Product Review: File transfers on steroids

Amidst the e-frenzy that defines today's computing world, it may not be particularly glamorous to focus on something as mundane as file transfers. Nevertheless, ask any administrator responsible for updating content across a wide heterogeneous enterprise, and you are likely to get an earful on this subject.

Customers using Computer Associates' Unicenter TNG systems management platform now have a new weapon in their arsenals - TransportIT.

TransportIT, which CA officially announced last week, is an add-on focused on transferring files across multiprotocol networks and a variety of operating systems. TransportIT supports Windows NT and 9X, Unix clients and NetWare; Unix, AS/400 and MVS servers; and the TCP/IP and IPX network protocols. The product's comprehensive platform support and its functionality impressed us.

While it is feasible that TransportIT could be used as a stand-alone product for enterprise file transfers, it relies on the underlying Unicenter infrastructure. The product will install the Unicenter framework if you don't already have it in place. We installed TransportIT on an NT server; while the setup procedure is wizard-based, prior knowledge of the Unicenter framework is necessary.

You must install three client agents on any machine that is to receive data. The three agents are standard and do not take up an unreasonable amount of disk space. You can add optional security agents to Windows 9X machines to ensure proper access to restricted files.

Once we were up and running, we ran the TransportIT administration client to set up a file transfer. The Explorer-like management interface lets you create transfers and their corresponding jobs. The transfer/job scheme is a bit confusing at first because much of the information contained in the two categories is redundant.

A transfer contains instructions about which files are to be copied and to whom they should be sent. You also set up the additional authentication mechanism for target and source computers within a transfer. You can design a transfer to send files to any combination of users or groups defined in the underlying Unicenter object database.

TransportIT jobs are used to initiate the defined transfers. Jobs can be sent in an ad hoc manner or via a sophisticated scheduling mechanism. The schedule can be set for a single instance, or for a recurring job with a predetermined expiration date. However, TransportIT is not intended for real-time replication.

TransportIT has a few management features that administrators will like. Most important, TransportIT has a checkpoint/restart facility. In case of a dropped or suspended transfer, this feature allows a job to resume where it left off. In addition, TransportIT has a "commit to disk" facility that flushes data from the client machine's cache in case of a system crash so the data is not lost.

Overall, TransportIT offers robust file copying for heterogeneous networks and operating systems. For large enterprises that are certain to have multiple operating systems and networking protocols, TransportIT's broad support is a major benefit. Unicenter has proven itself to be a dominant force for scalable enterprise systems management, and TransportIT is icing on the cake.

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