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LANDesk's GM Looks Back to the Future

Check out this latest eWeek interview with LANDesk

Q&A: Consolidation hasn't changed the basic challenge for Avocent's LANDesk division: managing desktops and laptops and keeping them securely patched.   

In a back-to-the-future move, Avocent almost one year ago appointed Steve Daly general manager of its LANDesk Software Division. Daly was no stranger to LANDesk, having worked in Intel's systems management business, which was later spun out to form LANDesk Software. Daly was in fact instrumental in Avocent's 2006 acquisition of LANDesk as part of Avocent's executive team. eWEEK Senior Editor Paula Musich on the eve of Daly's one-year anniversary as general manager spoke with him about how well LANDesk has done as a part of Avocent.
LANDesk not long ago celebrated the 15th anniversary of the integrated desktop management suite—better known as LDMS. How has the market evolved in the past few years and what new challenges does it pose for vendors like LANDesk and its competitors?

I was there at Intel when we launched the desktop management suite. About two years into that in the late '90s, people didn't know where the market was going to go. In the last few years I've seen a lot of consolidation in the industry. There used to be a dozen competitors. Now it's down to a short list of us, Altiris and Microsoft. I've come back to it fresh after having left, but the problems are still the same—how to keep a desktop or laptop up-to-date and securely patched. But the mobile component has become a huge part of that.

When talking to those people trying to manage them, everybody acknowledges there's a problem, but nobody's figured out how to deal with them. IT is still trying to figure out how to manage laptops. [The most recent market] report said 30 percent of [PC] shipments were laptops, and the next few quarters forecasts for half and half. So dealing with mobility and with all the things in the corporate WAN is a huge problem for people to solve. When we kicked off the Desktop Management Task Force and launched the suite back when, we were still trying to figure out what the right management was to embed in the platform to make it easier to manage. Intel with vPro has made a great stride. With DMTF initiatives we are working on standard ways to provide management of that laptop and any distributed device out of the box. That's a challenge we've been facing. I think we're getting better at it, but we still haven't come up with a standard way to do that across the industry.

I think the challenge of securing those end devices has become much more important. LANDesk at one point had virus protection that we sold off to Symantec. Every time we think about getting ahead of the threats, the threat-scape changes. I don't see that we'll get to a steady state where all known vulnerabilities will be accounted for. We really have to address that combined with a management bent.

How has the competitive landscape changed in this space in the last couple of years? What new competitors have entered the fray and which ones have dropped off your radar?

Some of the competitors have been bought—i.e., Novadigm is now part of [Hewlett-Packard] and subsumed into the HP stack. Marimba was bought by BMC, ON Technology was bought by Symantec. They've gone to fight other battles. Clearly the consolidation has changed the profile. We always compete with Microsoft and always have and always will. Where Symantec is focusing their energy has changed. We're at a size that gives us enough bulk that people can't question our viability long-term, but we still have flexibility to react to needs in the market.

The introduction of software virtualization from acquired vendors such as Altiris and Softricity promises to reduce the operational burden of updating desktop applications. What impact do you see software virtualization having on the market?

I think that this is one of those technologies that is pretty cool. It has pretty good wow factor. I can walk in with a thumb drive and run an app without ever installing it on the box. The industry is struggling to find where the value proposition is. I think there are two: One, we have one customer with 16,000 apps in their environment. They had 11 full-time people just validating new software coming in. I see this technology as easing that burden. You run it in its own sandbox, it reduces the overall burden of how that software is distributed. In addition, you can run that software remotely and stream it out to a device. That's the thin-client model. It gives you the flexibility that you can run it streaming from a remote location to the data center, or you could run it locally as a virtualized application, so you can run it in a disconnected environment. Those are two areas where that application will be important.

I see it as another way to package your software. Vendors will use it as a way to package their apps—eventually. A lot of vendors let you wrap up their software in a Microsoft Installer package. The market will move to this. But there are some challenges [because] there are competing ways [to virtualize applications], all a little bit different. Some require you to install an infrastructure to be able to do it. The industry is trying to sort out the best way to do this. There will be some confusion in the market until that's settled. We get a lot of tire-kickers. People are starting to purchase [the technology], but it's taken a while for people to figure out how best to use it in their environment. There will be a standard way to deploy apps in the future. What is VMware doing? They're trying to separate the image from the hardware. All application virtualization tries to do is separate the operating system and application stacks and make the application run across platforms independent of the operating system. I see it will gain momentum and become the way we do software distribution.

What is LANDesk doing around software virtualization?

We have our LANDesk Application Virtualization. It runs in user mode and allows you to, within the LANDesk console, package an application up as a standard .exe. So now I can drop that .exe onto a thumb drive, plug it into any laptop and run it on that laptop without ever installing it. As a user it looks and feels just like the console does. It's just another item on the menu. All that training and the way you've done software packaging in the past is the same, whether it's a real or virtual application. Because you package it and it runs as an .exe, you don't need a separate back-end server to host or stream it. It uses standard protocols to stream the application if you want to do that. And it's fully integrated, so it doesn't look like a separate tool, just another feature added to the LANDesk console.

Read the rest of this eWeek interview, here.

Published Monday, December 31, 2007 11:32 AM by David Marshall
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