Compaq launches software management service

Compaq announced a new suite of services aimed at simplifying software installation, upgrades and management on Tuesday.

Called Software Image Management Services (SIMS), the program will allow customers to offload the responsibilities for maintaining PC software configurations to Compaq. "Image" is the name given to the collection of all the particular software installed on a given PC: the operating system; applications, customer or commercial; drivers and settings. Often, a company will install the same "image" on all PCs for a certain department or team, with different groups receiving different "images" based on their needs.

The services are designed to reduce management overhead, reduce costs and speed upgrades, the company said in a statement.

SIMS is an extension of programs Compaq had already been offering with its PC customisation program, but takes the program a step further by adding new services, said Ed Reynolds, director of PC services at Compaq. SIMS was born after a number of Compaq customers complained about the difficulty image management issues posed for them.

SIMS consists of seven components: image design, qualifications, modification, replication, monitoring, assessment and support.

Compaq will work with customers to evaluate their needs and then design an image that meets those needs, as well as test the images for problems. Compaq will provide a specialised CD (compact disc) to allow for easy restoration of the image if the original is incorrectly modified or damaged. Customers will also be able to make changes to images as needed, as well as plan for future technology changes with Compaq's help. SIMS also includes monitoring for software updates by Compaq, which will then incorporate those updates into the image, and some technical support.

The typical SIMS customer is any company that has 10 or more images and devotes a good deal of money to software maintenance, Reynolds said. All SIMS contracts will be custom-bid, depending on the user's needs, and can run from a short, one-time event costing only a few thousand dollars to long-term maintenance deals running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

SIMS is currently in North America, most major markets in Europe and select Asian and Latin American markets. Worldwide roll-out will begin, slowly, toward the end of the year, Reynolds said.

Compaq is the latest in a line of PC vendors, searching for additional revenue sources in a flagging economy, to offer services packages. Last week, Dell Computer Corp. announced a new set of services for the customisation, installation and support of business computing systems.

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