Managing the Lifecycle of Enterprise Software

Compared with some companies, auto parts supplier Behr America's Dayton, OH, facility isn't exactly crowded with PCs. But with 450-plus desktop clients distributed in five buildings across the 1.1 million-square-foot plant, a sneakernet approach to software management and maintenance just isn't an option.

"If we weren't using an automated management system," says Behr senior LAN administrator Michelle Pike, "we'd be wearing down a lot of shoe leather."

Analysts estimate that 70 to 80 percent of IT budgets are consumed by the daily activities of administrators like Pike. The reason: client environments are ceaselessly changing and continually growing in size and complexity. So it was probably inevitable that the lifecycle rubric would begin appearing in discussions of automated software distribution and inventory control tools.

"The work of administrators today doesn't stop with the installation or re-installation of operating systems and applications," says Chuck Fritz, VP of Americas operations for Enteo Software. "Most of the job involves system operation. And so we talk about the system lifecycle, which encompasses software distribution, software maintenance and client management."

Enteo bills itself as a pure-play software distribution company. Founded 10 years ago in Germany by a frustrated network administrator tired of manual maintenance processes, the company established a U.S. presence in 2002. The company's flagship product, NetInstall, is a tool for installing, managing and integrating Microsoft Windows-based software and operating systems. The company markets NetInstall to a range of enterprises, from organizations with small networks of 300 desktops to larger users managing 75,000 desktops or more.

"Our software was not written for the management team," says Fritz. "NetInstall was written for administrators by administrators."

Pike and her team have been using NetInstall for software updates, patch rollouts and setting up desktop clients from scratch since her company bought the Dayton Thermal Products facility from automaker DaimlerChrysler in 2002. Behr (spelled and pronounced like the paint company, but not affiliated) specializes in automotive air conditioning and engine cooling systems. The PCs in the Dayton facility use standard business productivity software, Pike says, along with some additional specialized applications, such as Microsoft Project, Visio and AutoCAD.

Behr is also a German company, and Pike says that it had been a NetInstall customer before it set up the Dayton plant. "It was already sort of a corporate guideline from the parent company," she says. "So we started using it from the beginning." The Dayton facility is one of four Behr plants in operation in the U.S., and it's the only one using NetInstall. Plans are in place to put the product in at the other three plants by the end of the year, Pike says.

The current version of NetInstall (v5.7) is designed to provide tools for the bundling, distribution and installation of application software, whatever the network or client operating system. It comes with tools for adjusting software applications to meet specific requirements; its scripting language consists of more than 110 instructions, and it supports a variety of Windows scripting languages. And it comes with pre-defined and variably executable instructions for performing frequently required client maintenance activities. Version 5.8 of NetInstall is due in July.

Pike’s team also utilizes a number of NetInstall add-ins. She particularly likes the NetReflect remote control tool, which displays all important functions of the desktop client and transmits mouse movements and keyboard inputs in real time. She uses it for user help, and for demos and some training.

Earlier this year, Enteo announced a partnership with access infrastructure provider Citrix Systems. The partnership provides Citrix customers with access to NetInstall to automate installation and configuration of Citrix MetaFrame Presentation Servers, as well as the ongoing management and maintenance of Citrix environments.

The overall ESD market is growing fast. Analysts at IDC expect it to nearly double from 2001 revenues of $659.6 million to $1.1 billion in 2006.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].