Management features are among the most significant aspects of a network operating system. The true on-going cost of an operating system can easily be measured in terms of administrative overhead. Therefore, having an excellent management sub-system will greatly reduce total cost of ownership. Features to look for include a strong, hierarchical, scalable, and extensible directory; excellent management tools; infrastructure to manage application deployment and user desktops; and a comprehensive security implementation to ensure data safety.
Windows 2000 Server provides the most integrated and comprehensive management solution. Active Directory is the most scalable, standards-based, and extensible solution of the three directories evaluated. Particularly impressive is the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) technology, which is the basis of all management tools. The most complete infrastructure to manage applications and desktops is provided. It features many unrivaled capabilities such as user data management (IntelliMirror), application installation services (Windows Installer), or remote operating system installation – features that are unmatched by the other two solutions. Provided in both Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000 is a Common Information Model (CIM) based on the WBEM standard. Via CIM, WMI allows management applications used by the administrator to access and control all managed devices, drivers, services, and applications in a single, consistent way. The management scripting and directory-enabled development implementation is also the most comprehensive. Windows 2000 is the only solution to support Kerberos, TLS, and smart card authentication and provide an encrypting file system for security.
In the area of management and directory services, Solaris 7 provides a fairly comprehensive solution. Sun Directory Services 3.1 provides a fully LDAP-enabled directory service implementation, which supports legacy NIS systems and RADIUS for remote access. Sun provides the Solaris Management Console 1.0 (SMC) for GUI-based management of local and remote systems, which isn’t as powerful or intuitive as Windows NT or Windows 2000 management tools. One area in which Solaris 7 seems to outperform Windows NT and Windows 2000 is remote management. While it is true that many powerful command line tools are available to remotely manage systems, these command-line tools have no GUI counterparts for the most part. Further, with the addition of Windows Script Host and Netsh to an already strong line-up of command-line tools, Windows NT and Windows 2000 can match the command-line capabilities of Solaris feature for feature. Solaris 7 does provide a feature-complete implementation of security tools. Kerberos V5, TLS, Smart Cards, X.509 Certificate Servers, 40-bit and 128-bit SSL are all available. However, there is no single tool or location that allows the administration of all aspects of security management.
Although it offers a good management infrastructure, Windows NT Server 4.0 falls into last place by its dated, non-extensible directory. It lacks key features in the other solutions, such as application distribution and management, user data management, and advanced authentication or encryption options. Its strongest points are GUI tools, MMC support, WBEM support, management scripting, and an excellent desktop management toolkit.