On the show floor: asset management software

If sex, as it’s been said, drove Internet businesses in its early stages, then it’s mild paranoia, it seems, that drives software development today.

Maintaining security and ensuring software compliance were the themes of some of the newest software products on display at this

year’s Comdex.

Vancouver-based Absolute Software, building on its experience as a purveyor of software to track lost or stolen PCs, has announced AbsoluteTrack, a program designed to manage PC inventory, ensure software licence compliance, centralize lease information and track PCs as they move from office to office, office to home.

At the heart of the software is a stealthy agent transmitted from server to client to track the status and whereabouts of a corporation’s IT hardware.

The new focus on asset management and software compliance enforcement represents a larger view of security issues. “”External theft is only responsible for 12 per cent of the overall loss problem,”” says Absolute Software CEO John Livingston. “”A much bigger issue is inside loss – PCs get assigned to a certain person in a department and before you know it, you don’t know where the PC is anymore.

“”We provide a trail of where the PC started to who the last person who used it was – and we do that all automatically.””

Executive Software of Burbank, Calif., has an offering to allay similar concerns. SiteKeeper is an asset management product that tracks hardware inventory as well as software compliance. Again the emphasis is on the ability of the network administrator to monitor and control software compliance from a central location. “”If you had to get audited you would know what versions you had out there, how many licenses, how much hardware…”” says Justin Robertson, corporate account manager for Executive Software. “”With push install he can schedule to update the software automatically.””

And employee turnover adds to the compliance headaches of network administrators, Robertson suggests. “”You get a new administrator and he hasn’t got a clue who’s on the system so he sees these CDs and installs them all over the place,”” Robertson says. “”If he gets audited later on he’s in serious trouble because they’re getting hard on it.””

Even vendors of Web infrastructure products are now using security as part of their pitch. Pickering, Ont.-based Foedero Technologies Inc. has introduced its FoederoCache dynamic caching system, software that Foedero president Frankie Wong says is a step beyond the static caching that represented last year’s state-of-the-art. “”Static caching is good for information that doesn’t change,”” Wong says.

“”But the industry is moving towards more dynamic data. In the forefront of this trend towards dynamic data on the Web are financial institutions, and this is where the issue of security comes in. “”Banks don’t use much caching, Wong says. Because static caching is close to the Internet, it’s insecure, Wong explains. “”Even if you’re behind a firewall, your data is still kind of open.”” Dynamic caching, Wong suggests, allows even security-conscious institutions like banks to reap the speed benefits of caching data on the Web.

“”Most hacking is done by peers – they try to make themselves look like you,”” Wong says. “”This (product) prevents it because the cache itself removes the data from the server.””

And if users aren’t paranoid enough about their fellow users, there’s always the perpetual chance their system will just break down. This can be monitored as well, says Bob Wing, chairman and CEO of Broomfield, Colo.-based Distinctive Technologies. By using diagnostic software to automate its technical support functions, the company says it can considerably reduce the amount of time spent on fixing hardware and software breakdown.

Purchased as an application service provider (ASP) product or licensed and hosted, PCPinpoint automatically performs functional testing of all the devices. Following that, it displays automated fixes, if available, then builds self-help tutorials.

When all else fails, live technical support can be contacted. By eliminating all the usual preliminary questions , time is saved. “”It (PCPinpoint) catalogues all this information and stores it in a unique machine history,”” Wing says. “”By the time they (technical support) finally do get the support call, they have all the system information and all the attempts to fix it.

“”The whole idea of the business model is to eliminate the need for front-end intervention and to make the whole system smarter.””

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