NetPro keeps watch over Active Directory –

The wake forming behind Microsoft's Active Directory continues to collect utilities designed to help IT executives deal with the complex, soon-to-be-delivered software.

It's no secret that Active Directory is poised to launch some enterprises into uncharted waters. Even Microsoft is recognizing that fact and trying to soften the plunge by fine tuning the software as the company races to release Windows 2000 by year-end.

This week, third-party vendor NetPro Computing is expected to ship Directory Analyzer, a product that monitors and manages directory infrastructures. While a host of tools have popped up to help pilot Active Directory and migrate from NT 4.0 domains, NetPro is one of the first vendors to offer diagnostic support once the directory is in place. The product comes from good stock -- NetPro markets a similar tool for Novell Directory Services (NDS).

"This tool is great for tracking problems," says Daren Dugan, network analyst for the University of North Texas in Denton. "We had communication problems on our network with directory synchronization, and we were able to monitor those. It wasn't that we couldn't find [the problems] with a simple trace, but the benefit was being able to do it from a central console where you can do multiple machines at one time."

Dugan used the NDS version of the tool, but believes anyone moving to Active Directory is sure to benefit.

Directory Analyzer for Active Directory monitors the structural components of the directory infrastructure. One important feature is monitoring and synchronizing Active Directory's Domain Name Service (DNS), which is replacing Windows Internet Naming Service for networking computers. Inconsistent DNS information across a directory infrastructure can bring traffic to a halt. Directory Analyzer also monitors replication functions, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol calls and response times.

Directory Analyzer uses different agents to watch over Domain Controllers and subnets. The agents run troubleshooting tests, report on possible causes of problems and recommend steps for repair.

"The things that can go wrong with Active Directory are arcane since IT doesn't have experience with this directory," says Kent Purdy, director of product management at NetPro."There will be a learning curve because Active Directory is a whole new animal."

As proof that the animal will need further care and feeding, NetPro already is working on the next version of Directory Analyzer, which will feature its administrative console as a snap-in for Microsoft's Management Console.

Directory Analyzer costs $14 per registered Active Directory user.

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