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PowerFuse adds migration path to desktop manager

RES Software is targeting Windows 7 and virtual desktop installations with new features including support for SQL Azure
Written by Manek Dubash, Contributor on

RES Software has updated its PowerFuse desktop management package to add a migration path from standalone to centrally managed desktops.

PowerFuse 2010, announced on Tuesday, adds the ability to capture and store altered application settings, support for Microsoft's SQL Azure cloud-based database, and synchronisation of end-user data between a central store and the client.

The update is designed to decouple users' desktop settings from the underlying operating system and provide an automated process for IT departments to manage clients' workspaces. User desktops are stored centrally and pushed out to the user when they log in with authentication. This means users get the same desktop no matter where they log in, and IT staff can enforce compliance with company policies.

In addition, the replacement for PowerFuse 2008 includes support for Windows 7. It is designed to help businesses speed up the setting up of new desktops running the Microsoft operating system, as well as the deployment of virtual desktops, according to RES.

"Desktop transformation is one of the biggest challenges facing IT during 2010: from desktop virtualisation rollouts or migration to Windows 7, through to improving the management of desktop environments across workforces that are increasingly more mobile," said Bob Janssen, the company's chief technology officer, in a statement.

A new desktop transformation module in PowerFuse 2010 allows IT departments to convert standard unmanaged or semi-managed user desktops into centrally managed desktops.

This means IT departments that want to make changes do not need to wait until a desktop refresh, which would be the usual way of avoiding major disruption to end users. Instead, the new module can gather information about users' personalised environments — such as drive mappings, printer settings, and the desktop's appearance — and apply them to the centrally managed model.

"Previously, it was all either managed or not, so it took a big change to implement. This meant that organisations often used to wait for other changes before implementing PowerFuse," said RES Software marketing vice president Ron Grevink. "Now they don't have to."

The desktop transformation module consists of three components: a desktop sampler, which stores such items as drive mappings, a list of installed applications, registry settings, and other configuration information; a workspace designer, which helps IT managers build desktop environments for one or more users; and a workspace model, which manages the process by which standalone desktops are migrated to centrally managed ones.

Another new feature in PowerFuse 2010 is zero profile technology, which gathers information about changes that applications make to the system. This information is gathered in real time rather than being pulled from a central database, which means the system does not need to be pre-loaded with a database of applications. The changes can then be implemented centrally, so all application settings are reproduced in the user's machine, no matter where they log on.

RES Software has added support for Microsoft SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database that can be configured to store configuration and desktop information for users' machines. Grevink said that putting the data store in the cloud means that mobile users will always have access to it. PowerFuse 2010 retains support for SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL and DB2.

In addition, the update now has bi-directional synchronisation, which means end users' data — files and folders — are held centrally, in a manner similar to that used by Windows' offline files feature.

The new version also allows end users to restore their own user settings, a process that previously required the intervention of IT staff.

In the management of end-user profiles, RES Software competes mainly with AppSense, although other companies provide similar functionality and either greater or lesser degrees of automation, including triCerat, ScriptLogic and ManagedProfile.

In a wider sense, it also competes with desktop virtualisation providers such as VMware and Citrix. These arguably provide a more holistic method of managing desktops, although virtualising desktops is a more disruptive method.

PowerFuse 2010 costs from £35 to £130, depending on the version, per concurrent user.

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