Tivoli extends network management to mobile devices

Mobile devices will no longer be faceless wanderers on the corporate landscape if Austin-based Tivoli Systems Inc. gets its way.

Recognizing the immense business popularity of the Palm handhelds, Tivoli is extending its network administration environment with the Tivoli Device Manager for the Palm Computing Platform.

“Palm devices are becoming full members of the IT infrastructure,” said Israel Gat, vice-president and general manager for Tivoli’s pervasive management business unit, during an announcement to customers, analysts and media in Rome – the location of one of Tivoli’s development facilities.

“We’re extending the reach of scaleable IT management solutions,” said David Murphy, Tivoli’s senior vice-president of corporate development. He said the expected result is “increased efficiency, reduced cost and improved customer service.”

And here’s an argument for reducing costs: Gartner Group, which is noted for its total cost of ownership (TCO) predictions, said the TCO on Palm OS-based devices is US$2,693 per year, while Windows CE-based machines cost US$2,791 per year.

In a study done in conjunction with Meta Group Inc., Tivoli reported 10 per cent of enterprise workers are using a handheld PDA in 2000, but that’s expected to grow to 36 per cent by 2002. “One in three workers could be using PDAs. IT workers should be prepared to integrate them into their environments and manage them,” Murphy said.

By extending its solution to include Palm devices (at a cost of about US$31 per device), Tivoli claims companies can effect single-action application deployment and removal, real-time inventory of software and hardware, a centralized view and control across an organization, decision support and data gathering for planning purposes, and event correlation and remote log accessibility.

For software distribution, there’s a two-phase distribution process, as software is pushed first onto the desktop, and then onto the Palm upon synchronization. That includes the initial distribution of the Tivoli agent software for the Palm.

Today, people use PDAs for mainly “personal reasons,” Murphy noted. But with the launch of Tivoli Device Manager for the Palm computing platform, he expects companies will “adopt them for business reasons. They’ll move from personal devices to full-fledged access devices.”

IBM, Tivoli’s parent company, already has a notable partnership with Palm Inc. as a licensee of the Palm technology, which IBM sells under the WorkPad label to its corporate customers.

With the new technology, administrators can set up groups with specific access levels or traits. An administrator could even centrally pre-program buttons on the Palm units for certain tasks, such as presentations, suggested Claudio Valant, a product manager in the Rome development lab.

In the future, Tivoli reportedly plans to support wireless Palms connecting in wireless mode. However, that’s still under development.

“Mobile devices are becoming important aids to corporations today. It makes sense for Tivoli to come out with ways to manage them more effectively,” noted Richard Morochove, president of Toronto-based Morochove & Associates Inc. Regarding the initial focus on managing synching devices, rather than those in wireless mode, he said that makes sense too, as there are more syncing handhelds around currently. “It makes sense to go with the Palm, because it has greater market share.”

Palm Inc. was an official partner in the announcement of Tivoli Device Manager for the Palm Computing Platform. However, Palm also participated in a similar announcement with Tivoli competitor Computer Associates International (CA) Inc. last summer, unveiling Unicenter TNG Switch Management Option 2.0 for the Palm Computing platform. Adding a bit of unintentional humour to the solemnity of the Tivoli launch, Palm’s spokesperson slipped during the press conference and referred to the benefits of the agreement with CA.

However, in a subsequent interview, Keith Ramee, director of worldwide alliances for Palm, said Tivoli’s offering was “more robust” than CA’s. “They waited until they had the product that they wanted,” he said of Tivoli, noting Palm and Tivoli worked together for about nine months before the formal announcement. He mentioned he has also “had discussions” with Hewlett-Packard Co.

Ramee said Palm has an installed base of 5.5 million devices, with a reported 40,000 software developers.

John Pincomb, vice-president and business manager for CA in Islandia, NY, said, “We’re looking at the Palm as a connection to the desktop, or let us say, an extension to the desktop.” He said such handhelds are moving beyond their roles as PDAs to be real enterprise devices holding important corporate data. In some cases, they’re even replacing expensive notebooks for mobile solutions, he said.

Computer Associates doesn’t manage wireless Palms (in wireless mode) either, but Pincomb said that’s a deliberate choice, so as not to consume expensive air time for downloading software updates, for example.

Within the next year and a half, Tivoli plans to extend its mobile support to other mobile devices, including Microsoft’s Windows CE/Pocket PC platform, cable modem and set-top boxes, as well as kiosks, plant automation and POS devices.