Zenworks for Desktops Beta: Users Report Peaceful Coexistence With Windows

As Novell’s Zenworks For Desktops 4, codenamed “Prometheus,” approaches
its target release date, some early users are already claiming
measurable gains. Other administrators, though, are opting to hold off
for a while, a situation universally true for beta software.

With new releases of its products, Novell is now taking a number of
steps that are helping its Zenworks family of application management and
distribution products to compete, analysts say.

“Prometheus, for example, will run not just on Netware servers, but also
on Windows servers, without Netware,” according to Fred Broussard of
IDC.

“The infrastructure requirements of Prometheus don’t quite lock you into
Netware,” agrees Novell beta tester Matthew Krieger, who is associate
director of global network architecture at Reader’s Digest. The
HTTP-based product operates on major Web servers.

Krieger says that Reader’s Digest is finding this capability very useful
in integrating other publishing outfits recently acquired. “We don’t
want to have to go in and rip out their existing Windows
infrastructures.”

Prometheus is slated for release to manufacturing by the end of this
month, according to Novell officials.

Reader’s Digest, though, has been using Zenworks for Desktops for the
past three years. The UK arm was the first company division to deploy
the Novell product, with the rollout of version 1. In those days, most
of the Reader’s Digest organization still relied on either Seagate’s
WinInstall or Microsoft’s SMS for remote installation and maintenance.

Then, around two-and-a-half years ago, Reader’s Digest decided to build
a global desktop image based on Windows 95. “We’ve always been an NDS
shop. All of our file servers are NDS, for instance. We saw a lot of
value in being able to global tree on a regional basis. Zenworks was the
only product which would let us do that,” according to Krieger.

By now, Reader’s Digest has deployed Zenworks to about 2800 of its 4000
seats on its global enterprise net. The global image is now based on
Windows 2000.

Also important with Prometheus, in Krieger’s view, is the fact that the
need for a Netware client essentially goes away. For most applications,
a Web browser will perform just as well.

Sean Welsh, an administrator at Mount Sinai NYU Health System, also
applauds the elimination of the Netware client.. “This will let Zenworks
act more like a service. Integration should be even easier,” he
observes.

Welsh’s organization, however, is foregoing a beta this time around,
even though it’s previously tested other products from Novell, including
DirXML.

“It really isn’t the most prudent practice to be on ‘the bleeding edge’
all the time. Beta software can be buggy. So, we only go out on the edge
for products with capabilities that are critical for us,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mount Sinai NY Health System deployed an earlier edition of
Zenworks for Desktops on all 5,000 seats at each of two sites, for a
grand total of 10,000 seats. Mount Sinai is still using version 2, but
it’s quite possible that it will start performing a lab evaluation of
version 3.2 in another two or three months.

Competitively speaking, Zenworks for Desktops is well positioned in
terms of features and functionality, according to IDC’s Broussard.

“If all you’re dealing with is individual Windows PCs, you can use
either Zen for Desktops or SMS. Organizations are thinking about things
like creating group policy objects, as opposed to sending out unique
software to each group. I wouldn’t say you get this with Windows 2000,
either, although it does have capabilities for remote backup,”

Ted Haeger, Zenworks Witness for Novell, points to literally dozens of
other new features in Prometheus. Administrators can now force run
workstation applications as a user, for example. “GUID” stamping is now
done when an application has been successfully installed.

“Caching of applications now occurs on the workstation side as well as
the user side,” he adds. “The location of the master cache can be
specified using a registry key.”

Through a “checkpoint restart” capability, mobile users can postpone
downloads of large applications. A few of Prometheus’ other major new
features include a launcher debug tool; support for .MSP patch packages
and MSI “verify” options; the ability to detect whether or not a user is
remote; “application reporting,” for reporting to a database through a
firewall; and “application chaining,” for linking applications together
based on a hierarchy of dependencies.

Reader’s Digest and Mount Sinai, two Zenworks for Desktop customers,
are not using Zenworks for Servers, however. The same goes for other
products in the Zen family: Zenworks for Handhelds, and Synergy.

Zenworks for Handhelds currently supports PocketPC and Palm devices. For
the future, Novell is reportedly considering other possible mobile
platforms, including WinCE tablets.

Zen’s support for handhelds will grow increasingly important, Broussard
suggests. IDC already estimates the proportion of enterprises with “some
enterprise support” at about 50 percent, according to the analyst.

“You might only be talking, though, about two or three groups within the
organization – the sales department and senior management, for
instance,” Broussard points out.

Broussard adds that, with the increasing crossplatform support in Zen
for Servers, he wouldn’t be surprised to see Zen for Desktops start
supporting more operating environments, as well

“You can have just about anything going in to an enterprise – not just
NetWare and Windows. Linux shipments, for example, are slowly making
their way into the enterprise, too. Anything that gives Novell more
traction with Linux is going to help.”

Overall, though, Novell’s crossplatform support is definitely an asset.
“Novell is being especially smart in starting to support Microsoft’s
Active Directory through DirXML,” according to the IDC analyst.

Could Novell be confusing the user base, though, by offering too many
products in the management space? “I’m not going to pin that on Novell.
I don’t mean this is any negative way, though, but there will always be
network managers who aren’t aware of all the capabilities of all the
solutions out there,” Broussard responds.

“The network manager’s job is to be keep the network stable – not to
keep on top of all the latest enhancements to everything. When it comes
to certain capabilities, though – such as the ability to upgrade multiple
servers at once – things can get tricky. It might be good for Novell to
be sending out a clearer message in areas like these.”

Many users, though, seem highly aware of specific enhancements from one
edition of a Zen product, to the next. In version 3.2 of Zenworks for
Desktops, Welsh expects to see improvements to tiered electronic
distribution. “In version 2, tiered electronic distribution couldn’t
handle open files. It would fail, and switch people off,” he says.

Other capabilities he’s looking forward to in 3.2 include automatic
workstation import and registration, and increased flexibility with
system impersonation. “Objects will be able to install without end users
having to act like administrators,” according to Welsh.

Meanwhile, Krieger maintains that Reader’s Digest is already
experiencing measurable benefits from Prometheus.

“We’re measuring the benefits mostly in terms of speed of execution. We
can’t be taking something like six months or a year to deliver global
software services to new users, or we’d go out of business,” according
to Krieger.

“With Prometheus, we can have you up and running with new software in
about 20 minutes. That’s more important to us than getting rid of 100
employees. I will say, though, that the help desk now has more time
available to do ‘strategic thinking,'”


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Jacqueline Emigh

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