Tired of SMS (Slow Moving Software)?

Take a look at the better way to manage your software...

by Marcin Policht Take a look at the better way to manage your software...

Recently, I was looking into alternatives to SMS for software deployment and management and the product that captured my attention was RADIA from Novadigm. It seemed worth a bit of research, since it offered a user-friendly packaging interface and a multi-platform; Web based deployment support available right out-of-the box. Getting Started User Manual provided an explanation of the basic features which testing took me a bit over an hour. The surprise came though after spending more time browsing through the rest of manuals shipped with the product. Admittedly, getting familiar with versatility and full range of functionality requires more in-depth study of the documentation, but it is worth an extra effort. RADIA provides full software configuration and lifecycle management, built-in software distribution capabilities with bandwidth utilization control and superb integration with Microsoft Windows Installer. Using add-on's provided by Novadigm, it scales to any size environment and by the virtue of Web based interface, bandwidth throttling, and use of staging servers it works equally efficiently across WAN and LAN links. And now, in semi-Lettermanesque style, here are my Top 10 reasons to use RADIA

10) RADIA offers both pull and push technologies - push forces applications to users' desktops and allows for transparent installation, including locked-down NT environments which require Administrative privileges for software installations (in these environments, RADIA uses client services, running in Local System's security context). Push can function on scheduled basis, or in real-time, by so called just-in time installation (invoked when user selects the application icon from the menu or the desktop). Pull utilizes Software Mall from which a user selectively chooses any available application.

9) WOL Support - Manager Server, which contains RADIA's central database, can remotely turn on clients desktops using WOL functionality (of course, as long as remote clients support it)

8) Accommodating installations for multiple users on the same desktop with only differential changes being deployed for each user.

7) Access Policies and encryption capabilities - RADIA stores the information about available applications in the central database. Access to them can be restricted in various ways. The most straightforward method is based on a username and a password, which are typed in when accessing Software Catalog via a web browser. Usernames in turn are linked to packaged and published application objects. The links can also be created between applications and workgroup or department objects, which a user is a member of. All these objects can be created independently or imported from LDAP, NDS, AD, or NT SAM based databases using a Novadigm's Proxy Adapter. Additional security can be provided by utilizing encryption through Secure Sockets Layer in package deployment process.

6) Unistallation, auto-repair, and auto-update capabilities - packages can be automatically uninstalled e.g. when the user is removed from a group, which was targeted for specific installation. However, packages can be further customized, so selected components will not be removed (important, since some of these components such as shared dll's or Windows Installer executables might be required by other software). Installed packages can be automatically repaired if any of components is missing (e.g. if a user accidentally deletes an application executable, selecting a menu shortcut or double-clicking on the desktop icon initiates verification process which copies the missing file from a manager or a staging server). Inventory collected from the client can be used to automatically update installed packages - e.g. if the client's desktop is upgraded from WinNT 4.0 to Win2000 and there are separate instances of the same software, one developed for NT, the other for 2000, the packages will be updated automatically based on the change in the client's operating system. In addition, only the changes between the packages will have to be sent to the client workstation, not entire package.

5) Multiplatform Support - I tested RADIA on Microsoft Win 9x, NT, and Win2k workstations, but Novadigm has clients for other types of operating environments such as MacOS, SGI UNIX, HP UX, Sun Solaris, Red Hat Linux, point of sales terminals, kiosks, Internet appliances, etc.

4) Bandwidth utilization control - by using throttling, compression, multicasting support, and staging servers. Clients can be configured to use staging servers, which eliminates the need for a local Manager server. The first client launching the installation will cause the copy of the package to be copied to the local staging server (although even this can be avoided by copying packages manually to the staging server prior to deployment during off-hours). Subsequent installation will be accessing the local stager, rather than the remote manager. The stager can even be configured as a local CD-ROM drive, which allows quick and easy deployment of applications in remote locations with slow or unreliable WAN links.

3) Adaptability to both LAN and WAN environments of any size by using Web Browser based deployment and scalability enhancements - client accesses the Manager server using a Web Browser plug-in, which makes RADIA a suitable tool not only for Internet, intranet, and mobile users, but any TCP/IP based environment. In addition, earlier mentioned staging servers and various Novadigm add-ons allow for synchronization of multiple Managers in hierarchical infrastructures supporting load balancing and high availability

2) Highly customizable packaging process - each of the components (such as a file, registry entry, desktop shortcut, or initialization file) is represented by a separate object in RADIA Manager database, and can be assigned properties, such as install/de-install method, update method, priority (which can be used to control component installation sequence). Each file component can be specified as mandatory or optional, which in turn can be used when the space on the target machine is not sufficient for full installation. System configuration can be checked to restrict deployment based on the operating system, amount of installed memory or processor version.

And the number 1) reason is...

Windows Installer Support - RADIA supports customized and automated MSI packages deployment, including customization of Administrative Installation Points. The integration with Windows Installer technology is superb and goes far beyond capabilities of even Microsoft's own SMS or Win2000. Novadigm AIP Publisher creates an index of AIP components in RADIA database, which is then referenced during the installation. File requests issued by the Windows Installer service are intercepted by Client Redirector Service running on the client's desktop, and redirected to either the Manager or a staging server, which can be build on the local network. Microsoft Transforms (MSTs) published to the RADIA's database, can be used to produce multiple combinations of feature sets using Feature Set Editor.

Well, check it for yourself at http://www.novadigm.com/

This article was originally published on Aug 1, 2000
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