature of DRA is that you can set policies and rules which allow you to enforce things such as naming conventions and homeshare rules - defintitely not possible with the Microsoft native toolset.
The review sounds as if it was reviewing the product brochure, not real world product experience.

Wed, May 22, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

And....administer NT4 SAM database as well...Great tool!!!

Tue, Apr 23, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Another great article. I use this product and agree with your assessment. I especially like the power and security provided by the three-tier architecture. Thanks Damir!

Tue, Apr 23, 2002 Michael K. Houston

This is an excellent example of the unbias product review from MCP. I love reading you guys magazines. Thanks everyone for all of your hard work and dedication for making MPC magazines the only magazines worth reading!

Mon, Apr 22, 2002 Vinod Anonymous

Well written article and an excellent working product

Mon, Apr 22, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Excellent article. Thanks.

Mon, Apr 22, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Excellent article. Thanks.

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