Managing on the fly

Most agencies find managing computers that are hard-wired to their servers

challenging enough without trying to handle tiny devices that users carry

around with them. But as those portable devices become mission-critical,

then managing them will also become critical.

Systems management vendor Tivoli Systems Inc. has extended its management

tool to support of handheld devices, too.

Claudio Valant, product manager at Tivoli, said the company sees four

issues dominating management concerns for tiny pervasive computing devices

such as cell phones and PDAs: change management, asset management, troubleshooting,

and monitoring.

Change management is planning updates and upgrades ahead of time, so

the mobile devices are properly configured to accept remote management.

"The device needs to be ready to be managed as soon as it is delivered

to the user," he said. The process of managing changes on handheld devices

is very similar to managing desktop PCs in a distributed environment, Valant

said, so it should be familiar to network administrators. "You can configure

handhelds as small computers," he said.

Asset management, too, is similar to that for desktop PCs. The idea

is to track the devices and keep an inventory of what hardware and software

is installed on each one.

It is critical that administrators or help desk staff have the ability

to remotely diagnose and troubleshoot problems with handheld devices, so

that they don't have to visit and repair them in person.

Finally, the administrator needs to monitor devices to check the status

of components such as batteries. "A device like this needs more attention

than a desktop PC," Valant said.

Because the use of pervasive computing devices is expected to grow and

because there will be a wide variety of devices and they will communicate

with the network using different means, any management system has to be

able to accommodate this. "It will be important to be scaleable and flexible

to manage different platforms and to manage through different protocols,"

he said. "The challenge will be to be able to manage devices that are in

wired, dial-up and wireless environments."

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