Microsoft is planning to release a tool in the near future that would scan the IT environment and find network problems. The new tool is a network planner to help administrators identify potential bottlenecks when configuring a network. It's not clear whether the new tool will help administrators during installation.
Too bad this tool was not available during our testing because it would have saved us hours trying to figure out how to circumvent an IP conflict. We think administrators are going to have a problem installing the EBS Security server on existing networks, so we recommend placing the servers on a virtual environment during installation and carefully check conflicts before deploying on individual servers.
The install process for the Messaging and Security server follows the same logical steps. Like SBS, Essential Business Server is a wrapper around Windows Server 2008 networking services and servers such as Exchange, ForeFront and SharePoint Services, including integration with Office Live Small Business.
After the initial deployment, administrators can use the Management server to control most activities on a network and servers. Navigating the console is a breeze. One thing Microsoft gets right every time a new server comes out is the UI. The console is separated into three layers -- a list pane with a detail pane below it, and a task pane.
The features on the console are divided into categories in order of importance. (Microsoft devised the sections based on feedback from partners.) Navigation flows from the System Health tab all the way to a Licenses tab. System Health and Security panes are by far the most critical. The other panes combine general management features from all of the servers.
Every morning, administrators can use System Health to identify network issues and Exchange problems. By clicking on an event, administrators can get details of that event. On the task pane, administrators can jump into the appropriate event viewer and services console for any of the servers. The process is simple enough that novice engineers can quickly come up to speed.
The Security pane follows the same order by showing health status of ForeFront products. Having all of the security features in one place greatly simplifies management. Without the Security server, administrators have to jump to third party UTM appliances and EBS. Microsoft is providing an SDK for EBS, so software vendors will be able to add their own security plug-ins. According to Microsoft, Symantec is writing a plug-in for EBS.
For most tasks we found little need to jump out of EBS but since EBS is essentially a wrapper for other products, administrators can jump into the Roles server to change settings. During testing, we didn't see any conflicts arise by adding servers and users in AD outside of EBS. We expect that EBS updates changes made outside its environment.