I interviewed Steve – fresh - probably not the right word - off a 30-hour flight from LANDesk’s Utah based headquarters. He was in Australia to address its local user conference.
I had heard of the company. LANDesk Software, founded in 1985 is one of the oldest companies providing enterprise level systems management, security management, service management, asset management, and process management solutions.
More than 20 years ago, Intel bought it to develop a LAN management desktop and server suite. Fast-forward to 2010 a US private equity firm bought the company and provided capital to purchase Wavelink – a wireless technology company, and Shavlik – a patch management provider.
Steve has been with the company ’90 days and counting’ and perhaps this, plus jetlag, accounted for the slightly unpredictable interview. We spoke of so many things but I was satisfied that the ground we covered was of interest to iTWire’s enterprise readers.
A little of his background - why LANDesk wanted him.
- 15 years’ experience in IT software product strategy as CMO at RES Software – workspace virtualisation for healthcare
- Vice president of product marketing for Symantec’s enterprise products
- Vice president of product management for Symantec’s endpoint management business, which included the Altiris product portfolio
- Various product, marketing, and services roles at other IT companies, including Peregrine Systems and Folio Corporation
- Bachelor of Science degree, University of Colorado
On BYOD – bring your own device
BYOD is probably the hottest topic in the corporate IT world – allowing users to connect via an iPad, Android tablet, Windows tablet, smartphone, Mac OS X, and even home computer to the corporate network. Steve pointed out however that it is potentially so much more with the cloud creating an internet of everything linking back office tools like scanners and barcode scanners, in-car systems, GPS systems, smart printers, smart TV’s, apps, and social media together.
Steve said that it is also justifiably referred to as ‘Bring Your Own Disaster’. He spoke of the ease in circumventing corporate IT systems and getting around system administrators with as little as a “credit card and a web browser.” His attitude is that it needs to be encouraged while controlled.
He used the term ‘Digital Natives’ – a generation that has grown up using lightweight consumer devices and apps to do what used to require heavy weight programs and resources. He spoke of the expectation of the extended working day from checking email before breakfast to completing a presentation late at night – in a variety of locations using a variety of devices. Why make this harder by insisting that the network is homogeneous – apart than to make it easier for system administrators?
He called this adaptive IT and the plus side is the increase in productivity that it can bring. The minus side is not so much about ‘interspecies’ connectivity but security of data – who owns sensitive company data, where is it stored and who can access it.
We spoke on interspecies exchange of ‘bodily fluids’ and he assured me that as yet - a virus or malware on an Android device was unlikely to be able to bring down a Windows server based corporate LAN. Steve says that 70% of security issues happen due to poorly maintained systems.
“A corporation should be more concern about where its data is – where that important presentation or sensitive financial data is stored or what happens if that mobile device is stolen and used to access the corporate network. What happens if the person leaves and it is all stored in his personal, password protected cloud storage?” he asked.
“What about social media – it has become a de-facto way to communicate. Instead of every communication stored in the Exchange or Lync, servers it can be littered over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and more. A company has statutory responsibilities to store that data as well as an expectation that it is secure,” he said.
During the conversation, we keep coming back to BYOD issues. Steve mentions that a possible cure for many BYOD issues is for corporations to set up their own App stores. In essence, instead of ignoring the need to use apps and insisting on a homogeneous environment set up a BYOD – or choose your own device – apps store that serves approved apps, storage, and services. It can also enforce cloud policy, overlay data encryption, and ensure the company can access and manage cloud-based data. It also enables better mobile device management, remote wipes and more.
We chat about this concept for some time and it soon makes sense for system administrators to supervise and support - rather than lock down or shut out - the BYOD issue.
“Naturally, LANDesk has solutions to most, if not all of the BYOD issues,” he winked.
On Asset management – software and hardware
“Every organisation needs to know what they have, where it is, and what it costs – at the minimum!” he says.
“What happens when you receive an annual software maintenance bill – you pay it of course without really knowing if all your licenses have been used effectively? What happens – heaven forbid – if you get an audit dictate from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) asking you to prove that you have valid licences for all software in use? Let’s not even mention the new BYOD issues in this regard. Do you think BSA is going to accept a spreadsheet and your assurance that all licenses are up to date?” he says.
Andrew Souter, pre-sales manager for Asia Pacific joins the conversation saying that for $60-100 per year per employee (not device) LANDesk can provide complete systems and asset management – listings, purchase information, usage information and asset lifecycle management that BSA will automatically accept as evidence. “And that is only a small part of LANDesk functionality. We are finding that software licence management alone pays for the total cost of using LANDesk – especially with a highly mobile and fluid workforce,” he says.
Up in the cloud
We talk about the cloud and virtualisation – where software emulates a server, desktop or even a program and the issues in managing this explosion of virtual devices.
Steve comments that it is excessively convenient and easy to set up virtual servers that need licenses and it takes up just as many management resources as a physical server. “LANDesk can manage these and shows if they are under or over-utilised.”
This leads to a discussion on new user ‘on-boarding’ – the simple act of setting up a new user, passwords, email, data permissions, security, and more. He says that the complexity is increasing especially with more use of casual and project workers and – “LANDesk is great at automating that by establishing policies and reducing time taken,” he says.
I allow Steve a moment to reveal his inner sales person and ask him why customers use LANDesk over competing products. The answer was not a sales spiel, but some scenarios.
“At the moment one of the biggest issues is Windows XP end of life – 25% are still using it - where corporations need to migrate to Windows 8.x. This can be largely managed by LANDesk and save them a fortune,” he says.
“Breaches are a big one for LANDesk – a company gets a virus or worse penetrated by hackers. Patch Management and integrated endpoint security is LANDesks secret sauce,” he says.
“This whole BYOD and mobility issue becomes clearer and easier with LANDesk managing it,” he says.
“And perhaps the biggest reason is to get real, useful whole of ecosystem analytics – from licence usage to service management – big data is power,” he says.
We are about to wrap up when Andrew adds “Our biggest strength – and a weakness – is that we sell via a great partner network – like HP and Lenovo - and often system administrators don’t realise that they may be using part of the LANDesk solution when there is so much more it can offer. Don’t get me wrong but we have a lot of work to do in Australia to claim our turf and our first user conference is a great step forward – expect to see much more of a new LANDesk community,” he said.
Andrew also says that once a company uses LANDesk it stays – retention is enormously high – well over 90% and that in general corporations want to be compliant.
What is clear to me – in my other life I am associated with a 1500 person global company – is that IT complexity is getting harder – not easier, and IT administration has a hard time keeping up. During the hour I spent with Steve and Andrew I found myself wondering if my company has this solution. I must find out because I think I have become a convert.