BlackBerry-based server admin tool updated

At this week's annual enterprise BlackBerry user conference, Rove Mobile demonstrated the newest version of its mobile IT administration software.


At this week's annual enterprise BlackBerry user conference, Rove Mobile demonstrated the newest version of its mobile IT administration software.

Rove Mobile Admin is a suite of tools that mobilises the IT staff. The client/server software leverages the BlackBerry's always-on, push mobile e-mail to send alerts to administrators, and let them take actions on a range of critical enterprise servers, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server, VMware, Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes.

At Research in Motion's annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium this week, Rove also announced the client application will run on the just-announced BlackBerry Bold smartphone.

Version 4.0, which was just released, introduces a Web interface, support for tens of thousands of servers, and inclusion of Microsoft SQL Server Express so that data administration data can be stored on a back-end SQL Server database. The company has also introduced a new licensing model, switching to per-administrator from per-server licenses. It's priced at US$495 per user.

Rove Mobile, based in Ottawa, was founded in 2001 and originally developed remote access software that let mobile devices access servers. There are now over 500 customers worldwide, among them Google, Wells Fargo, and DHL, according to company executives. The first release was only for handhelds but was later extended to run on PCs. The last release of Rove Mobile Admin, Version 3.3, was in early 2007.

Rove also offers PCMobilizr, a handheld application that lets individuals log on to their home PCs, see the PC screen and remotely manipulate the mouse and keyboard. A video of PCMobilizr in action, from our January 2008 DEMO show, is online.

"We allow administrators to be completely mobile," says Paul Dumais, CTO for Rove Mobile. "If they're standing in a Home Depot checkout line, they can log into their network [via their BlackBerry], and fix a server problem. Before, you had to drive home or to the office and get on your PC.

With their BlackBerry in hand, users click on the Rove Mobile icon and connect over the cellular network to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. After authentication, they see their list of servers and click on the Windows Domain Controller. Selecting the Microsoft Active Directory Icon displays the directory tree, and users simply drill down to a specific server, authenticate if necessary, and access diagnostic information and the permitted administrative tasks, such as "reset password."

Handhelds are fast becoming an essential tool for administrators, letting them stay connected to their network even when not sitting at an office PC.

Connections between client and server are encrypted via SSL, and pass through the secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The software works with RSA's SecureID tokens and RADIUS servers, and supports VPN clients.

One rival is Avocent's SonicAdmin, introduced in September 2006 , based on software acquired by Avocent with the purchase of Sonic Mobility.

There are two main changes in Version 4.0, apart from the licensing.

Rove Mobile Admin now stores all its data in a real database, whereas previously it relied on configuration files to maintain lists of servers and users. The application now incorporates Microsoft SQL Server Express, the embedded, lightweight version of SQL Server, or customers can point to a back-end data store, according to Dumais.

Secondly, the Web interface now allows any client device with any browser access the back-end servers.

The application also now can be used with the most recent versions of Microsoft servers and client platforms; Exchange 2007, Windows 2008 and Vista.

The licensing change was made at the behest of customers, who said they wanted to let designated administrators access any server, rather than any administrator accessing a limited number of licensed servers, says Dumais.

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