Marimba woos Novadigm customers with free software

Keen to leave dot-com glamour behind, Marimba is getting stuck into a war for system management desktops

In a bid to establish market presence, Marimba, is offering free copies its software management products to customers of market leader, Novadigm. Still remembered as a leader of the Internet/Java hype in 1997 to 1999, Marimba would now prefer to be seen as a system management company selling to the enterprise. Under the deal, Novadigm customers who buy Marimba products can swap one Marimba licence for every two Novadigm licences. The deal is intended to boost the company's presence in Europe, where it is trailing badly behind Novadigm. Software/configuration management is a well populated field. Numerous companies, from broad-spectrum management companies like Computer Associates and Tivoli to specialists like Marimba, are offering to automate the distribution of programs across large corporate networks. With the spread of mobile computing, and the growth of security patches, Marimba marketing manager Kia Behnia reckons the field is now worth $1.5bn (including mainframe products). "There's no limit to the number of companies we can appeal to," he said. "No IT manager can say 'I have 5000 devices and managing them is not a problem.'" "Customer satisfaction is abysmal in this area," he said. "Ninety-five percent of our customers are replacing an existing solution. Many wrote it themselves, but 70 percent are dropping another third party product." Scathing of vendors like Tivoli and CA, whose products need hours of consulting to make them work, he also dismisses Microsoft's efforts: "Two releases of Systems Management Server (SMS) in six years is not enough to keep up with technology changes." The automatic update feature in Windows XP raises the profile of software distribution while being completely unsuited to corporate needs, he said. Within the field of software management, however, Marimba seems very focused on its number one rival, Novadigm: the two sued each other over patents for most of the late 1990s, only settling at the end of 2000. Marimba sees its opportunity in Novadigm's recent addition of Radia, a self-service deployment package to its flagship Enterprise Desktop Management (EDM) product. When Novadigm asks its users to upgrade, Marimba plans to persuade them to replace both EDM and Radia with its Desktop/Mobile Management software. Marimba claims its own £150 per seat solution does as much as both Novadigm products combined, and is based on more open protocols. "Novadigm built its EDM with client-server in mind, but distributed computing technologies such as VPNs took them by surprise," said Behnia. Marimba's product, he says, is based on more recent paradigms. Marimba is still very small outside the US -- doing only 5 percent of its business in Europe last year -- though recently appointed European vice president Adrian Rayner expects to reach 15 percent this year and move on to a more usual 40 percent by the end of 2003. On the change from the company's glamorous image during the dot-com frenzy, Behnia says: "Cutting costs is the sexiest thing you can talk about now." He decries media coverage of Marimba which focuses on its dot-com past, and on glamorous founder-chief executive Kim Polese, who stood down to handle strategy in 2000. "We have always targeted enterprise customers," he says. But the company played the role of the glamorous start-up role to the hilt and should not be surprised that customers and the media find it difficult to square that image with the company's current double-breasted suits. Behnia points to bricks-and-mortar customers like Barclays and Proctor and Gamble with a new pride: "A year ago I was told we didn't have enough dot-com customers." Barclays uses Marimba to manage 300 applications on 3500 desktops, including a Windows 2000 migration programme. Future plans for the company include developing its embedded systems business. "Intel's AnyPoint home wireless LAN uses us to manage software on the hub," said Behnia. "Vendors need to deliver software after the sale to keep customers." It will also be working with other companies. "It is tempting to expand into new areas but there is plenty of room in the change management space," said Behnia. The company works with others -- like Mercury Interactive in performance management, Peregrine in helpdesk software, and Rational in source code management.


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