IBM releases PC management software

IBM Corp. Tuesday unveiled a software development kit for IT managers looking to simplify the deployment and management of PCs across their networks.

ImageUltra Builder locates and centralizes the various software images stored on PCs connected to company networks. Software images are composites of important software stored on a user's hard drive, such as the operating system, crucial applications, and databases.

IBM has been selling its ImageUltra product since October. Under that software license, however, the user had to work directly with IBM's imaging technology center to create the image, and then have that image passed over to IBM's manufacturing line, where it would be added to a user's order of IBM PCs, said Rich Cheston, director of systems management for IBM, based in Armonk, New York.

With ImageUltra Builder, IT departments can create and deploy their own software images themselves, without having to work directly with IBM, he said.

Image management is a central problem to IT directors at larger enterprises, Cheston said. Most software images only work with a specific type of hardware, and if the hardware is changed, the image needs to be updated.

With many IT departments changing hardware through attrition or expansion, the result is large companies can have hundreds of software images across their networks, making software updates and inventory difficult, he said.

After developing and deploying a custom image across its network, a company can automate software application installation and more quickly and easily install new operating systems, Cheston said.

"Most IT shops like to control their own images," said Roger Kay, director of client computing at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. It wasn't a huge deal to have IBM create their images for them, but it is a much more common business practice of large IT organizations to handle that activity in-house, he said. The software currently works only with IBM hardware, he said. IBM also announced Monday it will develop a version of ImageUltra Builder that will work on non-IBM hardware by the end of this year, Cheston said.

IBM might also look to license this technology to third-party application vendors who already make software for IT managers, said Kay.

ImageUltra Builder Version 1.0 is priced at US$1,500, and includes 100 licenses. After 100 licenses, the software costs $15 per license, and after 10,000 licenses, it costs $12 per license. It will be generally available Sept. 24.

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