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Marimba Six, the latest hardware and software management suite from Marimba Inc., gains basic Windows patch management and software usage reporting capabilities.

The Marimba Six suite, which shipped last month, is priced at $15 per managed device for software usage and $15 per managed device for patch management. In eWEEK Labs’ tests, Marimba Six enabled us to track useful data, and we could use the monitoring features to corral software licenses, even in large enterprises running multiple operating systems.

However, our tests showed Marimba Six’s new patch management is not yet on a par with the high level of functionality we found in other parts of the product. For one thing, the patch management system is Windows-only. This is a far cry from the rest of the Marimba Six suite, which supports IBM’s AIX, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP-UX, Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris, and Red Hat Inc.’s Red Hat Linux and other Linux operating systems.

However, Marimba’s addition of patch management to its otherwise well-developed hardware and software management suite is a step in the right direction. And aggressive cross-platform support makes Marimba Six a formidable competitor to Altiris Inc.’s Management Suite and LANDesk Group Ltd.’s LANDesk offering. IT managers are in a choice position to ask for quite a bit in terms of price discounts and support largess from these fierce competitors.

During a briefing at eWEEK Labs, Kia Behnia, Marimba’s chief technology officer, said other operating systems would be supported in upcoming versions of the patch management component.

We tested Marimba Six by installing Marimba agents on a variety of Windows 2000 servers and XP desktop systems, along with several servers running Linux and Solaris. However, Marimba gives short shrift to Novell Inc.’s NetWare, and IT managers are advised to look at the Altiris suite or Novell’s ZENworks for Servers if they have a substantial number of NetWare servers.

Marimba Six offers enhanced support for installing Marimba agents and other components needed to run the system. After installing the software in a Windows 2000 server that we designated as our central system, it was a simple matter to use information provided by Windows Active Directory to deploy agents to other systems in our test network.

After we installed agents on all our desktops and servers, we ran reports to create collections of target end points for the patch management system. Marimba Six’s ability to integrate with a Windows server that is running the no-cost SUS (Software Update Services) component makes it a bit easier to specify which patches should be made available. We added SUS to one of the Windows servers in our test network and used it to get updates, which we then distributed via Marimba Six.

Marimba Six brings Microsoft system management into a suite that can handle software distribution for a wide variety of platforms, thereby reducing the number of maintenance consoles. In tests, the other clear advantage of using Marimba Six to handle patch distribution was that we could keep track of which systems had been updated with the reporting tool.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at