TechTracker ITX probes software usage on PCs

Diverging from the frenzy that traditionally embodies Comdex's fall show, many end-users are window shopping less this year and honing in on key products to will help them maximize efficiency in their enterprises.

TechTracker Inc., which is shipping and offering demonstrations of its new workstation-focused TechTracker ITX product at Comdex this week, is pushing that trend by stressing the importance of having a full-time running inventory of network device usage, run time, and CPU utilization compared against updated software that is currently available.

TechTracker ITX features a thin-client application that sits on individual PCs to provide a customized inventory of its content. Through a Web-based console, the product helps IT managers reconfigure and keep their systems running more smoothly by providing update alerts and access to the TechTracer VersionTracker database that lists cross-platform application upgrades, patches, and service packs, said Jennifer Young, director of marketing for Portland, Ore.-based TechTracker.

"Budgets have been cut and [customers] have to be conservative about their decisions on what they invest in and what they trust. I think [Comdex attendees] are making decisions accordingly. The show is more focused," noted Young from the Comdex show floor. "Some of the mayhem has been toned down a bit, and people are looking at technologies to keep their systems more stable and minimize cost and leverage assets."

Young said TechTracker ITX can handle that load by giving IT managers a clear look into what applications their users are running and check license compliance to determine if the company is overspending for its core business needs.

She said examples of the data that is analyzed by TechTracker ITX and delivered back to IT managers include computer crash causes, notices of immediate unauthorized user downloads, and flagging patches for security holes and vulnerabilities.

Eric Kopf, IT manager for Watsonville, Calif.-based compression software developer Aladdin Systems Inc., has beta tested TechTracker ITX for three months. Running a highly mixed environment of Macintoshes and PCs, Kopf said he uses the VersionTracker Macintosh site "daily" to scour for available updates and keep tabs on what product versions are graying in his enterprise.

"It's telling me drivers that are out-of-date and machines that carry older versions of software," Kopf said. "Depending on what that is, that may be a benefit. I find it very useful for everything to be in a list and highlight discrepancies of what's new and what's not."

However, Kopf notes that even TechTracker ITX is unable to sufficiently help "clunkers," or outdated machines, in an environment that will not allow software updates to run cleanly on their system. Also, Kopf said he would like to see greater emphasis on cross-platform support for the product, particularly OS 9 and OS 10 Macintosh support.

Young said TechTracker is targeting a first-quarter release to support Macintosh systems.

The TechTracker ITX client operates with Microsoft Corp. Windows 98, NT 4 Service Pack 5, 2000, ME, and XP. A Web browser is required to view the console.

TechTracker costs US$499.95 for one year and includes a 10-workstation seat license.

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