Marimba Tool Aids Migration

Module works best with ghost at Castanet-savvy organizations.

IT managers who plan to migrate desktop systems to Windows XP or Windows 2000 Professional now have another handy option to help with the task. In eWeek Labs tests, Marimba Inc.s Marimba Migration Module made short work of upgrading systems with a minimum of deskside support visits.

The new reports, scripts and process guides in Marimba Migration Module will provide the most benefit to Marimba customers using Castanet to update desktop systems (see screen). Marimba Migration Module is replacing Castanet.

Marimba Migration Module 1.0, which started shipping last month priced at $10,000, works nicely with Symantec Corp.s Ghost 7.5, which is sold separately, to set up a temporary migration environment. (The product can be used with other distribution products, but its scripts and reports are tailored for Ghost.) Marimba Migration Module distributes Ghost components throughout the enterprise and activates Ghost tasks, including the operating system upgrade process.

Although Marimba Migration Module worked well in our tests, operating system upgrades are never a simple process. This first version of the software has its quirks—including scripts that needed to be fine-tuned to add a reboot after the Ghost client was installed on our end-user systems. In addition, to take full advantage of automated migration features, organizations will need a couple of staff members fluent in Marimba product operations.

Marimba recommends—and we heartily concur—that companies using Marimba Migration Module also use consulting services from Marimba to help with installation and early use. After the product and the process are up and running, IT organizations will likely need very little additional assistance.

Marimba has sold most of the basic technology in Marimba Migration Module for some time. Whats different in this offering, and what we found most useful, is that the company has codified and documented the steps necessary for a successful operating system migration. Its a straightforward process to go from installing the Marimba agent and gathering basic inventory information about the target systems to making the upgrades to ensure end-user systems can handle the new operating system.

After installing the Marimba Migration Module, we deployed the Marimba desktop agent, which took a quick inventory of the target system and sent the information to the central console. This quick-and-dirty inventory system is intended for long-term use after the migration is completed. The company seems to be banking on the idea that new users of Marimba Migration Module will convert the Marimba agent to a permanent license and use the product for ongoing desktop application life-cycle management. IT managers should consider this option because it is a good way to control desktop support costs.

Running prepackaged reports—for example, to see if any machines already had the Ghost agent and to check if target systems had the correct hardware to support Windows 2000—was very convenient because we had expert consultants who were familiar with the process and the location of all Marimba components. Even users experienced with Marimba and Ghost should consider using consultants to help with at least part of the migration.

After using Marimba Migration Module to deploy the Ghost agent and kick off the operating system installation, it was simple to make the Marimba agent a part of our standard desktop.

Microsoft Corp. tools can do much of what Marimba Migration Module does for little or no cost but work best with only Microsoft applications. Furthermore, Marimba Migration Module doesnt set any new standards when compared with operating system migration and application distribution tools from Altiris Inc. and Miramar Systems Inc.

Setting a new standard in desktop deployment and application life-cycle management will take a greater effort on the part of application vendors, rather than from companies such as Marimba. Moreover, the task of deploying and maintaining desktop images will require tools such as Marimba Migration Module for a long time to come because organizations customize settings and rightly want some users to have only the software they need.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at