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Report: Top Client Management Suites Delivered by Symantec and CA

A recent study on enterprise client management suites determined that Symantec and CA Technologies were the top "leaders" in meeting IT needs.

Suites made by those companies scored well in terms of their core PC management capabilities, as well as their support for mobile and virtualized clients, according to the study, "Forrester Wave: Enterprise Client Management Suites, Q2 2012." The report was published last month and includes assessments of 10 management suites, based on lab evaluations, demos and discussions with solution vendors. The study is notable for addressing newer concerns facing IT departments, such as assessing how currently available management products can handle mobile and virtual clients.

With regard to managing hybrid physical-virtual desktops, BMC Software's BladeLogic Client Automation suite got top praise in Forrester's study, closely followed by suites from CA Technologies, IBM and LANDesk.

With regard to smartphone and tablet management capabilities, the top-ranked client management suites were Numara (now owned by BMC Software), LANDesk and Symantec.

Microsoft was considered to be a "strong performer" in the study, which assessed System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3, an older product. While Microsoft released its latest System Center 2012 management suite in April of this year, that suite wasn't considered because the study only evaluated products released before Dec. 31, 2011. However, the study specifically found that System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 was lagging in its capabilities for managing mobile devices and virtualized clients.

The report grouped the 10 enterprise client management suite vendors according to three general categories. Here's how Forrester viewed the vendors (and their products):

  • Leaders: Symantec (Altiris) and CA Technologies (Client Automation).
  • Strong performers: BMC (BladeLogic), Dell (Kace), IBM (Tivoli), LANDesk (Management Suite), Microsoft (System Center Configuration Manager) and Numara (Footprints).
  • Contenders: Hewlett-Packard (Client Automation Enterprise Edition) and Novell (ZENworks Configuration Manager).

The report was aimed at producing a qualitative assessment of vendors and their products. It wasn't a survey, so it doesn't describe which suites were most frequently used by IT shops. However, Forrester had vendor-supplied client numbers and it was clear that Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager was most used, according to David K. Johnson, a senior analyst at Forrester Research and coauthor of the report. System Center may be most used, in part, because of Microsoft's marketing.

"[System Center] is perceived as being free [due to licensing]," Johnson explained, in a phone interview. "However, that's offset to some extent by the perceived complexity. A lot of customers told us that System Center 2007 is a complex beast that requires pretty advanced skills to implement and use well, and we definitely hear that from a wide range of customers. They found other solutions easier for them to consume."

While System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 didn't top Forrester's list in terms of managing mobile devices, Microsoft early on announced that System Center 2012 would provide such support. System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is said by Microsoft to be capable of managing various mobile devices, including those based on Android, Apple's iOS and Windows Phone operating systems, or any mobile device that supports Microsoft's Active Sync technology. However, this mobile device management capability appears to be associated with the release of Service Pack 1 of System Center 2012, which isn't available yet.

Johnson noted that a lot of shops have been looking for capabilities, like mobile and virtual device management support, but they just haven't been finding them from incumbent vendors.

"We based [the study's criteria] directly on the conversations we had with customers, with IT clients, that were struggling with new forms of end user computing that they didn't feel that they had the management tools for," Johnson explained. "Multiple device management is one aspect of that, but also, even more so is the complexity and challenge that goes with managing a hybrid physical and virtual environment. It's still in the end user computing world from the management perspective."

It's not just a problem of a lack of tools. IT shops also tend to be burdened by management itself, which "is not a value-added activity" for businesses, Johnson said.

"The important thing to keep in mind is that most of what we call client management today really has commodity functionality," he explained. "So that core commodity stuff has been the legacy of what client management has been about -- patching, software deployment, things like that. The variety of computing models, both device platforms of operating systems and virtualization, are all significantly adding to the complexity of that challenge of managing end user computing."

Johnson expressed a hope that software vendors, including Microsoft, would reduce the management burden of their platforms, including with the forthcoming Windows 8. He said that on the mobile front, companies have adopted Apple Macs because of a perception that there's less need for management.

"We did a lot of research of Macs with some of Apple's largest customers and almost all of them were using something like Casper Suite from JAMF Software -- just to get the basic stuff done…managing the permissions, and so on," Johnson said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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