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Role-based security pledged in Altiris upgrade

New features in the Altiris 6.0 manageability product line include tools that let administrators control access behind and across their firewalls.

Altiris Inc. is releasing an overhauled version of its manageability architecture that promises improvements in the areas of product integration, security features and performance.

Altiris executives said that the Altiris 6.0 infrastructure does a better job of integrating its various products from within one software console.

"If I have a help desk ticket and I purchase the client management suite, you will see it in the console," said Steve Morton, vice president of product management at Altiris. "We've really tightened up the way things talk with each other."

There are still separate consoles, when you do inventory and for software distribution, but they are moving forward.
Fred Broussard
IDC analyst

The core of the new version is Notification Server 6.0, which integrates many of the features of Altiris' Deployment Server, users say.. For example, a feature called Software Portal lets users do some tasks, such as downloading certain applications with permission, without the intervention of IT.

A second improvement involves the addition of role- and scope-based security. This feature helps managers control access not just from beyond the firewall, but from within the enterprise.

The software also boasts improved performance. For example, there is a 40% increase in processing power and a 50% increase in scalability, Altiris said.

The extra speed will definitely be an improvement, said Cory Hopple, a network administrator at Abbott Laboratories, in Abbott Park, Ill. "With the increased number of agents installed on client machines, the faster each agent can run, the better," he said.

The software is available now. There is no change in the software price compared with the previous version. Various Altiris software suites that work with the new architecture will be updated in mid-March, the company said.

At least one analyst said that the latest version of Altiris' software represents a solid improvement. Previous versions of the suite were not well integrated, but the company is starting to eliminate bottlenecks, said Fred Broussard, an analyst at International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm.

"There are still separate consoles, when you do inventory and for software distribution, but they are moving forward," he said.

But another consultant was not as impressed, particularly since some forthcoming enhancements to Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) should narrow the gap between the two products. For years, Altiris has held a competitive advantage over SMS by virtue of Altiris' native support for remote clients, handheld device management and operating system deployments, said Larry Duncan, a principal consultant at Collective Technologies, in Austin, Texas.

"However, in light of a lackluster 6.0 release of Altiris Client Management Suite and two forthcoming feature packs from Microsoft that will extend SMS 2003 functionality to include these features, I see that gap margin quickly dwindling," Duncan said.

Altiris will certainly face other challenges going forward, as market consolidation continues in the manageability marketplace. One of the company's largest partners, Hewlett-Packard Co., recently purchased life cycle management software vendor Novadigm Inc., of Mahwah, N.J. HP has said that it plans to integrate Novadigm's products into HP's OpenView suite.

Morton said that, aside from some short-term hits on his company's stock, HP's acquisition of Novadigm shouldn't affect its relationship with Altiris, which is with HP's personal systems group. Morton said that 30% of Altiris' revenue is derived from the HP relationship.

Altiris recently made an acquisition itself, purchasing Wise Solutions Inc. in December. It is now in the process of integrating the product lines of the two companies.


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