Open Software Associates Updates NetDeploy

In the pushy world of deploying applications and application updates across a network or from one business to another, an Australian company is pulling for a different approach.

Most deployment solutions employ the "push" model, relying on network servers to distribute new applications or upgrades throughout the enterprise at designated times. Graeme Greenhill, president of Open Software Associates (www.osa.com), which has its U.S. headquarters in Nashua, N.H., says the push model has major limitations in the 24x7 environment of many businesses. "The server pushes upgrades out, usually all at once, filling the network," Greenhill says.

Open Software’s latest offering, netDeploy 4.0, which was previewed at Comdex/Enterprise in San Francisco, uses a model for application deployment that the company calls "smart pull." Traditional distribution methods are used to get the product onto the thousands of client machines in an enterprise. Once distributed, netDeploy takes up about 1 MB of drive space on a client machine. Then, whenever a client machine connects to the network, it checks the server’s index of updates and requests a download of any applications it lacks. The approach staggers the load on the network at any one time.

On the server side, network administrators package applications with netDeploy Packer and place them on any Web server. Greenhill says the packer can handle any language, any computer platform and even applications that already have their own installation scripts. The packing process creates a catalog for each application that lists components, version numbers and locations around the network. A new feature in version 4.0 is that the packaged applications can be duplicated to multiple Web servers. In the case of an interrupted download, the client-side software can switch to another Web server to receive the rest of a file.

The "smart pull" approach, the light footprint and the low bandwidth requirements are key advantages for the Open Software product, and those qualities don’t mean netDeploy is a lightweight product, says analyst Philip Mendoza of International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.). "They’re not into the Internet ‘try and buy.’ They are more into the business-to-business software distribution of large files, 100 MB or so," Mendoza says. The setup is also an advantage, Mendoza says. "It doesn’t take a lot of administrative rigging to set up," Mendoza says.

Platinum Technology Inc. (Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., www.platinum.com) has selected netDeploy to distribute an upcoming suite of products to about 500 customers, says Platinum senior product manager Steve Sawalski. "One of the things the [Platinum] labs wanted was to get maintenance dynamically to customers," Sawalski says. In internal testing, the product has proved to be stable, and Open Software developers have worked with Platinum to get the program running.

Release 4.0 has been optimized for Windows NT, Open Software’s Greenhill says. A main area of enhancement is in security. Improvements include NT LAN Manager authentication support, allowing client computers to provide the Windows password for access to files and network resources; the ability to add registry entries for a user who is currently logged in; and domain-level security to allow installations only from authorized servers or domains. The release supports several flavors of Unix but drops support for IBM OS/2, Greenhill says. Other general changes to version 4.0 include enhanced integration with Systems Management Server, improvements to the user interface and efforts to improve speed through local DNS caching.