A migration app is a hit at USPS, OPM

A migration app is a hit at USPS, OPM


The Office of Personnel Management and the Postal Service are managing software on their network clients with a migration application from Altiris Inc. of Lindon, Utah.

Altiris eXpress makes life a little easier, said Pier Young, a USPS systems administrator. 'It works great for deploying new workstations,' she said. 'I do not have to walk around to each computer.'

Switching nearly 30 computers in one office from Microsoft Windows 98 to Windows 2000, for example, took Young about 10 minutes from a central computer.

The agency also uses Altiris' RapidInstall and RapiDeploy services to update software on more than 3,000 notebook PCs at various postal sites with CD-ROM distribution.

Flying without a net

'These machines are not connected to a network,' Young said. To update their software quarterly, USPS makes fixes on a central computer using RapidInstall. Then RapiDeploy copies the fixes to CDs and ships them to the various sites for installation.

'We have a baseline image, and any new applications that need updates or fixes are done with RapidInstall,' Young said.

USPS also uses the asset management portion of Altiris eXpress to track what software is on each computer and what software licenses are in force.

At OPM, Altiris' PC Transplant Pro 2.0 replicates user settings from one PC to another.

'It's inevitable that with a large number of new machines, some will be bad coming out of the box,' said Tammie Mudd, an information technology spokeswoman at OPM.

USPS' Pier Young finds life easier when she can install and update software centrally without having to walk around to each desk.
'When a computer goes down, we have been able to have a person back up in maybe 30 minutes,' she said.

Everything from the user's files to the screen saver is the same on the new computer.

'Our users can't afford to be down for extended periods of time,' Mudd said, because they manage health benefits and money transfers to carriers. 'We have people that would rather not have a new machine because they are afraid it would take weeks just to get it set up.'

Mudd said her office chose Altiris software when it had to deploy 900 new machines and needed to automate the task and to transfer user settings.

'That can take a few minutes to several hours if they try to be thorough,' said Greg Butterfield, chief executive office of Altiris. Users 'are calling the help desk, they're not productive, and the help desk is spending a lot of time fixing the problems.'

Altiris conducted a test by migrating 100 desktop systems across a network, he said. In the same 12 minutes it would have taken to manually upgrade one, all of them were finished.

Technology researcher Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., has estimated that an agency with 2,500 users can save as much as $103,000 in PC setup and installation costs annually by using migration software.

The cost benefit is most apparent for offices that upgrade frequently, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president for consulting services at Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va. But large government agencies upgrade infrequently, he said.

'If they're going to make an upgrade once every five years, it's easier to send a GS-7 from machine to machine,' Bjorklund said. 'It's one thing to sell 25 licenses for a small office and another thing to sell a license that covers 5,000 people.'

Not a simple task

Altiris' software can accommodate up to 2,500 users, Bjorklund said, but cautioned, 'This is nothing you want to toy with if you don't know what it is.'

In government offices that have only one or two systems administrators doing the work as a secondary job, he said, experimenting with enterprise software could have a ripple effect.

'If you do it at an enterprise level, there may be some software nodes out there or some active routers or active components that may not be fully compatible with it,' Bjorklund said.

David Reiss, a management analyst for the Office of Financial Systems Integration at the Treasury Department, said that if his office used Altiris, he probably wouldn't still be using a Microsoft Windows 95 operating system. But he said he prefers working with Win95 to not working at all while an administrator upgrades the system.

'It's just so slow to get new software installed,' Reiss said. 'They don't test it quick at all, and now that Windows 2000 has come out, at what point are they going to catch up?'

Altiris, whose government business represents about 30 percent of its revenues, expects to double that in 2001 by teaming with a seat management provider or working with a General Services Administration schedule reseller, Butterfield said.

His company's share in the federal arena so far has come from linking up with longtime federal vendors such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Every new government computer purchased from Compaq after April 30 has had Altiris software preinstalled, he said.

Also, Altiris will acquire Compaq's Carbon Copy remote-control software and integrate it into Altiris eXpress.

Carbon Copy will be available later for personal digital assistants, cellular phones, Palm OS devices and other wireless technology, Butterfield said.


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