CA adds remote-control technology options

Federal users of Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter TNG systems management solution now have the option for integrated remote control of their servers and desktops, the company announced late last month.

The Remote Control Option allows distant technical experts to address problems with the operating system, applications or the configuration of remote-enabled client and server hardware as if the trouble-shooters were at the site, according to CA. For example, they can work with configuration and other system files and validate or change network settings.

This ability to "change, fix and test" should significantly lower the cost of ownership and increase the availability and reliability of systems, according to Joe Quigg, a vice president with CA's Federal Division, Reston, Va.

The biggest value to users of the new feature is that it has been "integrated with the base functions" and other options of Unicenter, such as the help desk as well as storage and asset management, Quigg said. "Coupled with [Unicenter's] software delivery and asset management options, it's a good solution," he said.

Quigg said pricing is reasonable enough that customers should be able to make up the cost of the software in 12 to 18 months. With a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT server, for example, remote-control manager software starts at $500 on the General Services Administration schedule. Agent software on the desktop starts at $80. "The more you buy, the cheaper it gets," Quigg said.

For an organization with 50 or more distributed sites to install and maintain, costs of traveling technicians can add up, he said. CA anticipates government customers will want to adopt the option. The Air Force's Air Mobility Command, for example, plans to use it to help manage its sprawling network of nearly 600 servers and 60,000 PCs worldwide.

Unicenter is the "first high-end enterprise management product" with "not only remote diagnostics, but remote fixing," said Paul Mason, vice president of infrastructure software research with International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. It is "clearly the wave of the future."

The new option "is important for CA and their federal customers," agreed Peter Kastner, executive vice president of Aberdeen Group, Boston. Unicenter is a market-leading enterprise management product; however, "while the console [previously] could detect a problem, [until now] you had to have another set of hands" to fix it or investigate it further. According to Aberdeen, a well-

deployed remote-access system could reduce the cost per seat by 5 percent to 10 percent.

For obvious economic reasons, agencies would benefit from having one central management function. For instance, with remote control, a system administrator with permission can "take over" a desktop or server and fix the problem much more quickly than if the owner had to be talked through it, Kastner said. Phone fixes are the "bane of help desks." Remote control is like having a "keyboard cable [that is] 3,000 miles long."

In addition to the Unicenter remote-control option, CA offers a similar, stand-alone capability, known as Remotely Possible. Competitors in the standalone arena include CoSession by Artisoft Inc. and pcAnywhere by Symantec Corp.

-- Adams is a free-lance writer based in Alexandria, Va.

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