FastLane speeds decentralized admin

Management tools are popping up left, right and centre, and Ottawa-based FastLane Technologies Inc. has added its latest version of its directory management tool to the list.

The DM/Administrator 4.5, which is now available, is a directory management application which allows network administrators to build multiple views on Active Directory, according to the company. Levels representing the administrator’s tasks can be built across Windows NT platforms, which means administrators are capable of building administrative structures which can be migrated to Active Directory. The product also allows users to build business views of the network.

Administrative requirements don’t match the way domains have been deployed, according to Keith Millar, the director of product management at FastLane in Halifax. Domains in NT usually have different objects such as users, groups, printers and services, he explained.

“Business requirements mandate you need to take those objects and provide those in a view to specific administrators that represents what their role in a company is,” Millar said. “So you can take all those objects with DM/Administrator – even take them from multiple domains – put together what we call virtual domains, or virtual organizational units, and provide those views to people working in administrative roles, or at the help desk.”

For example, he explained, if administrators wanted to give people at the help desk the power to do repetitive tasks, such as changing passwords, the DM/Administrator would allow them to do so by providing a business view.

The administrator is also able to pick specific things that each user will be able to edit, and could even customize what a user account looks like to someone at the help desk.

“There’s quite a range of right you can give,” he explained. “You could give a significant amount of authority over all of the users in a domain, and then you could get right down to giving someone only rights to change one attribute on one user. It’s all very configurable within the product.”

The DM/Administrator 4.5 is a very useful tool in certain situations, according to Steve Kleynhans, vice-president with META Group in Toronto.

“It allows for the delegation of administration to people more closely associated with the resource. That’s an important thing to provide for most companies,” Kleynhans said. “People don’t want to have to call the help desk to make minor changes to a printer, for example.”

The DM/Administrator also features Action Objects, which automate processes to ensure that all of them have been completed. Action Objects enable the creation of users, the ability to add those users to a group, and to create a Microsoft Exchange mailbox from the DM/Administrator interface.

The product ships with more than 20 Action Objects, according to Millar. It can also integrate completely with the company’s DM/Manager, which can update the Administrator to reflect any changes that resulted from migration.

A product such as this one can make a difference, Kleynhans said.

“Organizations that have large NT 4-based systems or environments are facing some significant pain managing those environments, and a product like DM/Administrator certainly can ease that,” he said.

He did acknowledge that the tool may not always be beneficial for a company. In many organizations, administrators want central control of important resources in one place.

“They don’t want user IDs being created randomly throughout the company,” he explained. “They don’t want user information being changed, they don’t want passwords being managed randomly around the company.”

While the DM/Administrator offers the flexibility to delegate responsibility throughout the organization, that flexibility “could end up being a detriment to many companies if they don’t manage the process properly.”

Individual companies will have to decide “whether they’re going to find this to be a significant advantage or not. But at least you now have the flexibility. With raw NT 4 domains, you don’t have that flexibility.”

But there is also a challenge for companies offering tools such as these, according to Kleynhans.

“I think that’s the challenge they all have to address – what role do they play in two years once companies have converted to Windows 2000?”

Pricing for FastLane’s DM/Administrator is US$7 per managed user. For more information, see FastLane at