By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2005-07-11 Print this article Print

During the last 18 months, Symantec Corp. has made a number of company—and thus product—acquisitions. Symantec appears to want to show off its new wares all in one place—to IT buyers benefit and, in some cases, detriment.

Small and midsize organizations that need to get a handle on user and server management should consider Symantecs LCMS (LiveState Client Management Suite) Version 6.0—for everything from initial provisioning with an operating system to application and patch maintenance to migrating user preferences and data onto a new machine.

The "Version 6.0" on this brand-new suite is likely an acknowledgment by Symantec that most of LCMS components existed as individual products prior to its May release. However, the sum of all these parts—each of which displayed rugged individualism during eWEEK Labs tests—equals essentially a 1.0 release, with all the faults and foibles that such a release entails. Chief among these, our tests quickly found, is that three different agents are required to use all the components of LCMS.

eWEEK Labs recommends the suite, though, mostly because of the familiarity of many of the components—IT managers will have little trouble finding operations staffers who can get up to speed quickly on the management platform. Who hasnt heard of or used the stand-alone versions of Symantecs Ghost (practically the common verb for creating a system image) or pcAnywhere?

Further, the suite covers a broad range of machine types and operating systems. Using the suite, we were able to access, monitor and manage—to a greater or lesser extent—everything from a handheld running Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC to a server using Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition to a Red Hat Inc. Fedora Core 4 server.

However, few of the suites components use the same management console. Thus, while the functionality of each component was good, management of the products required us to skip from one console to the next—some from an obviously different manufacturer, meaning that the look and feel was entirely different. This garnered LCMS only a "Fair" in our manageability rating and a "Poor" in terms of integration .

Compared with rivals such as LANDesk Software Inc.s LANDesk Management Suite and Altiris Inc.s Client Management Suite, LCMS is middle-of-the-road in price—$152.50 per seat for 10 licenses, including the first year of maintenance.

Read Labs review of LANDesk Server Manager 8.5, LANDesks stand-alone server management tool, here. However, as with nearly every management tool, eWEEK Labs advises that IT managers factor training and implementation costs heavily into the acquisition price. In the case of LCMS, the fact that it can use Symantec Ghost or Symantec DeployCenter images to create operating system images will likely prove to be a considerable cost saver for organizations that already use these technologies. LCMS includes Symantec Ghost for file-based images and DeployCenter for sector-based image creation.

IT managers have other choices, however, that are well worth considering. Altiris Client Management Suite does a good job of keeping desktop system configurations in line—with a single agent tool—and it can scale to much larger enterprises than the 5,000-seat limit Symantec suggests for LCMS.

eWEEK Labs also recommends that IT managers take a close look at rival LANDesk. This is another one-agent tool that neatly integrates operating system, application and patch deployment with good remote control.

Symantecs LCMS supports Linux variants, along with the other operating systems mentioned earlier, but Novell Inc.s ZENworks is especially pushing the envelope for open-source operating system support.

The first thing to realize about LCMS is that it is a dizzying conglomeration of components with confusingly similar names. Therefore, its important to lay out the products to create an orderly framework for considering each of the components .

Symantec LiveState Delivery is a new version of a Symantec software delivery and configuration management tool by the same name. In tests, we installed Delivery first, as recommended by Symantec, so that the agent used for most other components in the suite would be installed on all our systems.

Symantec LiveState Patch Manager is an entirely new product that uses the LiveState agent; Patch Manager provided us with rudimentary vulnerability assessment and a serviceable patch deployment capability during tests.

Symantec LiveState Designer is a rebuilt imaging and full-featured software packaging tool. Along with Delivery, Designer is the chief aspect of LCMS on which IT managers should focus evaluation.

Symantec pcAnywhere for Symantec LiveState is the familiar tool nicely tailored to integrate with LCMS. It worked as expected in tests and uses the common agent, so well say no more about it for now.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs latest review of pcAnywhere. Symantec LiveState Discovery provided detailed hardware and software inventory data along with effective ongoing audits of this same information in our test systems. Discovery is supplied through a partnership with Centennial Software Ltd. and has been customized to work in LCMS (although not enough that it didnt need a second agent on our systems).

We did not test Symantec LiveState Delivery Enterprise Manager, an optional component offered in conjunction with professional services.

Next page: Delivery, Designer and Patch Manager.

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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