Integrated management and Y2K services

Tally Systems' PC2000 combines the company's Cenergy desktop asset management suite with Centennial 2000, a product that provides Year 2000 (Y2K) services and tools. Cenergy's three components—NetCensus, CentaMeter, and WinINSTALL—let you easily inventory, distribute, and meter software in your enterprise.

The Cenergy Component
To test PC2000, I turned my attention first to NetCensus, Cenergy's hardware and software inventory management utility. Tally bundles the Cenergy suite on one CD-ROM with an installation launcher that lets you select the components you want to install. Installation is simple: Just slip the CD-ROM in a workstation and hit Enter a few times to install the software to a server. Before I could create an inventory of my network, I had to configure NetCensus, which is more difficult than it sounds. I had to add configuration and contact information about each workstation on my network and create an index of the workstations before I could use NetCensus' Collector utility. Collector runs in DOS, OS/2, or MacOS, in addition to Win32, which is helpful to administrators of heterogeneous networks. When I ran Collector against my server, the utility queried my hardware, scanned my hard disk, and output the report Screen 1 shows.

Although Collector's hardware scanner missed some components on my system (namely, my second 3Com NIC and my Matrox AGP video card), the scanner nevertheless gave a good indication of my system's contents. The software scan was also hit-or-miss and failed to identify popular packages such as Adobe Photoshop 5.0. You can download product updates for the Collector utility from Tally's Web site, including profiles for new software and hardware. However, downloading updates doesn't solve Collector's problem of missing common components.

The software-usage meter CentaMeter is the centerpiece of the Cenergy package. CentaMeter lets you track and control software usage across your network. In addition to performing program auditing on a per-access and per-interval basis, CentaMeter keeps track of the number of licenses you own compared with the number of program copies your users are using. This feature lets you cut down on software piracy and determine when you must obtain additional licensing.

Through CentaMeter's Application Define dialog box, which Screen 2 shows, you can measure program usage in your organization. In this example, I set CentaMeter to meter Microsoft Word 97 usage at $0.50 per access and $2.00 per hour between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. After you configure application monitoring, you simply sit back and wait for CentaMeter Manager to collect data. After the tool builds up a healthy usage log, you can view the collected data as a graph, track installation and uninstallation, and even keep an eye on error messages. To stay compliant with program license restrictions, you can use CentaMeter to control software usage. CentaMeter uses license agreement data you enter to enforce restrictions and control usage.

Tally licenses WinINSTALL, the third component in the Cenergy suite, from Seagate Software. WinINSTALL, an automated installation tool, might be the most useful tool in the Cenergy package. You can use WinINSTALL to create custom installation packages. I wanted to create a Microsoft Office 97 installation package, so I fired up WinINSTALL and took a snapshot of my system's configuration before I installed Office 97. After I installed the Office 97 suite, WinINSTALL took another snapshot to catch the changes the installation made to the system. After logging the modifications, WinINSTALL created the Office 97 installation package. You can distribute installation packages automatically across your intranet or as email attachments. Using email lets your end users install software at times convenient to them.

The biggest problem with the Cenergy asset management suite is the steep learning curve that each of the suite's three components requires. Although the components' menus are fairly straightforward, they're not as clearly defined as you would expect Windows program menus to be. A status bar with descriptions of the menu options would help make Cenergy easier to use. On the plus side, the Cenergy documentation (included as Adobe Acrobat files on the installation CD-ROM) is top-notch and well illustrated. Overall, the Cenergy suite is a powerful—albeit not well integrated—set of utilities. The beauty of the Cenergy suite is that its truly network OS independent, and works with IBM LAN Manager, LANtastic, and Novell NetWare servers as seamlessly as it does with Windows NT servers.

The Centennial 2000 Component
The second installation CD-ROM Tally bundles in the PC2000 package contains Centennial 2000, software that tests your PCs for Y2K hardware compliance. After creating a boot disk, Centennial tests your system hardware. When it encounters a noncompliant system, Centennial uses the boot disk to upgrade the system BIOS flash ROM. After Centennial tests and upgrades your system hardware, you run NetCensus to inventory your software and determine which applications are Y2K-compliant and which require upgrading. Because NetCensus is a character-mode application, you can easily integrate it into your logon scripts.

Tally Systems * 603-643-1300 or 800-262-3877
Web: http://www.tallysystems.com
Price: Starts at $76 per seat for 101 to 249 machines; $60 per seat for 1000 machines
System Requirements:
Windows NT Server 4.0 or Windows 9x
170MB of hard disk space
NT 4.0 or NT 3.x, Win9x, or Windows 3.x
The method Tally employs to test your applications for Y2K compliance isn't fast, but it's effective. After you have the NetCensus software inventory list, you send the list to Tally. The company combs through the list and sends back a report telling you which programs are Y2K-compliant. This solution is far from elegant—Tally could simply include a list of compliant software with each copy of PC2000—but it works. When you have the compliance report from Tally, you can use CentaMeter to determine which of your noncompliant network applications are mission-critical. Then, using WinINSTALL, you can upgrade or uninstall the noncompliant applications.

The PC2000 package is pricey, although on par with other Y2K analysis packages such as WRQ's Express 2000 and Viasoft's OnMark 2000. (Symantec's Norton 2000, however, costs only $7 per node.) The package's feature set is first-rate, although a bit clumsy to use. Better integration between components in the Cenergy suite and between Cenergy and Centennial 2000 would make PC2000 easier to use, but the result in any case is a Y2K-compliant network. How much is that peace of mind worth to you?

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