Product of the Day: NeedTEXT Shell
Epoch Integration Inc., makers of the NeedTEXT Shell software for Network and System Administrators, recently released version 2.0 of the product. The software allows IT professionals to securely manage their servers and networks from BlackBerry Wireless Handhelds by Research In Motion (RIM). Version 2.0 adds many enhanced features to the application, which now also supports all Java-based BlackBerry models.
NeedTEXT Shell is a client-server application that provides administrators with a command-line interface on a mobile device, with which to manage their servers, routers, and other network infrastructure systems. The NeedTEXT Shell server resides on the customer's network, behind the firewall, and all data transmitted to and from the handheld client is encrypted. Administrators are therefore able to use all of their favorite command-line tools, such as ssh, telnet, and ftp, to troubleshoot and fix problems from anywhere within wireless network coverage. This allows them to significantly reduce system downtime by reacting to problems quickly, even if they are away from the office or a wired terminal.
Epoch Integration has focused on engineering the software specifically for use in a mobile context. As the company's chief technology officer, Wally Trenholm, explains, "True mobility in a shell access tool requires a constantly connected session that is always ready to use. A server-side component is needed to address flow control and intermittent connectivity issues caused by the radio network, wireless gateway software, and firewalls. Without a server-side component, a mistyped command could flood the wireless network, resulting in the user's device being disconnected, or running up the usage charges on their data bill. The server-side component also saves the user sessions for handhelds that are temporarily out of coverage, allowing administrators to have terminal sessions that follow them everywhere they go."
In addition to satisfying the unique technical demands of the wireless environment, NeedTEXT Shell incorporates usability features that make life easier for demanding IT professionals. For example, up to eight simultaneous shell sessions can be running through the software, allowing administrators to easily switch between management consoles on several of their host systems. Augmented security mechanisms provide peace of mind, too, for admins worried about accessing their network from a wireless device. On top of the 168-bit 3DES encryption provided by the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, NeedTEXT Shell implements a complete encryption and security layer that includes advanced device authentication, and client application-level timeouts with password locking. A web-based administration console provides a master administrator with the ability to manage end-users and their wireless devices, including the option to kill specific sessions.
With the version 2.0 release, NeedTEXT Shell now supports all Java BlackBerry devices world-wide, including North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The industry-leading handheld, from RIM, is the perfect tool for Network and System Administrators. Featuring a full, integrated, QWERTY keyboard and always-on wireless connectivity, a BlackBerry with NeedTEXT Shell software is like carrying a secure terminal on your hip. The software was developed in response to demand from IT professionals who had rolled out BlackBerry for their organizations, says Epoch Integration's president, Ramon Tavares. "NeedTEXT Shell adds value to the BlackBerry solution, and benefits the IT department by allowing them to use the device to reduce costly system downtime. It has a direct impact on their bottom line, and enhances the ROI and business case for BlackBerry within their organization."
Version 2.0 of NeedTEXT Shell was developed entirely in Java, which, the company says, has several advantages, including broad platform support. The server-side component will run in any J2SE version 1.4 runtime environment, meaning NeedTEXT Shell supports installation in Windows, UNIX and Linux. Supporting Linux is a key objective for Epoch Integration. "As long-time Linux advocates, we recognize the ongoing growth of the platform in enterprise computing," says Trenholm. "We place a lot of emphases on UNIX professionals, and feel that our product is a natural companion to anyone who uses command-line interfaces. Any of the modern Linux distributions include a very powerful set of command-line tools, and having access to that at anytime is extremely convenient".
NeedTEXT Shell's command-line features also make it an ideal solution to extend the functionality of existing network and systems management software applications, and Epoch Integration is actively pursuing partnerships with other vendors who need to wirelessly enable their products. One such relationship is with Boston's BladeLogic, Inc., whose Network Shell configuration management software allows an administrator to manage thousands of remote UNIX, NT and Linux servers from one central console. By adding NeedTEXT Shell, the same administrator can take advantage of the BladeLogic software's powerful features from any location within wireless network coverage.
The software's development roadmap includes even more user interface functionality, including support for the VT100 terminal emulation standard. With emulation, the characteristics of the wireless environment place increased demands on the application, as significantly more data is transmitted to and from the host system. The company is taking the time necessary to guarantee a product that delivers the same high-quality user experience as the existing version of NeedTEXT Shell.
A summary of NeedTEXT Shell version 2.0 key features:
Support for all Java-based BlackBerry models worldwide, including devices operating on GSM/GPRS and CDMA2000 1X wireless networks
Support for Java-based BlackBerry devices operating on the Nextel wireless network in the United States
End-to-end Triple DES encryption through RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Quick installation in Windows, UNIX and Linux environments
Simple, web-based administration and user management
Per-user licensing (no limit on the number of servers or network devices that can be managed)
Epoch Integration provides customers with a free evaluation of NeedTEXT Shell. More information is available at the product's web site or by contacting the company directly.