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September 2, 2010

BigFix aims to manage iPads, BlackBerrys and more

Firm acquired by IBM seeks to broaden its footprint beyond the data centre

By Jason Stamper

BigFix, the device management and policy and security automation specialist acquired by IBM in July, is planning to expand way beyond the data centre to manage devices like iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices, CBR has learned.

BigFix’s CTO Amrit Williams confirmed the news in a CBR interview. He explained that the company can already help to manage and control Windows Mobile and Windows CE mobile devices as well as a plethora of servers and other IT infrastructure, but it’s going to go further still.

"The ability to manage things like printers you’ll probably see in short order, because we’re already prototyping solutions for that," said Williams. "Further out we’re looking at how to better integrate with things like the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Apple iPhone, Android and so on. We have proof of concepts there already."

Today BigFix can help to manage, control and secure devices running 68 different operating system variants. But since its acquisition by IBM, Williams said the company will also prioritise porting its server-side technology onto the IBM DB2 database – it currently resides on SQL Server – and also enabling its management interface to run on AIX in addition to the current Windows support.

Williams said that prior to acquisition BigFix had around 700 customers, and together with Tivoli customers solving similar problems in the data centre that figure is now around 2,200. Since the firm launched version 8 of its management and control platform on August 17th, 330 customers have migrated over to it and are now managing around 330,000 devices with the technology.

Williams denied that the firm’s agent-based technology slows down systems on which the agents reside, saying that the agents are only 5MB big, use less than 1% of a system’s available resources and use throttling technology to minimise their burden. But he said that the company was also working to help companies get away from "agent sprawl", by combining some of the security and provisioning technology from BigFix and IBM Tivoli.

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"For quality, scalability and performance you need to have an agent on the device though," said Williams. "Any other approach sees data degrading as it traverses the network and you just don’t get the performance and scalability."

Williams said that BigFix is currently operating as an IBM company, with full integration likely early next year. At that time the BigFix and Tivoli sales forces will most likely be merged, but Williams said that IBM is keen to retain as much BigFix talent as possible, seeing this not just as an acquisition of technology but also of people.

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