Message Management

By Tom Duffy, Network World |  Networking

Electronic design automation firm Mentor Graphics has 65 offices spread among 22 countries, and they're all tied together via 25 servers running Microsoft Exchange 5.5. Tending to such a far-flung network without a comprehensive messaging management tool would be all but impossible.

"I don't know that we've got an office in every time zone, but it's pretty close," says Robert Klohr, Mentor's messaging engineer in Wilsonville, Ore. "Messaging management is critical for us."

Fortunately for Mentor, there are a variety of tools devoted to taming the e-mail beast. While their costs and capabilities vary dramatically, each is geared toward ensuring that traffic moves smoothly and efficiently, whether companies have a single mail server or one in every country.

Messaging management tools monitor the performance of e-mail applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes/Domino. Features range from alerts that notify managers of bottlenecks before they cause system breakdowns to trend reporting and capacity planning.

While BMC Software and a handful of companies offer products that can be tailored to Exchange and Notes/Domino, most of the roughly two dozen firms in the market concentrate on a single application. The tools are generally priced per seat.

Klohr chose to deploy Quest Software's 2MA, formerly known as MessageWise, which gathers performance monitoring information from Exchange and Notes/Domino servers. 2MA queries Mentor Graphics' Exchange servers from a central location rather than loading monitoring agents on individual servers, which sometimes can drag down performance.

The agentless architecture was the biggest draw for Klohr. "There is no client install on any of the machines," he says. "That was a big plus for us. Limiting the applications that run on that server greatly reduces chances of conflicts or of something breaking something else."

Key considerations

There are a host of issues to consider before selecting a messaging management tool. First and foremost is the depth of information and management capability needed. For some IT managers, the Exchange 2000 management console will provide more than enough information about flow rates and queue length, among other things.

"As more organizations implement Exchange 2000 and Notes R5, they may re-evaluate whether they need all these tools," says David Nelson, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group.

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