Zenprise 2.0 released

by Bharat Suneja

Yesterday was the dreaded tax day in the US when many tax-payers who wait for the last day (and some – myself included – who wait for the last few hours/minutes of the last day… ) scramble to get their tax returns filed.

Extended by a couple of days (the last day is usually April 15th – this year that day fell on a Saturday, and thus the extension), the day marked an important milestone for Zenprise – we launched Zenprise 2.0, the much-awaited release of what’s quickly becoming an interesting and exciting tool for Exchange admins.

Zenprise is a “real-time troubleshooting and diagnostics” tool for email environments (read “Microsoft Exchange”, it also includes coverage of components Exchange depends on, like Active Directory, DNS, connectivity, et al).

Many Exchange folks greet Zenprise with skepticism, like I clearly remember myself doing when I first encountered the product and the company last year, prior to the release of version 1.x. Interestingly, in its first version the product got a very encouraging thumbs-up from IT journal Infoworld (read “Infoworld gives a thumbs up to Zenprise 1.0.3“) and landed the company amongst the finalists for Software Newcomer of The Year award at the Codie Awards this year.

For most part, the skepticism is justified if you’re not familiar with the product, the technology, and the folks behind it. I did not grasp the breadth and depth of Zenprise till day 2 of being a Zenprise employee and becoming more familiar with exactly how Zenprise does what it does. Needless to say, now I’m a big fan of the technology and as we head into the Exchange “12” release cycle, I am quite excited about its potential.

So what does Zenprise do?
Simply put, it detects problems with an Exchange email environment, pro-actively, in real-time. It runs thousands of rules provided by Exchange experts that look for whether things are broken, and whether Exchange is working as it should. When it detects issues related to configuration, performance, connectivity, et al – it alerts the user and provides step-by-step instructions for correcting it.

To be clear, Zenprise does not promise to detect every single Exchange and Exchange-related issue out there – that would be an incredibly hollow claim to make if you’ve spent any time working with Exchange and all the nuts & bolts of the machinery under the hood that makes it work. However, we’re taking small steps every day to get closer to that shifting goal. The promise is to proactively detect problems related to configuration (or mis-configuration), and performance specific to customers’ Exchange deployments. One of the big benefits from the step-by-step instructions Zenprise provides is a dramatic reduction in resolution time.

Zenprise 2.0 adds many new features. Notably (not a comprehensive list, and mostly free of marketing-speak :-):
– a brand new UI that beta customers have provided excellent feedback about
improved performance
self-healing. One of the promises of this new technology that promises to troubleshoot Exchange is to be able to troubleshoot itself too! Zenprise 2.0 automatically informs users about issues with the Zenprise Management Server itself and how to resolve them.
cluster support: 2.0 marks the beginning of cluster support
support for external knowledge: if you’ve been keeping track, we’ve signed up some major publishers to include knowledge from your favorite Exchange books. This in itself is an excellent topic for another post.
enhanced prediction: here’s where Zenprise really shines. It automatically creates an ongoing performance baseline in an Exchange deployment and checks against this historical performance to predict and identify potential problems.

It is quite satisfying to talk to customers and beta users – seeing and hearing about the kinds of problems detected and potential issues and disasters averted. Along the way, we keep adding more knowledge, including that based on feedback from customer environments.

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