Roll 'Em Out
- By Tony Northrup
Microsoft’s BackOffice solution
to software deployment, Systems Management Server (SMS)
2.0, includes a great deal of functionality beyond simply
installing applications, so we can’t ignore it.
SMS 2.0 is the only product reviewed that performs hardware
and software inventory—a feature that many administrators
don’t realize they need until they actually use
it. Inventory and licensing information is stored in
a Microsoft SQL Server database. This is both an advantage
and a disadvantage; while SQL Server makes the information
easily accessible, it’s costly and not all organizations
have a database administrator on staff.
SMS also includes a powerful version
of Network Monitor that can record packets as they cross
your network. If you understand how to use a protocol
analyzer, this “sniffer” is an incredibly
valuable tool for troubleshooting network applications.
Network Monitor is included with NT 4.0 and Windows
2000, but that version has functionality removed to
stop users from watching each other’s traffic.
One of the most challenging aspects
of managing thousands of computers on a network is physically
moving from system to system. SMS includes a remote
control utility that allows a systems administrator
to control the graphical user interface of Windows-based
clients. This makes it simple to change settings on
systems in remote offices, interactively troubleshoot
problems with users over the phone, or manage servers
that are isolated in a data center.
However, for all of its functionality,
SMS doesn’t completely replace Ghost nor Express.
You’ll still need one of these tools if you wish
to automate the installation of a disk image. Ghost
is an excellent compliment to SMS 2.0, because very
little functionality is duplicated between the two application
Tony Northrup, MCSE, Compaq ASE, lives in the Boston area and is currently
a systems architect at Genuity. He’s the author of Introducing Windows
2000 Server (Microsoft Press) and NT Network Plumbing (IDG Books), and
co-author of Networking Essentials Unleashed (SAMS Publishing).