Enterprises can now use Dell's Kace appliance to manage Chromebooks

A new version of Dell’s Kace K1000 Systems Management Appliance adds support for a wider array of devices, including Chromebooks, so enterprises and other organizations can better control these Chrome OS computers.

“There’s a sea change in systems management. It’s no longer just about managing computers, but managing any sort of network device,” said Bill Odell, vice president of marketing for Dell endpoint systems management.

Chromebooks are popular in schools, where they’re a sturdy, low-cost, low-maintenance alternative to laptops, and Kace also has many education customers. Adding Chromebook support to Kace will allow these schools to manage their computers from a single application, Odell said.

IDC expects more than 9 million Chromebooks to be sold this year, up from 6 million in 2014, and 2.6 million in 2013. Chromebooks are thin-client devices that access applications over the Internet or corporate network rather than from an internal hard-drive. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and others sell Chromebooks, in addition to Google.

Kace keeps track of an organization’s servers, desktop computers and laptops, handling tasks such as asset management and change auditing. Aimed for small and mid-size organizations, the appliance is built to minimize the administrative overhead needed to keep a fleet of enterprise computers up to date and accounted for.

The updated Kace can provide information on how many Chromebooks an organization has, as well as when the warranties for each machine expire. It can keep tabs on how often each Chromebook checks into the network, and it can maintain a history of support issues for each device. The support data is obtained via a cloud-based application programming interface (API) for managing Chromebooks that Google recently started offering.

About 90 percent of 700 IT professionals surveyed in a Dell-sponsored study indicated that they plan to support more types of devices beyond desktop computers and servers, including mobile phones, tablets, projectors, printers, routers, Internet telephones, and Internet of Things-styled endpoints. The IT pros also indicated in the survey that they would prefer to manage all these devices with a single software application if possible.

The new Kace K1000 version 6.3 comes with richer support for the SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) which can be used by any network-connected device to report its own operational status and information about its configuration. The IT administrator could use Kace to monitor a series of Internet-connected projectors and watch for burned-out bulbs.

The new version of Kace can also monitor Windows servers and desktops without the need for placing small software agents on the systems themselves, a feature Kace has already offered for Linux and Mac machines. Also new for Kace is integrated log monitoring, allowing administrators to keep tabs on system logs of multiple machines.

Dell’s Kace K1000, available as either a physical or virtual appliance, costs US$8,900, which covers the cost of managing up to 100 machines. Managing Chromebooks and non-computing devices will cost an additional $1,250 for up to 250 devices. The K1000 is also available as a service, for $6.50 per managed computer per month, with an additional $50 a month for the asset pack needed for managing Chromebooks and non-computing devices.

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