If there’s one enterprise application that bedevils IT, it’s Microsoft Exchange. It can be difficult to manage, difficult to troubleshoot, and requires specialized storage management support in large enterprises. Not to mention that its client software frequently corrupts user mailboxes.
Often, the problems aren’t in Exchange itself but in other systems it interacts with. But they surface within Exchange’s operations and cause disruptions to e-mail delivery.
“Our founder talked to 40 companies to ask what the most difficult problem they had to solve that our detection technology could address. Ninety-five percent said, ‘E-mail,’ ” says Zenprise CEO Jayaram Bhat.
Zenprise offers some help. Its eponymous software analyzes Exchange’s operations, looking for patterns that signal incipient or current failure, and then alerts IT to any issues with a host of recommendations derived from a knowledge base and its own adaptive analysis of the enterprise’s actual environment.
“We do auto-baselining, calculating norms and looking for exceptions,” Bhat says. Although the product comes with basic assumptions that it can use from the get-go to help pinpoint causes, getting it fully up to speed is a learning process. “It takes a few weeks to understand your norms,” Bhat adds.
Such systems aren’t new — for years, Symantec has sold a desktop product that examines the Windows registry and suggests fixes based on pattern analysis and a knowledge base, for example. But, according to Bhat, what distinguishes Zenprise’s technology is the complexity of the algorithms and the underlying knowledge base.
“In a typical Exchange Server, there are global controllers, domain controllers, servers, transfer agents, and more, so you have to test each hypothesis,” Bhat says. “The logic is quite complex, since it has to understand not just the Exchange technology but how the server, Active Directory, network, and e-mail administration work together.”
The Zenprise software does just that, relieving the manual troubleshooting that IT typically does. It also takes the next step: noticing patterns that could lead to problems and suggesting preventive measures. Zenprise’s approach allows IT to do more than monitor Exchange; it allows administrators to keep Exchange servers running smoothly and fix problems faster. Products such as Zenprise won’t change the world, but they undoubtedly make the daily life of IT easier.
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