Tivoli has advanced beyond simply managing infrastructure with its latest prototype of agent technology for handheld computers, demonstrated at Planet Tivoli in Lisbon.
The company showed off versions of its agent technology last week for PC Week, running on Windows CE and Palm OS, which performed software distribution, inventory and availability functions.
Tom Bishop, Tivoli's chief technology officer, said similar agents could be developed for the Symbian EPOC32 operating system for mobile phones and personal digital assistants, as well as real-time operating systems, and could run on "anything that has a microchip."
Bishop said Tivoli's technology could easily scale down to small devices and simple functions, such as agents embedded in vending machines that check stock.
"We represent the details of things we manage as objects," he said. "The differences between applications are embedded in the object. This is where Tivoli's core technology becomes powerful. We can quickly and easily adapt to new technologies - the agent is in some ways universal."
Bishop said agents using Tivoli's object technology running on small devices could function as more than just data gatherers: "Going forward, agents could perform more of an application function than an infrastructure function. The focus is shifting from managing infrastructure to managing applications."
Bishop confirmed that "we're in contract negotiations with a couple of companies" but could not elaborate further about plans to bring the products to market.
Luigi Schiuma, a developer who worked on the project, told PC Week: "The feedback from (Planet Tivoli in) Nashville and here has been positive. Companies are starting to think of handhelds as a real IT extension, and thinking of applications to use them for.
"They have given out thousands of them and lost track of what software is installed on them," he said.
During the synchronisation process with the host PC - the Tivoli Tiny Agent, just 13.5 Kb in size - Schiuma showed how the system checks the handheld and reports back to the main management console. It can then update software, or could even send contact or calendar information, "like a form of push" technology.
He explained how it took just a month to put together the demonstration: "We didn't have to change much in the software framework because it's already so flexible. We're now waiting for customer feedback to find out if there is a market need."
Bishop also said Tivoli was looking into releasing the agent software as open source, so that it would become widely used. He agreed that would seed the market, much like Netscape giving away its browser software to push its more profitable Web server software business.
But, he said: "We haven't decided to open source it yet because of the security software built into it."
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