Infrastructure Takes Center Stage

Building a solid IT infrastructure is essential to maintaining communications in your organization. Here''s a sampling of key products vendors are showing off at TechEd 2005.

Microsoft Tech-Ed is one of the rare shows where you can come face to face with vendors that offer products complementary to the Microsoft roster. Here is a list of promising products announced and demonstrated at this year's show.

Availl Enterprise
Availl Enterprise is a suite of products that provide data protection by creating a wide area file system (WAFS), which replicates data from one location in your network to any other area. You can use Availl Enterprise for backup or file server replication, it lets you control bandwidth usage and replicate data in real time, and you can use its automatic replication for conflict resolution and to maintain coherence between replicated copies of data.
More info here.

DesktopStandard Corp.
Group Policy Objects (GPOs) comprise the strength of any Active Directory implementation, and despite the fact that Microsoft has created the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), there is still no given way to ensure your GPOs are controlled at all times. That's where GPOVault comes in. This GPMC extension integrates directly with the tools your administrators are used to so they can provide a comprehensive set of features for GPO change-control management. It provides complete control over GPO modifications, audits all changes, and helps standardize all GPO management. It even reports on the difference between different versions of GPOs, letting you know exactly what is happening at all times. This is all done through role-based administration.

The nicest part about this tool and all tools from DesktopStandard is that their creators have an excellent understanding of the GPO model Microsoft has put together. Any extensions DesktopStandard provides are complementary to this model and are easy to deploy because they are extensions of what you have already.
More info here.

MindManager X5 Pro
Mindjet Corp.
One of the best ways to communicate is to provide a map to readers. That's exactly what MindManager X5 Pro offers: the ability to generate maps from central topics and branch from this topic to other related topics. Maps can be documented further through the addition of hypertext links or documents. MindManager is especially useful if you are using a Tablet PC, but it also works well with full systems. If you need a better way to organize ideas, take a look at this powerful mapping tool.
More info here.

Replicator for SharePoint
Syntergy Inc.
One drawback to SharePoint Portal Server is it requires a central datacenter architecture because it does not support distributed architectures out of the box. This is a thing of the past with Syntergy's new Replicator for SharePoint. Replicator works with both SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services, in two editions—Stand-Alone and Standard.

The Stand-Alone edition is designed to replicate information within the same server; for example, it replicates data from a team site to the portal home page. This could be useful if you use the approval processes built into team sites to prepare data and, once it is approved, want the data replicated to the home page. The standard edition is much more powerful and contains the "meat" of this tool. It supports replication from SharePoint server to SharePoint server, which means you can create a truly distributed architecture, hosting all data in a central location while creating subsets of data available locally for remote users. This way you can protect all data in the central datacenter yet provide remoter users with faster LAN-based access to it.

Replicator supports the replication of all data elements in SharePoint including list data, metadata, document libraries, permissions and access rights, and more. Replication is two-way and can be sent to multiple endpoints. Replicator also includes conflict resolution logic, so your data stays protected. As far as we know, this is the only product on the market offering these features.
More info here.

Security Management Suite
According to recent research, the top three threats that organizations face are viruses and worms, employees acting in unauthorized ways, and failure to comply to regulations. Because of this, Altiris has assembled a new suite of tools aimed at identifying these and other threats and assisting you with resolving them or—better still—preventing them altogether. This suite includes a set of tools that control everything from patch management to software deployment, including auditing and application metering. In addition, Altiris provides special reports and integration points that make controlling these threats, if not painless, at least much simpler.
More info here.

Workflow.NET 2004 & SharePoint Accelerator
Skelta Software
Skelta provides two different workflow tools: Workflow.NET is designed for developers to build and extend workflow capabilities within their organization; SharePoint Accelerator is designed for business users and extends SharePoint's natural workflow capabilities with comprehensive workflow features. All code is built upon the .NET Framework and written in C# and SOAP, enabling developers to extend existing functionalities easily. Use Accelerator if you simply want to add extensive workflow capabilities to your SharePoint implementations, but use Workflow.NET if you need more power and want to integrate your own workflows.
More info here.

Workshare Professional 4
Workshare Inc.
Are you interested in document management? If so, check out Workshare Professional 4. This tool is designed to ensure document integrity by providing complete document-management features. Workshare lets you control document confidentiality and allows for complete check-in and check-out capabilities. Workshare integrates directly with your existing e-mail system to provide these features to Microsoft Office. If compliance in document management is important to you, check out this product.
More info here.

Zenprise Corp.
Although automated system management and monitoring is nothing new, Zenprise brings it to a new level by providing real-time, automated diagnosis and problem resolution across the Microsoft Exchange environment. That's because Zenprise uses a special set of correlation, causation, and correction algorithms to pinpoint e-mail problems accurately and provide detailed resolution steps—steps the system can perform.

Monitoring coverage includes DNS, Active Directory, and all the other components that make your Exchange system hum. One of Zenprise's greatest features is the knowledge base it includes. By default it can provide automated answers to a whole series of situations, allowing your Exchange administrators to perform other tasks rather than having to monitor the service constantly. In addition, when a problem does arise, Zenprise can help administrators solve them quickly, sometimes even before anyone knows the problem exists.
More info here.

About the Author

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest, both Microsoft MVPs, are IT professionals focused on technologies futures. They are authors of multiple books, including "Microsoft Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference" (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2008), which focuses on building virtual workloads with Microsoft's new OS.