IBM: We’ll take your spam, viruses, patch management

IBM Wednesday unveiled services designed to take the strain of keeping up with patch management, anti-spam and anti-virus solutions off the desktop and into Big Blue’s server centres.

IBM’s desktop management services are an enhancement

of the Express portfolio of products and services targeting the marketplace for smaller companies announced a year ago, said Beth Feeney, director of small and medium business offerings, IBM global services, in Armonk, NY.

IBM won’t disclose the number of customers using its desktop management services, but among them are Toronto-based Gay Lea Foods Co-op. Ltd., UK-based Randstad Employment Bureau and Ros Casares, a Spanish iron and steel distributor, said Dale Moegling, director of desktop services for IBM global services.

The desktop management services, which IBM said will curb the costs of handling personal technology by up to 30 per cent, is a response to customers’ demands for “”services at a component level,”” explained Moegling.

“”Each one of them had unique problems they needed to resolve . . . but they didn’t need the entire suite of services. We can then work with them to solve their specific services’ problem, and also (give) them the flexibility to add services as they grow based on their requirements.””

The service, which supports several platforms, works on a pay-per-use model, said Feeney. She said prices in Canada start at about US$55 per user per month, while prices in Europe start at about US$50 per user per month.

These mid-sized firms face a host of problems that IBM’s desktop management services aim to help them manage, argued Feeney. For instance, one recurring concern is “”the growing complexity and the cost of managing personal computing technology”” such as PCs, photocopiers, printers and scanners, she said.

“”This proliferation of growing personal computing devices, together with the increase in remote workers, is making it more and more difficult to track or locate hardware and software throughout the organization.””

She said computer security is also an especially serious problem. According to mi2g, a UK-based security firm, by the end of March, MyDoom, Bagel and Nesky viruses had caused an estimated US$85 billion in lost productivity, clean-up expenses and lost sales.

Mid-sized firms are tired of the “”neverending race”” to keep operating systems updated with individual virus patches, Feeney explained, and added Microsoft issued eight patches in the last week.

IBM’s features include recovery and data back-up on a local server within the customer’s enterprise, patches for clients’ operating systems and applications that it will install on their behalf, as well as the ability to catch many viruses and spam before they get into the customer environment, said Moegling.

“”We don’t have to have, as exists today, someone in the IT department come out with diskettes and update those security fixes and those security patches.””

IBM argues its business model is based on a service, in contrast to competitors that are selling tools. In fact, Moegling said IBM is removing IT people from the task of evaluating tools from different providers. “”That’s why we think we are ahead.””

On the same day that IBM unveiled the next generation of services for mid-sized firms, Sophos, a developer of anti-virus and anti-spam solutions, and Sun Microsystems Inc. announced they were combining Sophos PureMessage and the Java System Messaging Server.

The partners said this new product protects against spam, viruses and other security threats for high-volume messaging environments like telecommunication carriers, universities and large enterprises.

As a stand-alone business, said Michael O’Neil, managing director of IDC Canada in Toronto, there’s not much money to be made from services to battle spam and viruses because the tools aimed at this problem have quickly been commoditized.

That said, “”I think the market is really ripe for outsourced offerings in that area”” because managing security-related issues within a company requires full-time attention, explained O’Neil. He added today’s moves put big vendors like IBM and Sun in a central position from which to springboard other services.

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