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IoT device support enhanced in Dell KACE K1000 6.3

Dell's latest update to KACE includes more tracking and recording capabilities for issues that may crop up with Internet of Things devices.

IT professionals who need to beef up support for Internet of Things devices can get it from Dell KACE K1000.

The Dell KACE K1000 systems management appliance's new release, 6.3, aims to help IT manage an influx of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, going beyond management of computers or servers. In TechTarget's 2015 IT Priorities survey of 2,212 IT workers, 16% of North American respondents and 18% of international respondents said IoT will be one of their broad initiatives for the coming year.

K1000 takes Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) data from connected devices such as printers and projectors and allows administrators to create alerts or service desk tickets to identify technical problems, potentially before they take place.

"We're going to start seeing a lot more devices that are network-attached but are not full computing devices," said Steve Brasen, research director at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo. "You want to manage those centrally and have them integrated with desktop and mobile management [platforms]."

Last year, Dell added agentless inventory capabilities for Macs, Linux and Unix systems, and with K1000 6.3, that capability has now been extended to Windows systems.

With those agentless systems, KACE can't perform patching or software distribution, but it can gather all of its software and hardware data for asset management and reporting purposes, a Dell spokesperson said.

K1000 6.3 also adds systems and performance log monitoring for servers, Google Chromebook asset management capabilities to be incorporated with existing K1000 management inventory alongside Macs and PCs, and single sign-on integration with Dell Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM).

The level of integration with Dell's EMM product is an area where the company can improve KACE in the future, Brasen said.

"There's a need for unified endpoint management and managing PCs and mobile devices using common sets of policies, asset database and interfaces. Nobody actually has that today," Brasen said. "Dell needs to create a seamless use of both capabilities so you can get all the bells and whistles of the EMM platform from the K1000 console."

Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, Symantec's Altiris, LANDesk Software Inc. and Kaseya Ltd. compete with the Dell KACE K1000, Brasen said.

Museum keeps track of systems with KACE

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) manages hundreds of different devices, including around 600 computers, 170 printers, numerous network switches, high-end projectors, and its AMX automation control system, which controls lights, music and projector screens in classrooms and theatres.

DMNS has used the KACE K1000 on-premises appliance for the past several years after using inventory products Track-It from BMC Software Inc. and IncidentMonitor from Monitor 24-7 Inc. The museum needed a product that could handle its inventory management requirements and provide a service-desk component all in one product. It eventually settled on KACE, said David Perry, DMNS' technical operations manager.

Now, I can see that a projector has had six tickets in the last two weeks and we should look at replacing it.
David Perrytechnical operations manager, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

With all its different connected devices and network switches, DMNS welcomed the changes to KACE's IoT support as it implemented the latest version before its official release. Printers may be the next in line of devices that could face security vulnerabilities, Perry said.

"If someone had asked me seven years ago what firmware level my printers were at, I'd have said, 'I don't know, whatever came out of the box.'" Perry said. "Now, with the SNMP, we can put tickets against them and track problems and history, look at the firmware and see what services are enabled on it."

When it comes to the museum's many projectors -- which include about 10 that cost about $30,000 each -- IT staffers can see warnings about issues with the projectors right in the KACE management console.

"There was no way to track [incidents] from a hardware standpoint," Perry said. "Now, I can see that a projector has had six tickets in the last two weeks, and we should look at replacing it or look further into the problem."

The new agentless inventory features for K1000 were also important for the museum from a server standpoint.

"We run a lot of [payment card industry (PCI) machines] here at the museum because we have ticketing, a gift shop and food service," Perry said. "The less you have to put on a PCI server, the better, and that goes for a number of other servers we have out there you don't necessarily want to have a client sitting on."

When DMNS first implemented K1000, it ran into issues when requiring tech support from Dell shortly after it acquired KACE, but that changed over time as KACE was integrated into Dell's portfolio. The museum hasn't run into any significant problems in the 6.3 release, Perry said.

"At first, there was an issue with the view on the helpdesk tickets," Perry said. "We like the view to show 'unassigned' and 'your tickets.' We told [Dell], and they fixed it for us."

Pricing for the K1000 6.3 starts at $8,900 for the on-premises appliance or virtual machine and includes licenses for 100 managed computers. Each additional computer costs $31. The server monitoring is priced at a flat $2000 for 200 licenses, and asset packs are $1,250 each to include license to inventory and manage 250 Chromebooks and non-computing devices.

K100 6.3 is also available as a service for $6.50 per managed computer per month, the server monitoring is $85 per server per month, and the asset packs are $50 per pack per month.

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What features do you need to help manage Internet of Things devices?
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To help me with managing Internet of Things devices, I seek out features such as security and the ability to control when the device is active. I don't like the idea of my smart thermostat or automated lighting system "spying" on me and transmitting data that others might use for nefarious purposes such as determining when I'm home or in the office versus when I'm away.
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Brasen is right: there is need for more unified management of computers and other devices. It allows for easier compliance with IoT and BYOD policies.
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