Few bus companies embrace remote lifecycle asset management. Then again, Vancouver’s Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) is not a typical bus company: it has more than 1,500 networked desktops spread out across 17 locations.

At first CMBC was a Novell shop running ZenWorks. It then became a Microsoft shop, which meant that Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS) was effectively included in its enterprise agreement.

Wade Sellers, manager of infrastructure services for CMBC, speaking to Network World’s Beth Schultz out of Chicago, said an encounter with lifecycle management vendor matrix42 at a Gartner conference got the ball rolling on a change.

“The matrix42 guy did a couple of demos, a couple WebExes,” Sellers said. “We were intrigued and had to look deeper.”

Coast Mountain had a Vancouver company help with proof-of-concept. Experienced in LANDesk, Altiris, and SMS, the tester was impressed enough by matrix42 to recommend an implementation. Part of the reason was past problems with SMS, as well as demonstrable advantages of Empirum PRO, matrix42’s flagship product, for disaster recovery and automated installs. “SMS is big, clunky, it’s not an easy implementation,” says Sellers, “We had it Empirum Pro up and running in less than a week.”

Jonathan Speigner, director of professional services for matrix42, says the material benefits were immediate. “Operating system deployments went from taking hours or even days to just a few minutes for a new OS template,” he says.

“It’s the same thing with software distribution. They can now push out software to new groups of machines, new organizational units, in minutes.”

Coast Mountain can do a native install of an OS and all associated applications, an improvement over imaging. Hardware detection locates the right machine, and licences can be specified per group of OS, with usage tracked, metered and reported on.

Fred Broussard, research manager in the system infrastructure software group at IDC in Framingham, Mass., says that Empirum PRO is different from products offered by larger vendors Computer Associates, BMC, and HP. “Those vendors’ products are designed for huge installs where there are servers supporting 10,000 desktops,” Broussard says.

“Empirum isn’t for small companies, but it’s ideal for companies with around 500 machines and up.”

The advantages afforded by a remote lifecycle management solution only kick in at a certain point. “It wouldn’t be worth it with 10 machines,” says Broussard. “You need to have a basic IT department. If you’re not familiar with domain controllers, Windows server, and TCCP, then you’re not going to be able to install this software.”

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