NetPro releases Active Directory tool

The Active Directory toolbox available to IT executives will get a little deeper next week.

NetPro Computing Inc. will launch its DirectoryInsight tool, which provides change and configuration management for the directory service that is key to Windows 2000. IT executives are finding that to ease Active Directory migrations and maintenance, they need a range of third-party tools from vendors such as Aelita Software Inc., Bindview, FastLane Technologies Inc. and NetIQ Corp.

NetPro hopes to find its niche with DirectoryInsight, which promises to provide easy access to data detailing the directory's operation that would otherwise have to be mined manually.

DirectoryInsight helps IT track the ongoing population of objects in the directory, such as users, printers and applications, giving administrators a log of how their directory environment is growing. The tool also logs modifications made to the directory infrastructure, such as changes to configuration, schema, replication, policies and overall directory structure.

Corporate users say the tool provides a bird's-eye view of Active Directory and its ever-evolving world.

"This shows me in numbers what's out in my Active Directory sites, such as users, groups, organizational units and domains," says one directory administrator for a large bank in the Southeast who asked to remain anonymous. "I can see over time how information builds up. I can set up trending, track growth to see if I need to add a new domain controller in a location or change my replication schedule. And I can see the cause and effect of adding new objects."

The administrator says that without the tool it would be a very manual process to export the data from Active Directory. "This is very graphical and you see the data with some context."

The tool works in conjunction with NetPro's DirectoryAnalyzer, which ensures the health and performance of Active Directory.

"With DirectoryInsight, we are delivering a tool to those directory customers that are not having an easy time managing change," says Travis Campbell, senior product manager for DirectoryInsight. "For example, customers will have directory-enabled applications that will modify directory schema, and they need to be able to associate those modifications with any performance changes."

DirectoryInsight runs as an agent on a server that monitors Active Directory's Global Catalog, which holds a replica of every object in the directory. The agent reports on changes made to the catalog and writes them to a database. The agent also loads an ActiveX control into an administrator's Web browser, which is used to query the database. The console can create security groups so only certain administrators have access to the DirectoryInsight data.

DirectoryInsight will ship next month and is priced at $5 per user object. Current DirectoryAnalyzer customers who buy the new software will be charged $3 per user object.

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