Here's an Active Directory (AD) scenario you might have witnessed: A company starts managing AD with native tools. Then it begins to use scripts to manage processes in AD. Sooner or later, the patchwork solution becomes unwieldy. Problems develop with misconfigurations. AD breaks.

Ensim believes the answer is to offer a Web-based tool set that's downloadable, leaves your system intact, and is up in a couple of hours. In Ensim Unify Enterprise, the company offers a suite of management tools that includes its Microsoft Active Directory Manager, Password Manager, Mobile Manager, Migration Manager, and Microsoft Exchange Manager. The tools are also available individually as modules.  

"We're seeing a lot of demand from the market," says Ensim's vice president of marketing and alliances, Francois Depayras. "Companies say 'we're outsourcing SharePoint but we want to keep our AD on the premises.' "

"IT admins are being asked to deal with users," adds Scott Young, who handles Ensim's product management and product marketing—if not to give users the keys to the kingdom, at least to give them more self sufficiency. One way to offer users limited independence is to give them templates to do tasks that admins used to do, such as provisioning new users. Young gave an example of an HR person who could provision a new user simply by selecting check boxes at a Web portal. Based on a foundation of role management, authentication and authorization determine who can do what. Processes become standardized, and users aren't waiting around to be provisioned, or, in the case of Ensim's Password Manager module in the suite, aren't waiting around for someone to reset their passwords.

Point solutions from other major players in the AD management space provide Ensim with new customers. "Every company starts there," Young says, but says that those who come to Ensim find the company's product "easier." The ability to provide ease of use, he says, came from the company's experience creating hosting management software for service providers. A solution had to be easy to use in an industry where large numbers of inexperienced consumer users encounter an equally large lack of technical support from their service provider. When Microsoft came to Ensim in 2003 and asked it to develop a product for managing AD, the company took the leap to the enterprise world.

Currently the company is offering a promotion on one module in the suite, Password Manager, at $3 a seat. AD Manager runs about $10 to $15 a seat depending on the number of seats. To learn more about Ensim's management modules and its Unify Enterprise Suite, see Ensim's Web site