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IBM ThinkVantage tools aim to lower PC TCO

Aug 18, 20034 mins
Data CenterIBM

* IBM's ThinkVantage Technologies is part of the company's autonomic computing push

In an era of rapid PC commoditization, IBM is a trendsetter in offering lifecycle services to help reduce the cost and complexity of deploying scores of desktop systems within organizations.  Today, IBM’s ThinkVantage Technologies (TVT) is a collection of value-add features and services that help to lower the cost of PC ownership over its entire lifespan.  These technologies are part of IBM’s wider push into autonomic computing.

I recently had the chance to talk with Rich Cheston, director of IBM’s TVTs.  We talked about the company’s 13 TVTs that are focused on reducing labor costs.  “We believe the best way to reduce the cost of ownership of a PC is to lower the labor costs of deploying and supporting that device,” Cheston says.  “Our TVTs do that by eliminating a touchpoint, reducing the duration of a touchpoint, or reducing the skill required to perform a touchpoint.” 

Cheston says the TVTs are driven by real customer need.  In fact, he can point to several technologies that were developed for one specific client, and then moved into general availability for all IBM customers.  “In order for a technology to be considered a ThinkVantage Technology, it must meet several criteria,” Cheston explains.  “It must be unique, relevant, quantifiable, sustainable, and deployable by the customer.”

IBM’s TVTs fall into four categories: 

Deployment and Migration

* ImageUltra (comprised of multiple tools)

* System Migration Assistance

* Remote Deployment Manager

Support and Uptime

* Rapid Restore Ultra

* Access IBM

* Secure Data Disposal

* AssetID

* IBM Director Agent

* IBM Director


* Client Security Subsystem


* Access Connections

We won’t go through what every technology does  (you can do that on your own at  However, we will take a bit more detailed look at the ImageUltra technologies because they seem to be a real differentiator for IBM.  Although most leading PC manufacturers provide utilities to help you configure and deploy their devices, IBM has taken strides in simplifying what can be a complex process when you have thousands of devices to deploy.

The three main components of ImageUltra are Dynamic Operating Environment (DOE); Hardware Independent Imaging Technology (HIIT); and Software Delivery Assistant (SDA).  They work together to help you build one single image that can be deployed enterprisewide and tailored to each individual’s needs by the user himself.  Unlike current image cloning techniques, you don’t have to settle for “lowest common denominator” configurations that still require customization or create hundreds of different images for groups of users.

SDA is a tool for consolidating and managing different images and applications across platforms.  It yields a master image with various menus of groupings of applications.  Basically, you load all the applications that exist within your company onto the local drive and then selectively install only those applications that are appropriate for a specific user.  Unneeded applications are then deleted from the hard disk.

DOE manages the operating system and language components of the software image.  As with SDA and applications, users can individually select the language, options and applications that are relevant to their jobs.

HIIT selects and installs the right hardware device drivers and Windows operating system level options to be installed.  HIIT-enabled ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops tell the tool which drivers to load.

IBM ImageUltra technology is available as a service, where IBM’s service professionals do the work for you, or as a software bundle that allows in-house IT staff to handle image creation, deployment and management on select IBM desktops and laptops.  Either way, there is a fee to use the ImageUltra technologies, but the fee is easily offset by the cost savings in deploying vast numbers of ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops in your organization.  A Technology Business Research study concludes that ImageUltra can deliver deployment savings in excess of 50% while significantly reducing deployment time.

IBM continues to innovate on the tools that will simplify the costly tasks of deploying and maintaining PCs and other client devices over their entire lifespan.  Watch for more developments in the area of autonomics (self-healing) and “Level Zero Support.”

Linda Musthaler is vice president of Currid & Company.  You can write to her at