Rove Mobile offers ‘by-the-administrator’ pricing

On Tuesday, Rove Inc. announced a new version of its mobile network administration software, but the biggest change may be in the way it’s licensed, not in the code.

Mobile Admin 4.0 allows network administrators to manage their servers from any computer or smart phone, according to Paul Dumais, chief technology officer for Ottawa-based Rove. But the new version licenses the administrator, not the server software.

“It allows people to administer an unlimited number of servers,” Dumais said. Whereas before, companies would pay $245 per server, they now pay $495 per administrator. The software is installed on a single server on the network; there are no agents on any of the other machines.

The licensing change came about because customers weren’t buying licences for their non-critical servers. “Let’s say a customer had 100 servers,” Dumais said. “They would only buy 10 licences of our software for 10 servers. They bought it for the critical servers they had to manage, but not the entire set of servers they have in the organization. We think the licensing change gives a lot more value to our customers, and basically allows them to manage their entire infrastructure.”

The new licensing regimen makes more sense for a company in Rove’s position – looking for revenue growth – according to Info-Tech Research Group senior analyst Mark Tauschek.

For a start, many mid-sized firms would balk at paying $245 a server for a large number of servers. “A data centre or network administrator is going to be responsible for more than one server,” Tauschek said, so by-the-administrator (or by-the-device) licensing is more attractive.

It’s also good for Rove’s bottom line. “As people add new administrators, it means additional licensing revenue,” Dumais said. “You’re more often going to be adding administrators than you’re going to be adding critical servers.”

Rove, recently named one of Canada’s hottest new mobile companies by IDC Canada, has two streams of products. One is aimed at end-users who want to access their office or home computer remotely. The other stream targets network administrators who want to work remotely. Mobile Admin falls into that stream, and covers Windows-based administration environments; a sister product, Mobile SSH, allows remote management for Unix admins running terminal-based systems like AS/400s, mainframes and green-screen applications, Dumais said.

Mobile Admin supports Microsoft Active Directory and Exchange, Lotus Domino, BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Oracle, Citrix, VMware, Novell GroupWise and more. “It actually does about 400 tasks,” Dumais said. “It’s really a unified management suite so people can manage their entire infrastructure.”

Any computer with a browser can log into Mobile Admin. Rove has created native clients for smart phones, rather than use existing mobile browsers. “Because the browsers aren’t that powerful on these mobile devices and don’t give a very good user experience, we have native clients that run on Windows Mobile and BlackBerry and Nokia devices,” Dumais said.

But Tauschek said there are other tools on the market that allow administrators remote access that cost less – or nothing at all. While it’s handy to, for example, use Mobile SSH for a secure Telnet session, it may not be necessary.

“There are probably other options available that, shall we say, cheap network administrators are more likely to use,” Tauschek said.

Aside from the licensing change, Version 4.0 offers support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 (previous versions supported only 2000 and 2003), Office 2008 and Vista. Multiple levels of authentication and encryption are supported, including TDES and AES for BlackBerry Enterprise Server, VPN or HTTPS encryption, and authentication through Windows, LDAP, RSA SecurID, RADIUS, devices and applications.

And the product scales much larger than before, Dumais said.

“We’re starting to get a lot bigger customers, for example, DHL and Boeing, who have tens of thousands of servers,” he said. “Our first versions of Mobile Admin were geared at more the medium-type enterprises.” The system now uses a backend database to store configuration settings.