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Making It Easier To Manage Heterogeneous Desktop Systems

A vendor is pushing products designed to let admins manage whole infrastructures from a Windows computer.

Larry Greenemeier

September 14, 2004

3 Min Read

In a bid to help systems administrators extend their Windows-management tools to Unix, Linux, and Mac operating systems, Vintela Inc. has introduced several applications that address group-policy designations and a wider variety of Unix flavors.

Vintela has also launched management-extensions software that allow for monitoring and management of non-Windows clients natively from within Microsoft's Systems Management Server 2003.

Vintela's goal is to let system administrators manage their entire IT infrastructure using Windows management tools. "We want companies to be able to use [Microsoft] Active Directory throughout their IT operations," Vintela president David Wilson says. Although systems integrators and even IT staff themselves have created customized programs for integrated management, Vintela is offering a standardized package that reaches a wider audience, he adds.

"Vintela looks at Unix and Linux systems like they're Windows and understands the protocols they use," says Matt Peterson, Vintela's chief technology officer.

Southern Co., an electrical utility with about 26,000 employees, has been using Vintela Authentication Services since the beginning of the year to coordinate directories between its Windows environment and more than 300 Sun Solaris servers. Southern's ability to manage its user directory helps the company comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, created to improve corporate financial accountability.

"When people leave a company, you need to be able to turn off their systems access in a rapid fashion," says Cliff McManus, a project manager in Southern's IT program-management department. Vintela's technology lets Southern do this through Windows Active Directory rather than through both Active Directory and a Unix management tool.

The U.S. Air Force has been evaluating Vintela Management Extensions for SMS for the past six months as a way to use Systems Management Server to extend inventory collection and patch distribution to its Sun Solaris systems and Linux desktops.

"Vintela is the only tool we are aware of that effectively integrates all OS functions into an existing SMS infrastructure," said Eroica Johnson, the Air Force Communications Agency's project lead for Enterprise Security Support, in an E-mail interview. "An organization would have to invest resources in another configuration-management product that supports multiple operating systems. If SMS is already deployed in an enterprise, that would constitute a significant investment."

Monday marks the debut of Vintela Authentication Services 2.6, which features a Unix software developer's kit to let developers create Unix APIs for integrating with Microsoft Active Directory through LDAP, Kerberos, and GSS-API, a tool that provides administrators with an interface to system security services. Whereas LDAP, or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, is a set of formats for accessing information directories, Kerberos is an MIT-designed network-authentication system that can be used to give users a single sign-on for multiple applications.

Version 2.6 also includes new support for IBM's 64-bit AIX Unix operating system and Sun Solaris on x86 and Sparc platforms, as well as the ability to apply group policies to Unix through Vintela Group Policy. Vintela Group Policy is an application that runs in conjunction with Vintela's authentication-services software to let system administrators assign privileges and restrictions to a group of Unix and/or Linux users via the Microsoft Group Policy framework.

Vintela began as a project within Santa Cruz Operations before it was acquired by Caldera Systems (Caldera later changed its name to SCO Group). Vintela spun out of SCO Group as an independent company and began shipping its authentication services in April 2003.

Vintela's technology may not be the only way to create an integrated IT-management environment, but it is an effective way to extend management to Unix through Active Directory, says Fred Broussard, IDC's senior research analyst. Despite Windows' popularity, Unix will be a part of IT operations for many years to come, he says. "Every time I've talked to organizations with more than 5,000 users, they almost always have a healthy mix of Unix and Windows, plus some Linux out there."

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