Symantec adds intelligent software management to Altiris

LAS VEGAS – Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. released version 7.0 of its Altiris client systems and server management suites that, the company’s chief operating officer said, in tough economic times will help drive down the cost of IT lifecycle management, and enable customers to better integrate the technology with their existing IT infrastructure, be it from Symantec or those of other vendors.

Customers are “asking for a much shorter ROI” as well as the ability to continue to shorten application deployment times across the organization, said Enrique Salem, Symantec COO, at the annual ManageFusion conference.

In addition, Symantec has integrated workflow into the system management platform “which allows us to integrate disparate technologies together,” said Salem, adding that, in general, security point products suffer from fragmentation and therefore are error-prone.

While the release of Version 7.0 “was not an easy decision,” said Salem, the company feels it is now ready for launch based on having run the platform on about 7,000 machines inside Symantec.

Among the new features in Altiris Client Management Suite Version 7 is intelligent software management to provide IT administrators with added detail around software audit and categorization, automated delivery of updates and enforcement of corporate policies, and reconciling that audit with actual software usage.

“We purposely moved away from just calling it software delivery,” said Mark Magee, senior director of product management for endpoint management with Symantec.

The license optimization capabilities, for instance, allow organizations to reconcile devices in use and metre their usage, said Magee, “and truly understand when a software package is required when one comes through procurement.”

Another cost-saving enhancement are “integrated” power management capabilities to reduce power and cost by hibernating PCs and monitors “without losing management flexibility,” said Magee. It’s a real money saver for organizations “by simply being more aggressive about power management in your environment.”

In Altiris Server Management Suite Version 7, Magee said Symantec was looking to target “the essential pieces of server management” that are fundamental to maintaining system uptime and availability. Magee said the version includes “dramatically” improved integrated performance monitoring and alerting capabilities for flexible deployments and Smart Metrics to choose the best monitoring method. There is also consolidated event management, through an event console, that aggregates event data and correlates the impact of incidents. And, enhancements around day-to-day management include better data visualization and an updated reporting engine.

The overall enhancements in Version 7.0 are a move towards making the management suites more end-user focused, said Magee, “to improve efficiency, automation, integration throughout the entire organization and our platform, which in turn promotes a better managed and more secure system and gives greater security value propositions there as well.”

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“That plays well into this convergence of systems management and security that we see taking place in the marketplace,” said Magee.

Symantec acquired Altiris Inc. in 2007 with the intention of combining the Lindon, Utah-based asset management vendor’s configuration management database capabilities with its own endpoint security management technology.

Paul Roberts, senior analyst for enterprise security with Boston, Mass.-based The 451 Group, said tough economic times is a driver behind Symantec’s focus on process automation and pulling together disparate pieces like backup, security and application updates. Organizations “are looking for ways to rationalize and streamline their business processes, respond to compliance regulations that are asking them to do things in way that are predictable and repeatable and auditable,” said Roberts.

“The degree to which they are talking about that is the degree to which they are starting to knit some of these previously siloed applications and functions within their portfolio and tie them together and workflow is the glue,” said Roberts.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Web hosting services provider MaximumASP has upgraded to the new Version 7.0 of Altiris Server Management Suite to manage its 2,200 production servers, a few of which are situated remotely in Chicago.

The Altiris system management platform has “grown with us,” said MaximumASP systems engineer Bo Clark, recalling when there were only a thousand servers at the time of Version 6.0 deployment. “What we’ve seen so far is it’s a much more user-friendly interface, more intuitive,” said Clark, adding that MaximumASP is still in the process of rolling out the components of the new version.

With Version 7.0, systems engineer Cory Jet said MaximumASP has “a single pane of glass to have our inventory, monitoring, disaster recovery, patch deployment, all under one unified platform instead of spread out across multiple software vendors.”

The addition of Microsoft Silverlight Rich-Internet Application technology, said Jet, provides “cleaner” functionality, allowing for instance, the use of filters and views instead of collections “so we can dynamically build a list of servers to use for various tasks instead of having to tediously go through and add/remove servers from collections.”

Another value add, said Jet, is the software inventory capability to accurately track server usage and only pay for what they are actually using.

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