Commerce office seeks better way to distribute software

Commerce office seeks better way to distribute software

Officials lean toward PC management software for its flexibility, automated installation options

On Technology's On Command CCM 4.5 configures PC clients across a network or remotely. Micron offers it under the GSA IT Schedule as part of its MVision program.

By Chris Driscoll

GCN Staff

The Office of the Secretary of Commerce is studying the cost of installing PC management software vs. options such as seat management, said George Imber, director of technical support and network services.

Imber, who oversees the secretary's office LAN, said he is interested in manageability applications, particularly for automated software installation.

'We have a lot of trouble every time we do a software update,' Imber said. 'It would be a lot easier if there was an automated way to do a software distribution two or three times a year.'

The secretary's office uses Corel Corp.'s WordPerfect Office suite and soon will install WordPerfect 2000. 'We are going to try and figure out a way to send it out and have people self-install it,' Imber said. 'If users have any problems, they end up contacting our help desk.'

Imber said he usually trains a representative from each office to help with the installation. The employees have a mixture of 100- to 400-MHz Gateway Inc., Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. PCs.

His office tried an automated asset-tracking package about two years ago but found it demanded too much manual intervention.

'I know that more and more vendors are building [manageability] software and adding bells and whistles, but we don't know what we are going to do yet,' Imber said. Another twist in PC manageability is the increased use of mobile computers.

'Information technology departments are just starting to grapple with the fact that they have all these other devices,' said Phil Neray, director of product marketing at On Technology Corp. of Cambridge, Mass.

'Very few IT departments are coping' with handheld devices, although the devices require much the same management as desktop PCs, Neray said. 'If there is a new version of the operating system or application, the users have to go out on the Web and do that themselves.'

Neray said On Technology's On Command Comprehensive Client Management product, which automates remote software management, will manage handhelds in future versions. He said the company has agreements with Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. to integrate On Command CCM with Microsoft software and Intel hardware.

The product runs under Microsoft Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server's Remote Installation Service.

On Technology's primary federal reseller is Quantum Technology Services Inc. of Cocoa Beach, Fla. New buyers pay $100 per machine for the software, which does not have to go through an operating system to boot a computer or make BIOS changes.

Mobile home

On Command CCM 4.5 can access notebook PCs the first time they are connected to a LAN after having been disconnected for mobile use. Or it can work over the Internet or a modem connection.

Neray cited GartnerGroup Inc. figures that put notebooks at 30 percent of the total PCs in corporate environments. GartnerGroup found that notebook use is growing by 50 percent per year, and that the cost of managing remote systems is 50 percent to 60 percent higher than for LAN equivalents.

Organizations 'are really struggling to get the best value out,' said Tressa Brophy, director of relationship marketing at Micron Electronics Inc. of Nampa, Idaho. 'I don't just mean pricing. They look for the return on technology, and they are having a hard time seeing the bottom line.'

Brophy cited figures from GartnerGroup of Stamford, Conn., indicating that up to 75 percent of IT time and money go to user operations.

Micron offers On Command CCM 4.5 to customers as part of its MVision program under the General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule, along with Mrestore backup and recovery software, and MPrevent self-healing software to correct errors in common applications.

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