Intel and partners manage mobility with LANDesk

The marriage of Intel Inc.’s LANDesk Management Suite 6.6 and XcelleNet Inc.’s Afaria has produced offspring in the form of the Intel LANDesk Mobile Manager- a tool designed to help enterprises manage their fleet of mobile devices such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones.

“Mobile Manager supports many major mobile device platforms and allows IT managers to inventory and view devices on their networks, distribute software, ensure licensing compliance, and monitor application use,” said Robert Naegle, director of marketing development, Intel software products and services division.

Right now the Mobile Manager supports Windows CE and Pocket PC devices, Microsoft Windows 32-bit operating system clients, and Palm OS-based personal data assistants. Pricing starts at US$64 per seat, with pricing discounts available for 100 or more seats.

One of the problems with managing mobile devices is that they are intermittently connected to the network, said Doug Cooper, country manger, Intel Canada. Through the integration of Afaria’s technology into the LANDesk Management Suite, the new LANDesk Mobile Manager understands the whole idea of intermittency, Cooper said. This enables the mobile manger to optimize mobile and wireless communications through dynamic bandwidth throttling; it detects available bandwidth and uses as much as possible during a transmission.

“If the user is checking e-mail, bandwidth throttling allows Afaria to take advantage of the time on that network that’s not being used by the primary application,” said Russ Anderton, vice-president of business development at XcelleNet.

“All this boils down to a huge reduction in communication time and therefore money,” he added.

Taking advantage of bandwidth allows for features, such as segmented file transfer, to work. For example, if an employee has a handheld pocket PC and is communicating into the network to check e-mail, the IT manager might take that opportunity to deploy new software to that device. But it might be too much software to deploy on one occasion, so the mobile manager would space out that transmission over several communication sessions, Anderton said. This would all be invisible to the IT manager.

Through segmented file transfer, administrators can send out large files in segments organized by either time or by size constraints, and the checkpoint restart feature will help keep track of what has been pushed out in case the connection is interrupted. This avoids redundant data transmission, so if only a portion of a file is transmitted, the next time the device connects to the LAN, Mobile Manager would only push out the information that wasn’t previously transmitted.

This is similar to the byte-level differencing feature, whereby the mobile manager can detect the difference between two different versions of a file or a software package. It examines the individual bytes and sends on the updates or the versions in order to reduce volume and connection time for users that are subjected to low-bandwidth connections.

“You can have a 98 per cent reduction in communication costs just from using byte-level differencing,” Anderton said.

Phil Skinner, director of enterprise services at the Ohio State University Medical Centre in Columbus, Ohio, has about 1,600 doctors using Palm Inc. handhelds and manages them with XcelleNet’s Afaria.

“The biggest use has been from the standpoint of software delivery to push updates out,” he said. “Otherwise it would be a nightmare.”

Although they don’t use LANDesk Management Suite to manage the desktop PCs, he said he could see how the marriage of the two products would be useful.

Ken Smiley, an analyst for Giga Information Group, a research company based in Overland Park, Kan., said, “In terms of survey responses and in-person feedback during a couple of our conferences, the chief kind of leader in that space was XcelleNet with its Afaria product and the other was a combination of Novell and Callisto.”

Novell Inc. bought Callisto and added it’s Orbiter capabilities to its ZENworks program and created ZENworks for Handhelds, what Smiley said is Intel LANDesk’s biggest competition.

“According to our client feedback, there’s kind of a two-horse race between XcelleNet and Novell,” he said. “Of course, now XcelleNet is partnered with Intel for LANDesk (Mobile Manager) because Intel and LANDesk (Management Suite) did not have equivalent offerings to what Novell was offering.”

“The market for managing mobile initiatives and platforms right now is very very very small,” he added. “That being said, I think it’s primed to grow over the next couple of years as more organizations start adopting mobile technology.”

Intel Inc. is based in Santa Clara, Calif. For further information visit its web site at www.intel.com.