CA software consolidates desktop/server management

On Monday, CA will announce new desktop and server management software that consolidates some of the functions and software agents used in prior management tools for software delivery, remote control and asset management. The new software also adds patch management and Windows PC life-cycle management functions and is seen by analysts as part of a trend among major vendors in the management industry to streamline and automate routine tasks on hundreds of machines.

CA will rely on a product called Centralized Management DataBase (CMDB) to unify information about what could be thousands of desktops and servers in an organization, said Michael Walker, CA's director of product marketing for desktop and server management.

CA Desktop and Server Management r11 includes two new products: CA Desktop Management Suite for Windows and Unicenter Patch Management. The Desktop Management Suite for Windows is a tool for managing PCs through their life cycles that automates software distribution, maintains information on hardware and software inventory and protects local data. It is available now at a price of US$86 for each managed asset.

Unicenter Patch Management works with several other CA tools and is backed by an online patch management content research team that monitors and publishes relevant patch management information. It is also available now and starts at US$12 per managed asset.

The software combines into one the three different software monitoring agents that currently run on PCs and servers, beta testers said. It also offers monitoring capability from a single interface.

Jason Bullock, systems administrator for School District 11 in Colorado Springs, and a beta tester since October, said he most likes the single management console for monitoring software delivery, asset management and remote control of machines. The change also reduces the drag on processing and memory in hardware running the agents. "Previously the CPU and RAM could go through the roof on each machine," he said.

One unexpected benefit is that the new software supports patches for Windows 95 machines, of which the district still has 4,000. It has also reduced the time required to drive to schools to repair servers and desktops, a job shared by 15 IT workers, Bullock said. "It makes my job a lot easier and has saved us all hours of work," he said.

In all, there are about 10,000 PCs and servers in the district, which has 4,000 administrators and 33,000 students in 60 locations, Bullock said.

Having a single software agent instead of three is a "huge benefit," said Harry Butler, support center manager for EFW Inc., an electronics supplier in Fort Worth, Texas. Having three agents running on hundreds of machines was "a pain in the butt," Butler said. He has been testing the software since November on about 1,400 laptops, servers and desktops.

Butler also has found that he can combine information on all of the devices into a common database also used by CA software for service desk functions. "This cuts down the time it takes work service issues with clients."

Some IT workers are concerned the software will jeopardize their jobs, although managers have reassured them that they will administer the software, among other job functions, Butler said.

CA's integration of management functions is what makes the new release important, said Andi Mann, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo. He said CA is keeping up with rivals such as IBM Tivoli, Hewlett Packard Co.'s OpenView and BMC. "It's a big market, and there are a range of solutions out there," Mann said.

Security compliance and patch management are growing in importance, which increases the need for management tools. "If you have to handle Super Tuesday patch releases from Microsoft on 500 servers and 1,500 desktops, this product would make it a lot easier to handle," he said. New versions of applications and operating systems from Microsoft and other companies will eventually be released on a continual basis, making automatic functions of management tools invaluable, he said.

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