Desktop becoming less Windowscentric

Margie Semilof

As Microsoft Corp. begins phasing out support for older Windows licenses, more and more Windows administrators will be seeking software that helps them move from one platform to another.

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    Microsoft sells its own desktop management package, Systems Management Server (SMS), to do the job. But smaller third party vendors are grabbing market share with tools that claim to speed up the process and offer more features, as well as support platforms other than Windows.

    Marimba Inc. is one software company vying for space in the increasingly important change management market. Marimba just expanded its Migration Module to integrate Marimba's application manager with Symantec Corp.'s Ghost operating system imaging software.

    The combined features will help customers migrate to the new operating system and then install the new applications, according to Matt Keil, director of product marketing at Marimba in Mountain View, Calif.

    By automating the OS migration, IT administrators don't have to manually install software on each desktop or even remotely log into the machine to install an agent. Here, the Ghost agent is delivered automatically. Once installed, the Marimba policy management information and applications follow.

    Martha Young, research director at Enterprise Management Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based consulting firm, said tools like this are critical to companies today because IT managers need to get control of their desktop assets and be able to upgrade those desktops easily.

    "Being able to grab the desktop personality and reinstall the personality so users aren't disrupted is hugely important as a company grows," Young said.

    Desktop management tools are also a way for companies to squeeze more benefits without adding a lot of cost. If managers can apply patches or count assets with one tool without having to touch a desktop, that's really useful, according to Young.

    Of course, Microsoft has its own tools for supporting the Windows environment, but if a customer has a mixed shop, it helps to have a desktop management software product that supports Unix, Linux and Windows as well.

    From a pricing perspective, Marimba claims its desktop manager can cost between 50 or 60% less than SMS in terms of its total cost of ownership. SMS itself is free in that it's included with Back Office, but it has its own implementation and administration costs, said Marimba's Keil.

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