CA revamps software for desktop conversion

Von Matt Hamblen

Unicenter Desktop DNA r11

Computer Associates International Inc.

- Product summary: CA this week plans to announce the latest release of its software for managing desktop PC upgrades, with improvements to the technology acquired in its purchase of Miramar Systems Inc. last March. The new version is designed to capture incremental changes to a user"s PC configuration for more-efficient restores and upgrades, CA officials said. In addition, IT managers can use Unicenter Desktop DNA r11 to keep user updates backed up for compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley Act requirements. Remote troubleshooting is also enabled.

- User experience: Harry Butler, support center manager at electronics supplier EFW Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas-based division of Elbit Systems Ltd., has been using the new software since mid-December to support 1,800 end users in seven locations. He said the product more than paid for itself when two technicians were able to convert 60 PCs from Windows 98 to Windows XP in less than eight hours while retaining the applications and settings that users had on the older operating system.

"No users were inconvenienced," Butler said. "When users came in on the second shift, the PCs had Windows XP, but all their shortcuts, printer settings, screensavers and more were on there." He added that without Desktop DNA, he would have had to pay "many more technicians overtime to do the work." Butler declined to comment on the software"s cost, other than to say it was "a small part" of the $500,000 that EFW spent on CA products last year.

Incremental updates of user data done weekly with r11 are also helpful to EFW, Butler said. The previous version required capturing all of the content on a PC for a backup, which Butler described as a waste of time and bandwidth. Under the old approach, a single backup took 25 minutes, but that time has now been reduced to several minutes, he said.

EFW also uses Desktop DNA r11 to regularly scour PCs to make sure that all data is kept on a network drive, where it can be accessed to fulfill Sarbanes-Oxley compliance requirements. The new version allowed EFW to write a template to perform such work, Butler said.

- Analyst assessment: IDC analyst Fred Broussard said that as companies convert their PCs to newer operating systems, including the planned Longhorn release of Windows, tools such as Desktop DNA should be "very helpful." The worldwide market for desktop upgrade management tools currently amounts to less than $100 million annually, Broussard said.

- Other vendors in this market: BMC Software Inc. and Novell Inc.

- Price: Starts at US$22 per node for 100 end-user systems.

- Availability: Monday.