Automate laptop administration

Callisto Software's Orbiter 3.0 automates systems administration of portable systems. Orbiter provides a suite of laptop administration tools to help administrators troubleshoot the system, inventory components, and update software.

For my tests, I used a 350MHz Pentium II server with 128MB of RAM and two mirrored 18GB hard disks running Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 4.5. The client was a Compaq Armada 7330T laptop with 80MB of RAM and a 2GB hard disk running Windows NT Workstation 4.0. Installation on the server and client was straightforward.

I tested this product for a small-business environment with a dozen laptops. However, Orbiter is scalable for large installations because the product supports groups. You can group multiple portables by function, configuration, or department to manage them simultaneously. You can also configure the client software to install silently without user intervention.

Orbiter uses queuing and store-and-forward techniques to distribute compressed packages to clients, so laptop users can run jobs locally. To handle the low-bandwidth and dial-up nature of portable connections, Orbiter also verifies the download status at checkpoints and can resume a download from the point at which the download stopped. Orbiter sends jobs from server to client over a TCP/IP connection (the default) or by email. Because Orbiter communicates over TCP/IP and email, end users don't need to dial in to a specific server to pick up jobs and relay job results. Orbiter Client software and the Orbiter Server and Messenger services running on NT Server 4.0 orchestrate the job functions.

After installation, Orbiter Clients wait for jobs to come from the Orbiter Server email account that you designate (the default is OrbiterAdmin), remove the jobs from the user's inbox, and transparently process the requests. You need only ensure that the Orbiter Server email account is in the end user's Offline Address Book (OAB).

The software-distribution function helps administrators push application updates. To simplify software distribution, Callisto includes example scripts for antivirus applications and disk utilities.

Orbiter is an effective troubleshooting tool. The software takes a snapshot of the initial client configuration and compares the current client configuration with other client configuration states and with predefined configuration templates.

I selected the Create Job command from the Operations drop-down menu, and the Create Job wizard helped me seamlessly set up a Software Inventory job. Using the wizard, I set parameters such as schedule, time interval, timeout, and job name.

When the job completed, I selected the Orbiter Administrator's Software Inventory tab, which Screen 1 shows, to display the results from the Orbiter Server. From this inventory, I viewed the laptops' locations, the date of the most recent software inventory, and the laptops' application information. I learned the applications' version numbers and the executable names, sizes, timestamps, and date stamps. In addition, I saw the number of clients that ran the same application version and the clients' names.

Orbiter comes with comprehensive documentation. If you use Orbiter only to take a daily or weekly software inventory of laptops, the product will pay for itself in no time. Administrators with a modest number of portables need to add Orbiter to their list of tools to check out.

Orbiter 3.0
Contact: Callisto Software * 630-682-8200
Web: http://www.callisto.com
Price: $5000 per server; $150 per client (volume discounts available)
System Requirements:
Orbiter Server: 486 processor or better, Windows NT Server 4.0 or later, 32MB of RAM, 20MB of hard disk space, plus additional space for each client, CD-ROM drive
Orbiter Client: 486 processor or better, NT Workstation 4.0 or later or Windows 9x, 16MB of RAM, 15MB of hard disk space