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IBM extends manageability

Vendors are now promoting remote manageability as a feature and beginning to use it as a competitive enhancement.

IBM (IBM) has made its computer manageability software compatible with the bulk of its desktop lineup, the latest bit of one-upsmanship in the "managed PC" features war among the top PC vendors.

IBM's LanClient Control Manager (LCCM) 1.1, a server application for controlling PCs remotely, is now compatible with IBM PC models 730, 750, 330, 350, and 365. Essentially, this means that IBM PCs shipped as early as February 1996 are compatible with the LCCM. IBM's ThinkPad 770 and PC 300 are already compatible with the server software.

LCCM allows network administrators to configure, diagnose, and control computers while the machines are turned off, explained Karl LaWall, senior marketing manager, commercial desktops at IBM.

The program cuts down network maintenance costs by allowing administrators to remotely determine what repairs or software upgrades are necessary. Under current conditions, administrators have to send technicians out to diagnose a problem before repairs can begin.

LCCM works in the "preboot state" (when a machine is off) because some of the problems the program diagnoses are also the type of maladies that will shut a machine down. "If the disk drive is gone, how are you going to diagnose it without booting it," he explained.

The program also allows administrators to inventory hardware across the network.

Like the manageability software promoted by Hewlett Packard and others, IBM's LCCM will work with computers designed to managed PC specifications, but it works best with IBM machines. LCCM can identify other computers, for instance, but cannot diagnose problems too. The same sort of dichotomy occurs with HP's TopTools.

Bruce Stephen, an analyst at International Data Corporation, is among several who have pointed out that the main vendors are each promoting manageability as a feature of their PC fleets, and are thus beginning to use it as a competitive enhancement.

"It will become more prevalent in 1998," added LaWall. By then, the software and hardware required to manage PCs will have improved, he said, and administrators will be more acclimated with the technology.