IBM rolls out tools for configuring, maintaining PCs

Hoping to ease the pain and costs associated with configuring and maintaining desktop PCs, IBM Corp. on Monday announced a set of hardware and software tools that lets larger IT shops eliminate these problems.

Part of Big Blue's Think strategy, ThinkVantage Technologies is the first step toward crystallizing the long-held IT dream of PCs being able to diagnose and heal themselves, company officials said on Monday at a news conference

It is also the first series of products that makes good on IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano's vision of an On Demand computing environment for the company's largest users announced just last week, which is reliant on a variety of hardware and software products capable of self-healing and self-managing.

"What Sam [Palmisano] said last was that for users to have an e-business On Demand infrastructure and environment, they need an autonomic client that can self-manage, self-heal, self-configure. The only [way] for that to happen is to embed these technologies inside them," said Rich Fennessey, vice president of marketing at IBM's PC group.

IBM will brand its desktop offerings, to be called ThinkCentre, starting at the Partner World conference in February and continuing throughout 2003, according to Fennessey. With the company's existing line of portable systems already called ThinkPads, IBM will continue with that name.

"We will show off the new models in February that support this initiative as well as communicate a complete offerings roadmap for what products and technologies we will produce over the course of 2003," Fennessey said.

Besides the re-branded desktop systems, IBM will also introduce a new line of ThinkVision displays, a line of Think Accessories, and Think Services services offerings.

Many of the new products will feature new designs that marries "form with function," according to a company spokesman, and will be called ThinkAdvantage Design.

Some of the new ThinkVantage technologies include RapidRestore PC, a software tool that comes bundled with desktop systems that can restore previously saved data and applications after a failure. Embedded Security Subsystem, a system made up of both hardware and downloadable software, protects mission-critical data. A third tool is called ImageBuilder, a toolkit for larger IT shops to help reduce the number of software images they must support.

In concert with the ThinkVantage Technologies, IBM Research also demonstrated for the first time publicly a handful of autonomic technologies it has developed in concert with the PC group that center around PCs "healing" themselves.

They include Client Recovery and Rescue, intended to help users recover data and to continue operations even after a catastrophic PC failure such as a broken hard drive. A second technology, called Distributed Wireless Security Auditor, lets PCs in the same location work in concert with each other to detect a number of "rogue" security risks within wireless networks.

IBM Research also took the wraps off Instant Connections, a technology that can automatically detect both wireless and wired networks and will then configure PCs with them.

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