Product Review: US InfoWorld product awards: Novell ZENworks

Network software forms the technological backbone of an organisation. From expanding the role of servers to supporting clustered computing technologies to simply revolutionising the way in which you back up data, network software plays a critical part in the enterprise. InfoWorld Test Centre analysts decided on a solid Product of the Year winner in this category: Novell's ZENworks.

With the release of ZENworks, Novell succeeded in delivering a singular and effective solution for lowering the cost of supporting PCs in the enterprise. By leveraging Novell Directory Services (NDS) to draw on a single, centralised network directory, ZENworks gives administrators the capability to manage desktop policies and profiles, deploy applications to the desktop, and provide better help desk support. This approach greatly simplifies the network management model and infrastructure, and allows administrators to easily associate applications with individuals based on who they are or what their role is in the enterprise. They can also associate applications with departments or the organisation at large.

In its simplest form, ZENworks encapsulates the power of Microsoft's distributed desktop management tools, allowing administrators to tie these features to a common infrastructure component -- NDS. ZENworks also makes it easy for administrators to perform basic software inventory and support additional help desk functions, such as remotely controlling user workstations.

The additional enhancements ZENworks brings to the NetWare client also let administrators schedule unattended events, such as kicking off maintenance utilities such as a disk defragmenter, a virus scan, or a custom batch file, all with a great level of scheduling flexibility.

Improving on an already strong product, Novell delivered a maintenance release of ZENworks late last year. Novell extended the product's capabilities even further by adding integrated software metering and bundling a set of tools to check year 2000 compliance.

ZENworks stands apart from other solutions in several key ways: it gives administrators a single point of administration with other user-oriented management tasks; it reduces the management workload by providing automatic replication of user policies and profiles across various servers in the enterprise; and it provides a hierarchical inheritance model for efficiently deploying policies and applications, broadly or selectively, at will.

In the search for tools to help manage technology, it makes sense to pick a product that works well with what you already have. ZENworks does that for many IT shops. For improving desktop management, lowering the cost of application deployment, and making the enterprise a better place in general, it is definitely a winner.

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