The management suite is targeted at the same market Microsoft is pursuing with its Zero Administration for Windows initiative. Full-blown tools from that effort should arrive with the next versions of the software giant's operating systems. Backward compatibility with old Microsoft operating systems is also an issue, with the ZAW effort supporting Windows NT 4.0 and above.
"It's got a lot of good, related things that are useful from a customer perspective," said Jeannie Freis, senior analyst with the Aberdeen Group.
In the meantime, McAfee is looking to fill the breach with tools that offer centralized desktop configuration and access control, software inventory, and centralized distribution. The toolset takes existing functionality found in McAfee's Saber LAN Workstation and integrates it with a Windows-focused desktop management software package that has an analysis component to track cost savings.
The company will also incorporate agents into the PC management scheme, allowing administrators to deploy software and collect system inventory without user intervention. The ZAC Suite is the next generation of the Saber LAN Workstation product, which is currently shipping a 6.02 version, according to McAfee.
Issues relating to the lifetime expense of owning a PC came to the fore when a Gartner Group pegged that cost at close to $10,000 per year. Other studies and reports have come up with varying figures.
The ZAC Suite is intended for networks running DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and NT Workstation. It includes support for TCP/IP, SQL database back ends, and SNMP (simple network management protocol), a mechanism for alerting administrators of network problems. The software also collects inventory from various Unix-based desktops.
The ZAC Suite will be available in June and is priced at $50 per node for 100 nodes for a two-year subscription that includes all software updates. The price per node changes based on volume.
McAfee also announced a Jumpstart program that offers customers guarantees that the ZAC Suite can be up and running within a certain amount of time, depending on the size of the network.