Centralize Endpoint Management with IBM Tivoli

Endpoint management is a problem looking for a solution

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

Endpoints—desktops, laptops, and other user devices—represent one of the major challenges for enterprise-class IT today. As organizations have grown, and IT infrastructures have grown in parallel, it has become increasingly difficult for IT even to track client endpoints adequately, let alone pursue management functions such as adding new software, polling them for data, or upgrading/patching them to address emerging issues such as new malware.

Also problematic for large organizations is the all-too-common disparity of endpoint management tools and management processes. When IT staff must select from a variety of different tools, each with its own interface and features, the overall management response is slowed—and the business outcome is naturally diminished.

Among other consequences, security complexities can go unaddressed for too long a period of time; regulation compliance can be difficult to achieve; and operating system rollouts are usually complex, unwieldy processes that might require months. In some cases, endpoints may fall "off the grid" entirely—becoming lost, from a practical standpoint, to the organization.

Introducing IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager

"IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager is fundamentally different from other endpoint management tools in that it includes an exceptionally intelligent endpoint agent. This single agent, which supports virtually all endpoint types, is capable of utilizing the endpoint itself for the computational power needed for tasks, instead of offloading those tasks over the network to a management server."

The solution? IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager. This offering is fundamentally different from other endpoint management tools in that it includes an exceptionally intelligent endpoint agent. This single agent, which supports virtually all endpoint types, is capable of utilizing the endpoint itself for the computational power needed for tasks, instead of offloading those tasks over the network to a management server.

In this sense, it's a nearly perfect illustration of IBM's concept of smarter computing for a smarter planet. Endpoint utilization is almost invariably low; it's a resource that could be tapped for more business value. Tivoli Endpoint Manager does exactly that for a theoretically limitless range of endpoint tasks, ranging from status assessment to information collection to software provisioning. And the impact on users? Minimal—a result of the fact that the agent, on average, requires only 2% of the available processing power.

Because the endpoints are doing most of the actual work, a single management server can meet the needs of an incredible number of endpoints—over 200,000 in many cases. Furthermore, overall IT endpoint management becomes far more agile. Security patch distribution, for instance, can be handled automatically, for all appropriate endpoints, with incredible speed and complete consistency. This elegant design helps to keep endpoints more secure and regulation-compliant, and with them, the business services and data they involve.

Tivoli Endpoint Manager also gives IT a single, centralized point of control for all endpoint management functions. Because there's only one management console instead of many, endpoint tasks can be accomplished more easily and more swiftly. And because the time required to perform those tasks falls, so do the associated operational costs.

Tivoli Endpoint Manager is offered as a family of four members addressing four different groups of endpoint management tasks: lifecycle management, security and compliance, patch management, and power management.

Administrators will be pleased to find that adding new members of the family doesn't require downloading and deploying any new software. Instead, they can simply purchase a new license key—instantly acquiring new capabilities from the Tivoli Endpoint Manager software they've already deployed, and getting instant business value as a result.

Lifecycle management from cradle to grave

Getting the best business value from IT assets and services requires more than just addressing short-term concerns in an ad hoc fashion. Instead, the strategy should be to consider them as having logical lifecycles—from cradle to grave—and optimize the various stages along the way. This approach continually keeps the asset or service in closer alignment with business goals, solves problems proactively rather than reactively, and thus generates the highest ROI as a result.

One member of the Tivoli Endpoint Manager family, Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management, fulfills this premise perfectly. It addresses functions that map to the various stages in the typical lifecycle of an endpoint, helping IT to execute them more easily, quickly, consistently, and cost-effectively. Each endpoint, thus managed, contributes better to business goals for the entire time it's in use.

To understand this concept in practice, consider asset discovery and inventory—the "cradle" part of the lifecycle. Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management can transparently scan the entire IP network looking for newly-added assets (or, perhaps, missing assets that have become available again) and add them to the inventory database used for virtually all subsequent endpoint tasks. This is a comprehensive function, spanning not just user laptops and desktop computers, but also printers, scanners, routers, switches, and other IP-capable devices that require ongoing management.

Software distribution is a logical subsequent stage; endpoints will require the correct software at all times, and Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management can ensure they get it. To determine which endpoints get which software at which times, the solution uses predefined business policies and closed-loop verification. (The same approach can even be used to migrate software from one endpoint to another as necessary.)

OS deployment is an extreme example of software distribution—a huge package that might take hours for a technician to install by hand. Here, too, Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management dramatically accelerates the process, while also minimizing the costs, by giving IT a fast, automated, and completely comprehensive way to roll out any given new operating system to any subset of endpoints. User profiles and data are preserved, and thanks to accurate hardware profiling, the right combination of drivers and other endpoint-specific elements are added to the standard OS.

Should new patches need to be distributed, the same argument applies. Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management can install them on exactly the right endpoints regardless of their location, connection type, or status—and thanks to the solution's efficiency, the business impact of the distribution process is minimal even on low-bandwidth networks.

Remote desktop control is increasingly popular as a way for IT to solve endpoint issues without requiring a hands-on trip. And using the Tivoli solution, including its remote diagnostic capabilities, team members can collect endpoint data as necessary to get endpoints back up and running in the shortest possible time.

Finally, one optional feature for Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management, Software Use Analysis, can create insight into just which software is being used by different endpoints, and under what conditions. Specific information such as software publishers, titles, and applications is all available—and once obtained, can simplify regulation compliance and budget forecasting by keeping IT's software ownership in tight alignment with actual software deployment.

Future articles will address the other three service groups of the Tivoli Endpoint Manager family—Security and Compliance, Patch Management, and Power Management. Stay tuned for more information!

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