Windows admins seek increased automation

Internal politics is the topmost frustration for Windows administrators, who would prefer less bureaucracy and more automation over a salary increase, according to a research survey published this week.

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Pheonix, Ariz.-based NetPro released the results of an opinion poll taken during its annual user conference that also said compliance and security were the top Active Directory-related projects in the enterprise. Netpro makes tools that work with Active Directory.

Gil Kirkpatrick, NetPro’s CTO and founder, said most of the Active Directory projects he sees are focused on reducing the number of domains or domain controllers in an IT environment, or integrating other applications and even other platforms such as Linux into Active Directory, as well as user provisioning.

“I was surprised at (security and compliance) still being at the top. Most of the companies I work with, they’ve sorted out how to do their compliance reporting, and they know what to do to pass their audits,” he said.

While the demand for increased automation is obviously good news for a company like NetPro, Kirkpatrick said Windows administrators face a number of hurdles to getting away from the more manual workarounds that are common within Active Directory deployments today.

“IT organizations usually can pay attention to one or two things at a time,” he said. “Tools are generally considered another project, and that never gets much priority.”

Greg Singleton, principal of a company called Strattisoft in Ottawa that helps deploy NetPro products, said the same trend is true in Canada.

“It’s just competing priorities,” he said. “A lot of the interest in automating that stuff happens – I’m not going to say at a low level, but at the Active Directory admin level. Those guys have to understand how to justify the investment.”

Kirkpatrick said some customers are starting to get the hang of making the right kind of business case.

“Showing people they could do something they couldn’t do before is a good sales tool,” he said. “If you show them you can now produce compliance reports auditors are demanding, that might work. Selling them on the fact that they can generate compliance reports cheaper or faster, that’s not necessarily going to do it.”

The NetPro survey showed strong report for some Microsoft technologies, including SharePoint and Microsoft Operations Manager. Fifty one per cent of those surveyed also said they plan to implement Windows Server 2008 immediately or within 12 months of its release next year. One area that lacks broad interest, according to Kirkpatrick, is identity management, despite Microsoft’s efforts around standards such as WS-Federation.

“That is getting more attention but if you were to look at the number of people doing federation projects, it’s pretty small,” he said.

The lack of tools can’t be hurting too much, however. Although the 2007 survey found that only a quarter of IT organizations consider their infrastructure management efforts to be well-automated, half said they consider themselves world-class or “better than average” in their directory management performance.

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