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The provisioning of new clients and the ongoing management of passwords may not seem like the most pressing issue of the day in 2006, but it’s likely to become a major opportunity for solution providers starting as early as this spring.

That’s because as the forthcoming Vista upgrade of Microsoft Windows becomes a more tangible product, power users within corporations are going to start driving the upgrade process, and they will be followed by IT managers anxious to take advantage of the enhanced security features to be found in Vista.

In fact, with six different versions of the core Windows Vista offering in the market, Microsoft is expected to make available a Windows Upgrade Anytime tool that will only be offered through the channel. That tool will make it easier for solution providers to automatically upgrade any customer to a different version of Windows Vista.

But that still leaves plenty of additional opportunity for services that help take customers from Windows XP or even Windows 98 to Windows Vista. Alas, given the overall state of client upgrade activity in the enterprise, a lot of solution providers may have let their client system provisioning skills lapse.

Now, to be sure, there are plenty of options, including Citrix, Tivoli, Novell, CA and Altiris, when it comes to tools that focus on the client system upgrade process.
But one company that may not be on every solution provider’s mind in this space is Courion, of Framingham, Mass.

Unlike a lot of companies in this space, all Courion focuses on is client provisioning and password management. As many solution providers already know, there is lots of esoteric chatter about superset issues such as identity management, but when you get right down to the brass tack issue that IT people are willing to spend money on, it’s the tedious task of provisioning systems and the number of calls they get per day about lost passwords that gets their attention.

After all, while identity management may have important implications for the overall business, it’s the stuff that affects the daily lives of the people in IT that tends to get the most easily funded using dollars that are already allocated in the budget.

Courion until now has largely pursued a direct sales model, but in recent months the company has expanded its efforts to include a training and certification program for channel partners in addition to participating in the Trusted Healthcare Information Solutions Alliance. Beyond that, solution providers in the weeks ahead should expect to see Courion-funded lead-generation programs for the channel and will get some expanded floor space at the company’s annual customer conference.

Certainly, there are more glamorous issues than client system management. But there may be no better door-opener for a solution provider looking to create or expand a relationship with an IT department than helping the people that work in that department have an easier day in an era when the ratio of end users to IT support people is at an all-time high.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at