PC industry turns attention to management concerns

LAS VEGAS - At the Comdex trade show late last month hardware and software vendors unveiled a wide range of new or unannounced products that recognize an industrywide concern of making the enterprise computing environment more powerful and manageable. The products on display covered everything from handheld computers running the latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system to large-scale Microsoft Windows NT servers.

Vendors also demonstrated new peripherals and related office equipment. Among the new products was the Hyper Document System a digital copier and printer that also serves as a file management system from Panasonic's Office Products Company. According to the company the system which runs on a network will allow users to assign a digital document code to a scanned file and to store the electronic image for later retrieval from anywhere on the network.

The copier is equipped with an internal hard drive along with ports for removable storage drives. The new product will be available in spring 1998. Lowering PC Ownership Costs However this year a number of announcements focused on features and tools that are designed to lower the cost of owning PCs. Microsoft addressed this with the project code-named Hydra which makes it possible to hook up a number of low-cost Windows terminals off a Windows NT server (see story Page 39).

But other vendors got into the act as well led by systems management vendor Computer Associates International Inc. CA side by side with Intel Corp. and three major PC vendors announced that it had added new features at no extra cost to its Unicenter management framework that will make it easier for customers to remotely manage widely distributed computers from a central location.

CA's Enterprise/Configuration Standardization initiative (Enterprise/CSi) takes advantage of a Wake-on-LAN function in the latest generation of Intel processors that allows systems administrators to boot up PCs remotely across a network. That capability will make it possible for administrators to take advantage of new features in Unicenter for distributing software thereby changing PC configurations scanning for viruses remotely said Marc Sokol senior vice president of advanced technology at CA. Systems administrators cannot carry out such tasks during the day because such interruptions would hurt their users' productivity. By contrast after-hours remote operations are problematic because many PC users power down their machines at night Sokol said. "If you want to do software delivery of Microsoft Office after midnight and those machines are turned off you have a real problem " he said.

Enterprise/CSi also includes a "policy-based" management feature that makes it possible to automate software distribution configuration management and other functions by groups of users rather than desktop by desktop according to CA. For example the administrator gives one group of users a choice of operating systems and other software while another group will be limited to receiving a particular configuration. The new Unicenter features are based on the Desktop Management Initiative a set of PC management standards defined by the Desktop Management Task Force.

"It is important for us at Intel to make sure the management scheme extends all the way from the desktop out into the enterprise " said Dan Eichenberger business unit manager of Intel's Systems Management Division. Meanwhile a number of other PC manufacturers announced new models that emphasize manageability.

Acer America Corp. unveiled a new desktop computer that is available in NetPC and Managed PC models. In its base NetPC configuration the Flex4000 comes with a small footprint chassis that has a 2.1G hard drive and an Ethernet connection but does not include a CD-ROM or a floppy disk drive. The sealed chassis makes it easier for organizations to control what applications are loaded onto the system. However to protect its customers' investments Acer also provides an "option kit" for adding the additional drives to convert the Flex4000 into a Managed PC configuration. In addition to the added drives the Managed PC comes with either a 2.1G 3.2G or 4.3G hard drive. Both models feature 166 MHz 200 MHz or 233 MHz Intel Pentium processors with MMX technology.

The Flex4000 supports Intel's Wake-on-LAN technology and comes with Intel's LANDesk Client Manager 3.1 management software. It is compliant with DMI standards. Management-Minded Machines Micron also introduced new management-minded PCs with a new high-end model in its ClientPro product line.

The ClientPro 766Xi is one of Micron's most manageable machines said Tracey Rains platform manager for enterprise desktop products. In addition to Wake-on-LAN and LANDesk technology the new model includes software that allows a remote systems administrator to monitor voltage and thermal indicators and a chassis-intrusion alarm that lets managers know if the box has been opened. The new model ships with a 266 MHz or 300 MHz Intel Pentium II processor and Intel's 440 LX AGP chipset which supports 64M of synchronous dynamic RAM and Ultra Direct Memory Access. The ClientPro 766Xi starts at $2 599 and will be available sometime this week.

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