Canaveral iQ: Low-Cost Solution

Just need a few redundant servers, some shared apps and a quick, inexpensive setup? Check out New Moon Systems.

If you work in a law office, call center or manufacturing facility, you may like the convenience and centralized control offered by Windows 2000 terminal services; however, you may not have the money to set up a full-blown server farm nor the inclination to sit through lots of training learning to operate it. Your idea of a terminal server deployment may be setting up a couple of redundant servers, installing a few shared applications, and getting the whole shooting match into operation as quickly and inexpensively as possible. If this describes you, check out a new product called Canaveral iQ from New Moon Systems,

The feature set in Canaveral iQ focuses on the needs of organizations with 50 to 1,000 PC users, although there’s no reason it can’t scale above that number. The product leverages the existing multi-user architecture and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) in Win2K, so it doesn’t require an additional protocol layer. Instead, it uses a separate management layer that permits combining several terminal servers into a "team" that can be centrally managed.

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The appeal of Canaveral iQ is its simplicity and price. The folks at New Moon make no secret that they want to be the "value player" in the application-sharing market. At a per-connection price of about $175 (not including the cost of the Microsoft TSCAL licenses, if needed), Canaveral lets even a cost-conscious IT manager justify putting application sharing in his or her budget thanks to the savings inherent in centralized management.

Canaveral boasts a variety of features in spite of its relatively low cost. Unlike standard terminal services, you can publish individual applications from multiple servers. Users select their applications from a Web browser or from items on the Start menu. You can even publish an entire desktop if you want to give users maximum flexibility. A Web-based management console lets you associate Canaveral applications with Active Directory groups so you can target applications to specific departments or functions. A load balancing service spreads user connections among several servers in a Canaveral team of terminal servers.

Canaveral also overcomes a few of the key limitations in RDP version 5.0 that ships with Win2K. It displays drives from the user’s PC in a terminal server session to simplify file transfers. It implements a shared clipboard, something that normally requires a special utility from the Resource Kit. Best of all, Canaveral has a universal printer driver that eases the pain of printer configuration in a shared environment. The driver runs at the server where it creates a standard Enhanced Metafile (EMF) that’s delivered back to the client for processing and printing. This approach avoids multiple printer drivers and overloading of the spool engine at the terminal server, a common cause of problems. Canaveral is still subject to the 256-color limit and lack of audio redirection in RDP v5, but these will be alleviated when Windows .NET is released later this year.

Canaveral is a new product and, as such, it still has a few rough edges. The most significant problem is user account handling. In the current product version, the Canaveral database contains copies of the users’ Win2K credentials used for authenticating connections to Canaveral terminal servers. Maintaining a separate user database not only creates synchronization issues, it represents a potential security risk by storing the users’ password hashes outside of AD. New Moon engineers are modifying user account management in the next release of Canaveral iQ so that credentials are stored using Microsoft-approved security methods.

The other major issue is lack of support for terminals and non-Windows platforms. Although Canaveral uses RDP as a wire protocol, it still requires a client that understands how to connect to the Canaveral servers. As of this writing, the only Canaveral client is an executable that runs on Windows 9x, Win2K/NT and XP. New Moon is working with terminal manufacturers such as Wyse and NCD to include the Canaveral client, similar to the way it now includes Citrix clients. New Moon is also working on alternate clients that will run on Linux/Unix.

Canaveral faces stiff competition from Citrix MetaFrame, but the engineers and product managers at New Moon are a scrappy bunch determined to carve out a place for their product in the large and growing application sharing market. For example, Robert Blanden from the University of Connecticut Health Center is in the final stages of evaluating Canaveral for deployment to more than 2,500 users. Blanden likes Canaveral for its comparatively low price and ease of use. He isn’t deterred by a few product snags and praises New Moon for the speed at which it to responds to issues.

If your organization uses Windows PCs and needs basic application sharing at a reasonable price, you should include Canaveral iQ in your evaluation.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.

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