netDeploy 4.0

Distribute applications across a network

NetDeploy 4.0 is the latest version of Open Software Associates' (OSA) application deployment utility. The product lets you deploy software applications across any network—whether a LAN, an intranet, or the Internet—over which the client computer can access files. In addition to application distribution, netDeploy provides version updating (i.e., it automatically installs updates to software packages, preventing users from reinstalling existing versions of software on their systems). Because the software works on various platforms and supports Web protocols, it lets you deploy applications to desktop systems, including Windows, UNIX, Macintosh, and OS/2 systems.

The software consists of two components: a Packer application and a Launcher application. You use the Packer application to catalog a netDeploy project. A project is an application package you want to install on your remote systems. After you catalog your projects, you publish them on your server, so remote users can access them. Using the Launcher application, remote systems determine which files to download from the server and what system changes to make to complete the installation.

Deploying an application over a network consumes bandwidth. To help prevent your users from consuming your network's available bandwidth, netDeploy uses two mechanisms to augment performance. First, persistent network connections reduce the overhead of reestablishing a connection across your network for each file the product transfers. Second, file compression reduces files' size before transfer. You can configure files with digital or authenticode signatures to protect transfers.

I used two machines to test the product. The first system was a Micronics-based dual-Pentium II system running Windows NT Server 4.0. I chose this machine because it was running Internet Information Server (IIS). I installed the Packer application on this system to catalog projects to distribute. However, IIS is not necessary to use the Packer application. My second test system was an American Megatrends MegaRUM-based Pentium II system running NT Workstation 4.0. I installed the Launcher component on this system to install packages that I created with the Packer application.

To test netDeploy, I had to catalog an application, then install it on the server from one of my clients. To catalog the application to distribute, I needed to run the netDeploy Packer on one of my systems (you don't need to run the Packer on a server; you can run it on the machine from which you intend to catalog the project). When you run the Packer to catalog a project, a window containing two panes opens. The left pane contains a task list, as Screen 1 shows. When you select a task, the contents of the right pane change to ask you for specific information related to that task. The software requires you to complete some tasks (e.g., Application Name and Platforms) but not others (e.g., Prerequisite Catalogs).

I performed an installation of an image management software package on my client system. I published the project through IIS to make it available to my client systems. When I clicked this link from my client system's Web browser, the Launcher automatically launched and installed the image management software onto my client system.

One shortcoming I found in the software is its inability to deduce installation changes and catalog an application for distribution based on the changes it detects. You must use the Packer application to manually catalog your project. However, when you install packages like the one I tested, this limitation isn't a major cause for concern.

Pricing for the application starts at $15,000, which includes licenses for 1000 client-site installations. Clearly, its cost targets this product for the NT enterprise market and makes the software's usefulness at the small and mid-sized business level questionable. A trial version of the product is available at OSA's Web site.

netDeploy 4.0
Contact: Open Software Associates * 603-886-4330 or 800-441-4330
Price: Starts at $15,000
System Requirements: Windows NT, Windows 98, or Win95, 8MB of RAM, 10MB of hard disk space for Packer and Launcher, excluding projects Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator for Intel-based Launcher application, Any Web server software
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