Managing Tools Keep Devices, Software in Line

It's a good bet that it managers who have the difficult task of tracking laptops in the field also deal with the problem of enumerating and updating handheld devices

Its a good bet that it managers who have the difficult task of tracking laptops in the field also deal with the problem of enumerating and updating handheld devices.

With the release last month of Callisto Software Inc.s Orbiter 4.0 and Mobile Automation Inc.s Mobile Automation 2000 3.7, IT departments now have a choice of tools that ease the chore of managing this hard-to-follow group of machines.

However, most organizations will get more benefit from Mobile Automation 2000 because it supports Palm Computing Inc.s Palm devices and handhelds that run Windows CE. Orbiter supports only Palm OS.

Mobile Automation 2000 also includes a remote control tool that made it easy for us to view and manipulate managed PCs; Orbiter has no such tool.

Orbiter 4.0 does beat Mobile Automation on price. Orbiter is priced at $5,000 per management server, $100 per seat for laptops and $30 per Palm device.

Mobile Automation 2000 costs $8,995 per management server and $85 per PC. The company does not provide agents for handheld devices.

XcelleNet Inc.s comparable Afaria mobile resource manager costs $12,500 per management server, $160 per PC and $50 per handheld device.

Currently, all mobile device management tools exist as islands unto themselves, with only minimal integration with LAN-based inventory and software distribution tools. However, the latest updates of Mobile Automation 2000 and Orbiter integrate with Microsoft Corp.s SMS (Systems Management Server.)

For example, we used the Mobile Automation setting from the SMS console to send software to remote laptops.

This task would have been nearly impossible to manage with SMS alone because SMS is designed for fat LAN connections.

Although Orbiter can now integrate with Peregrine Systems Inc.s ServiceCenter, none of these mobile management products can be easily used with common LAN asset management tools such as Tally Systems Inc.s TS.Census. This means IT managers will have to support two different inventory systems. We think the onus is on the mobile toolmakers to accelerate the integration process.

Mobile Automation 2000

Mobile Automation 2000 3.7 includes LiveSupport, a remote control utility that we used as a troubleshooting tool; customizable inventory reports; and integration with Microsofts Active Directory and any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-compliant directory.

LiveSupport was especially useful because we went right from looking at the extensive inventory to a remote control session, thereby assisting users much more quickly than we could have by using stand-alone remote control tools.

The customized reports, which are rendered as HTML pages, are based on Windows Management Interface and DMI standards and are thorough, providing enough information for even the most finicky software distribution job.

Managers should beware that because Mobile Automation does not have agents for Palm or Pocket PC devices, software and hardware inventory information for these devices is sketchy.

Callisto Orbiter 4.0

Orbiter 4.0 installs an agent on palm devices to nicely extend the reach of the software distribution and asset management tool. Version 4.0 also neatly handles these duties for laptop computers.

Installing new software on Palm IIIc and m105 devices was only slightly harder than pressing the hotsync button on the docking cradle. Orbiter gathered much more information about the software on the Palm devices than did Mobile Automation 2000.

Orbiter is now equipped with a connector to Microsofts SMS that made it easy for us to integrate software distributions to LAN-connected and dial-up PCs and Palms.