By Nick Patience
Marimba Inc, having laid low for much of 1998 – with the exception of CEO Kim Polese’s numerous speaking engagements, that is – is set to have a very busy, and public 1999. The Mountain View, California-based company filed for its initial public offering on February 12, hoping to raise $56m and today it launches version 4.0 of its Castanet internet-based software distribution and management suite, which is written in Java (02/17/99). The reticence last year was largely the lack of a marketing message after the VP marketing Reno Marioni quit in early spring to pursue his own start-up and there was a gap of a few months until Jacqueline Ross was appointed to the post in August. Ross is not able to talk about the IPO, as the company is in its pre- offering quiet period, but was able to detail the new product. Castanet enables the distribution and management of any type of software to large numbers of clients, update the software automatically and detect which version is being used on each client. It is based on the Transmitter server module and Tuner client module, but with a host of other modules to perform various management and production functions. New with version 4.0 is an inventory suite and a subscription suite, plus improvements to the management suite and underlying infrastructure. The two new suites add functions that it would seem are fundamental to Castanet’s operation, but that it did not have before. Marimba used to describe Castanet as a whole as an Application Distribution and Management suite, or ADM. That is now just one of the components sitting alongside the inventory, subscription and content management modules. The new inventory suite enables the administrator to investigate each machine on the network where Castanet is installed and establish the hardware configuration, the software and version number on each and validate that the application has arrived at the machine and that the client is running the latest version available. The tool supports both connected and remote users, who can be surveyed automatically the next time they log on. The information can be gathered in a central repository, and although it is tweaked for Oracle, it can support any relational database, says Ross. As Castanet is written in Java there should be no problems installing the client on any machine. The inventory suite can produce reports using any reporting tool supporting the comma- delimited reporting format. The subscription suite enables the Castanet administrator to set policies on who gets what type of software, grouping together users or machines, with the groups being obtained from most types of databases, including LDAP, NT, NDS, relational databases or mainframe databases. The subscription module can also start applications that have been installed on client machines. There is also an ‘available’ mode to alert users, who then download the application when they are ready. Users can also be locked into a primary channel. As we said, these would seem to be fundamental building blocks of any software management suite and Ross admits that while version 3.0 could look at what the Transmitter server sent out, it was unable to check to see if it had arrived or had been installed on the client. The management module improvements include one-click installation from a URL, the ability to run a Castanet channel through a browser, rather than through the Tuner client and integration with the WinInstall installation wizard. Marimba will integrate with other installation wizards in time, including InstallShield. Also new this time is remote Tuner administration, now giving the same level of control of remote Tuners as the ones on the network. The Tuner can now work in the background with no GUI. On the server side, the Transmitter’s authentication capabilities have been extended, as has its repeater. The repeater mirrors the content of a transmitter and the new version has two built-in repeater policies – load balancing and geographic redirection – pl
us the ability to customize the policy to suit individual requirements. As we mentioned in the Marimba IPO story last week, the company’s relationship with IBM Corp’s Tivoli Systems Inc is changing this quarter from a reseller to an OEM agreement, with lower margins for Marimba. In addition, its Netscape Communications Corp reseller deal has ended completely, so it is looking for new sales routes. Tivoli will launch its Cross-Site systems management tool incorporating the Castanet infrastructure this quarter, and Marimba will receive royalties on a per-seat basis. Ross says the rapidly-rising application service provider market is a major target, with companies such as USinternetworking Inc on Marimba’s radar. It has also recently signed a deal with Earthlink Networks Inc for it to distribute its client updates to its subscribers, rather than sending out CD-ROMs. Another interesting deal came from online auctioneer Onsale Inc, which uses Castanet to enable bidders to tracks their bids in one location with a persistent application, rather than moving from section to section. Castanet 4.0 will be available in the first half of March, first on Solaris and Windows NT, with HP-UX, AIX and Macintosh following in later months. The pricing is the same as 3.0, with the infrastructure and inventory modules priced on a per user basis, while the management, production and subscription modules are priced on a per network administrator basis. The total package starts at $10,000.