Tivoli Launch Stresses Mobile Support

Tight economic times have put the spotlight back on how to get the most out of IT assets.

Tight economic times have put the spotlight back on how to get the most out of IT assets. Vendors that provide management of those assets—including inventory management, electronic software distribution, and change and configuration management—are all trotting out enhancements and ROI stories in response.

Tivoli Systems Inc., the top supplier of change and configuration management software according to International Data Corp., for its part just dusted off its Tivoli Software Distribution and Tivoli Inventory tools by shipping more efficient versions.

Tivoli, in Austin, Texas, and others are responding to the need for better management discipline required when "every penny counts," said Mark Margevicius, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Cleveland.

"In good economic times, organizations can afford to be a bit more sloppy in their management practices. If they can get better performance out of IT assets, they can parlay that into better return on investments," Margevicius said.

Tivoli Software Distribution 4.1 automates more manual configuration tasks, making the tool less reliant on scripts for setting up software distributions to groups of remote clients. Tivoli Inventory 4.0 is also more streamlined in its setup, allowing IT managers to filter their queries to find out such specific information as which machines are running a particular processor.

But the main focus for improvements in the tools is on better mobile support. The goal is to eliminate the administrative headaches caused by disconnected users who are hard to pin down for inventory data and software updates.

Tivoli Software Distribution 4.1 adds the ability for mobile users to choose to download a new release immediately or install it later, the ability to pause and resume a download, and the choice of rejecting an optional package. It also includes byte-level differencing to reduce the amount of data that must be distributed to install updated versions of packages, thereby reducing the amount of bandwidth required.

Mobile support in Tivoli Inventory allows administrators to have more complete, centralized data on distributed IT assets—even if a user only logs in every 30 days, officials said. Tivoli added Wake on LAN support in the tool to allow after-hours inventory scans.

Whether the enhancements give Tivoli a leg up against its biggest competitor, Microsoft Corp.s System Management Server, is hard to tell. Microsoft often in larger software deals bundles SMS in for free with higher profile offerings, making it difficult to justify spending money on a tool IT already has in its arsenal.

And SMS is not standing still. A new version, Topaz, should enter beta testing early this fall with enhanced support for mobile workers, according to Michael Emanuel, senior product manager for management technologies, in Redmond, Wash.

The next SMS version will implement a new protocol dubbed "bits," which "lets you move software down a few bytes at a time, so you can re-establish a connection and pick up where you left off," Emanuel said.