The Networking Top 10 of 1998

In 1998, John Glenn returned to space, Jerry Seinfeld resumed his private life and Network World reviewed more than 140 products, 10 of which we deemed to be World Class.

The 10 products that won our World Class Award, which goes to any product that scores 9 or better on our Score Card, cover a range of technologies. Many are network management products - not surprising because in response to reader demand we focus a lot of our review efforts in that area. Also among the World Class are three servers, a network modeling tool, two security products and a network operating system. Some are new, and some are new releases of existing products.

After looking over this year's winners, we picked the most ambitious product with the broadest scope as our Product of the Year - NetWare 5.

Product of the Year -- NetWare 5: reviewed Sept. 7Novell +1 (801) 861-7000, +1 (800) 638-9273http://www.novell.comNetWare 5 includes more fundamental changes to the operating system than any previous upgrade. Among the improvements are better administrator tools and easier client connections and logon. A new file system mounts huge volumes almost instantly; and the system's complete transition to pure IP network transport works seamlessly. One caveat: The just-barely-hatched ConsoleOne management interface is slow and limited in function."Users won't see the new network protocol, memory management improvements, upgraded file system and graphical administration interface, but managers will rejoice at Novell's continued improvement of a rock-solid network operating system- James Gaskin, Network World Test AllianceModeling, monitoring and administrationNetMaker XA: reviewed Feb. 23Make Systems+1 (650) 941-9800http://www.makesystems.comMake Systems' NetMaker XA is a network modeling and simulation package that lets you measure the effect of network changes before you make them. Intended for large networks, the product delivers top-notch performance and a huge set of add-ons, including vendor-specific device libraries. There's also a helpful disaster recovery planning option.

"The simulation engine in Make Systems' NetMaker XA is one of the most powerful you'll find, and is just one of the things that makes the product a thoroughbred. Everything we tried worked the way it is supposed to." Tom StearnsConfig Central 2.0: reviewed Jan. 19NetPro Computing+1 (800) 998-5090http://www.netpro.comConfig Central makes it quick and easy to outfit your NetWare servers with the latest NetWare Loadable Modules. It also simplifies the management of the many versions of software drivers on your servers. Among Config Central's strong points are a flexible scheduling function, rollback capability and easy installation. And with Config Central, you can automatically undo changes across multiple servers.

Unfortunately, in this version, you can't designate groups of servers to be updated together. Also missing is a macro or scripting feature that would let you execute frequently performed tasks with a single mouse click. Late last year, NetPro released Config Central 3.0, which we hope to review in a future issue.

"By allowing you to take a proactive approach to server management, Config Central keeps your network healthier with less unplanned downtime - Dennis Williams, Network World Test AllianceVitalSuite 2.0: reviewed Nov. 2INSoft, formerly VitalSigns Software+1 (408) 980-8844http://www.vitalsigns.comVitalSuite 2.0 is a diagnostic tool kit that gives you a clear view of network activity, helping you pinpoint problems. The server and client software are easy to install and are backed by superb documentation. A comprehensive set of charts and reports presents data with an impressive amount of detail.

"As soon as we installed VitalSuite, identifying overloaded servers, slow Domain Name System responses, missing Web pages and bogged-down client CPUs was easy - Bob Currier, Network World Test AllianceEnterprise Administrator: reviewed May 18Mission Critical Software+1 (888) 323-6768 you need help managing distributed NT domains, consider Mission Critical Software's Enterprise Administrator. It lets you assign administrative permissions to select users on a limited basis, giving them the ability to perform tasks normally relegated to domain administrators. Enterprise Administrator is exceptionally easy to use, relying on a hierarchy of marshal-deputy-user to distinguish users. It delivers a versatile command set and menu options.

"Microsoft offers no native tools for assigning [limited administrative] permissions, but we found products from three companies that do offer these tools. Mission Critical Software's Enterprise Administrator tops the list, winning our World Class Award on the strength of its effectiveness, documentation and superb technical support - Jeff BankstonClient securityFull Control 1.5: reviewed Aug. 3Bardon Data Systems+1 (510) 526-8470 Data Systems scored big with its first version of Full Control. A security tool for Windows 95 and 98 clients, Full Control lets administrators specify what programs can be run by whom and how long users are allowed to stay logged on. Full Control also monitors and logs all Web browser activity, locks out questionable sites and generates several excellent usage reports.

"Full Control is an excellent tool at any price and an amazing value at $49.95 per workstation. Its ease of installation, incredible number of configuration options and the unobtrusive way in which it works make it a must-have for anyone who manages Windows 95 and 98 workstations." - Bob Currier, Network World Test AllianceSAF/nt 2.0: reviewed Aug. 24The National Registry, Inc.

+1 (813) 636-0099

The National Registry, Inc.'s Secure Authentication Facility for NT (SAF/nt) supports the Human Authentication API, allowing you to use multiple biometric authentication methods, including fingerprint, voice and face recognition.

We tested voice verification, which relies on ITT Industries' SpeakerKey biometric technology. SAF/nt's most impressive feature is its seamless integration with Windows NT administration utilities and the NT client logon procedure.

"For a primarily NT shop that wants to go with biometric authentication, SAF/nt provides a level of integration with NT far above any other product we reviewed. If most of the machines in your company have sound cards, as do most sold in the past couple of years, SAF/nt's voice authentication can be an inexpensive biometric option." - John C.C. DukstaPentium II workgroup serversDell PowerEdge 2300: reviewed June 15Dell+1 (800) 999-3355's PowerEdge 2300 delivers the whole package. While it offered good performance, the PowerEdge 2300 caught our attention because of its strong serviceability, features, flexibility and manageability.

Dell's bundled management tools enable administrators to manage one PowerEdge server from another PowerEdge server, as well as administer a server from remote locations. Additionally, Dell's management bundle includes software that works with certain server hardware components to simplify management of Windows NT and NetWare servers.

"One of the strongest points of serviceability for the Dell server is that it can be disassembled without any tools. The drives are in hot-swap bays, the processors are secured with thumb screws, the cards are secured with plastic flip tabs instead of screws, and the case can be opened with thumb screws." - John Bass, Network World Test AllianceCompaq ProLiant 1600: reviewed Dec. 14Compaq+1 (800) 888-0220 performance is the hallmark of the ProLiant 1600, which aced our Web and file tests thanks to its extremely efficient SCSI controller and network interface card drivers. It also scored well in our SQL test. Solid management and serviceability features distinguish the ProLiant 1600, whose modular case can be disassembled for easy access to hard-to-reach components.

"The server's management features are similar to those of Compaq's high-end servers. Compaq Insight Manager integrates with many management platforms, including HP OpenView, Sun NetManager and Tivoli TME 10 Netview, and provides early detection of possible hardware failure. An Automatic Server Recovery feature gives the serverthe ability to reboot itself when necessary according to conditions configured by an administrator." - John Bass, Network World Test AllianceIBM Netfinity 5000: reviewed Dec. 14IBM+1 (800) 426-7255$wwwovseries/Netfinity+5000Super serviceability distinguishes the Netfinity 5000, which proved easy to service and troubleshoot and fared well in our performance tests. The case features a toolless design that does not use any screws. Everything comes apart with levers, which makes the unit a breeze to disassemble and reassemble.

"The server uses strategically placed LEDs on the motherboard to mark failed dual in-line memory modules, CPUs, fans and other components. This light path diagnostic feature could save a lot of time in trouble-shooting bad components." - John Bass, Network World Test Alliance

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