Most of the time, InfoWorldzeros in on strategic technology decisions that affect the enterprise as a whole. But to keep your organization humming from day to day, it's vital that your IT department be equipped with the right tools. To that end, we polled our own Test Center analysts to find out what gets used on almost every job.
The choices may not be obvious to the casual observer, but they're tried-and-true. Your datacenter may have top-of-the-line networking equipment, big-ticket apps, the latest OS, and every patch ever released. But when the chips are down, your staff had better be equipped with the software arsenal it needs. When all else fails, these are the tools that get the job done.
No one can offer a Swiss army knife to cover every contingency, but our analysts and a cross section of InfoWorldcontributors have come up with the next best thing: A list of the most useful, powerful tools they've used to make things work. You won't find technology that changes the world here. But your staff may be better equipped to handle the slings and arrows of everyday IT.
Perhaps there has never been a more malleable, yet simple language than Perl — traits that have made it indispensable on Unix systems. Combining the portability of a shell language, simple database interfaces, surprising speed, and a world-class regular expression engine, Perl has become the duct tape that holds networks together. It’s that most important type of tool: one for building other tools.
Perl isn’t limited to the Linux/Unix world, either; plenty of time and effort has been put into making it run on Windows. ActiveState’s ActivePerl implementation is generally regarded as the best available for the Win32 platform. Its PPM (Perl Package Manager) emulates the Unix version’s CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network) access, pulling add-on modules from the Internet on request. Plenty of Windows-specific functions are also available. For example, Perl can interface with Microsoft’s Active Directory to automate object creation and modification. It can even be statically compiled into log-in scripts, for those requiring more flexibility than KiXtart can provide. Best of all, as are all versions of Perl, ActivePerl is fully open source and available at no charge, although ActiveState’s commercial ASPN (ActiveState Programmer Network) Perl package includes a variety of value-added components and support options.
rom simple packet sniffing to thorough network performance analysis, software that can peer between the layers and pull out important information about a network is a mainstay of network administration. Of the many network analysis tools available, the most malleable and easily procured is the open source package Ethereal— which explains why it made the top 10 lists of so many of the techies we spoke to.