Enterprise management software vendors are turning their attention to smaller businesses with a host of stripped-down offerings they hope will bring automation to the masses.
Undaunted by sluggish response to previous efforts to attract the small and midsize enterprise user, software makers such as Computer Associates International Inc. and Intel Corp. say the new breed of SMB (small and midsize business) management tools will be easier to install, easier to use and easier on the wallet.
"[In the past,] we made things too complicated. You had to buy and install three different products on one or more systems," said Allan Andersen, vice president of marketing for IT resource management solutions at CA, in Islandia, N.Y. "Most people wanted them on the same system, and they wanted simplicity in installation."
CA this week will ship a new version of its Unicenter product, dubbed Unicenter DM (Desktop Management Suite for Small Businesses). With it, CA has combined the ability to perform asset management, software delivery, remote control and backup all under a single user interface and working from a single repository, officials said.
The effort comes after previous CA attempts to address SMB needs through a series of point tools such as Ship IT, Master IT, Network IT and others met with limited success. Similarly, rival Tivoli Systems Inc.s IT Director for SMBs was pulled from the market after tepid user response.
Indeed, a majority of users at smaller businesses—90 percent, according to a new study out last week by Enterprise Management Associates Inc.—have rejected attempts by enterprise management providers to solve their desktop management problems.
But the same study shows that the SMBs are more dependent on IT infrastructure than ever before and that they are anxious to take better control of desktop resources.
"I did the study assuming most [SMBs] were flying by the seat of their pants and didnt have IT people in-house. A huge number had at least one full-time person—half had three or more," said Martha Young, research director at EMA, in Boulder, Colo. "The No. 1 demand is for desktop management. That is the next big area [for] these folks."
Unicenter DM beta user Win Shih, network administrator for the library at St. Louis University, likes CAs unified approach, saying, "Its easier for an administrator to go from one component to another. It looks like one product that serves one function.
"The interfaces were different for the other [IT-series] products," Shih said. "This lets you see how they link together, so you dont have to learn different interfaces."
Unicenter DM is browser-based and can be downloaded over the Web. Users can work with a trial version for 30 or 60 days for free. The tool will be sold on a subscription basis for $29.99 per desktop per year, officials said.
CAs approach mirrors that of ON Technology Corp., of Waltham, Mass., with its new Site Manager, released last month. Like ONs Site Manager, CAs tool eliminates the need to write scripts to set up software distributions and instead uses wizards to walk administrators through the process.
CA is targeting both SMS and Intels LANDesk as chief competitors, although those tools are more often found in sites with 500 to 2,000 desktops, according to CAs Andersen.
Intel officials found that LANDesk also is not well- suited for small businesses, and it is working to redesign the software to be used by MSPs (management service providers) in remote management service offerings.
Intel is working with a handpicked list of "early adopter" MSPs to roll out its LANDesk-based services. Its Inventory service went live late last week, and the company is beta testing a remote control service offering. Software distribution is due in the fall.
One of Intels early-adopter MSPs, Voyus Ltd., said it believes that MSPs can use the tools on behalf of a small business at a lower cost. "They cant do what we do for $80 per month per workstation," said Steve Jillings, co-founder of the Vancouver, British Columbia, company. "They dont want to pay upfront, they dont want to get involved in integration—they just want it to happen. Intel recognized that."