Marimba Gives PDA Managers a Hand

Marimba Inc. will further extend it managers' ability to reach out and manage handheld devices when it launches a new Device Management option in April.

Marimba Inc. will further extend it managers ability to reach out and manage handheld devices when it launches a new Device Management option in April.

Although Marimba and the rest of the change management industry have taken hesitant steps to extend management to PalmPilots and Pocket PCs, Marimba is more fully embracing management of such devices by extending its inventory, packaging, distribution and reporting functions to those products.

The option, an add-on to Marimbas Desktop/Mobile Management product, will allow an operator to automatically discover Pocket PCs and PalmPilots through a companion PC. As a result, IT managers will be able to determine what kinds of devices are in use in an enterprise and by which users.

"You can do an inventory scan whenever you cradle your device. You can take a snapshot on a scheduled basis to see whats on a device and whats being installed," said Jeanne Morain, senior product manager at Marimba, in Mountain View, Calif.

The wide variety of handheld devices—and lack of a clear leader—has kept management software providers from offering greater management capabilities, said Tim Wilson, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates Inc., in Oakton, Va.

"There really hasnt been much universal acceptance of any one or set of devices," Wilson said. "Pocket PC is getting some traction, but there isnt a standard set of devices the way there is for the desktop. It remains a big management challenge because each device has different memory, software and capabilities for downloading large and sensitive files. Because of that, the management task becomes more important, but there arent any standards for how to manage the devices."

Device Management uses a variety of mechanisms to package applications for distribution to the devices. Those include Marimbas application packager, Microsoft Corp.s ActiveSync and Palm Inc.s HotSync technology. The tool allows remote IT operators to install, uninstall, verify and repair applications and content from PCs and devices. It also provides templates that allow operators to package custom applications for deployment to end points.

The software is designed to scale to support as many as 10,000 end points. It leverages Marimbas existing reporting capability, allowing users to generate canned or ad hoc reports. The tool also centralizes logging of problems that occur during the transmission of updates so that operators can determine which instances were successful and which were not.

The optional Device Management module, in beta testing now, is due to ship in the second quarter.