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The KACE Case For Hardware in Systems Management

When an enterprise has a handful of systems, it needs technology to manage them. Into that seemingly mature and competitive systems management space has come a new startup called KACE, which uses hardware to manage hardware by integrating patch, state and image management into one box.

"The discipline of systems management has been around since the dawn of computers, but we definitely put a fresh innovative approach to systems management," Marty Kacin, co-founder, president and CTO at KACE, told InternetNews.com.

KACE's approach is all about hardware appliances rather than software, and its latest -- KBOX Systems Management Appliance 1200 Series and the KBOX Systems Deployment Appliance 2200 Series --include features it hopes will put it above other vendors in the space, including Microsoft, Altiris (now owned by Symantec) and LanDesk.

With the KBOX Systems Management Appliance 1200 Series, KACE has partnered with Lumension Security to provide PatchLink patching for systems under management. On the KBOX Systems Deployment Appliance 2200 Series, KACE has added new image editing capabilities in the form of its Kimage technology.

Wynn White, vice president of marketing at KACE, said that with Kimage, KACE can edit, define and deploy an image of a target machine all through the appliances' Web-based user interface. The KBOX Systems Management Appliance 1200 Series can also synchronize the image as a gold master manifest on the target machine.

"It's not just about provisioning bare metal," White said. "It also allows you to synchronize after the fact in an ongoing fashion, so machines are always kept in parity."

With the modern reality of many enterprises running heterogeneous environments, the KACE appliance supports Microsoft Windows, Sun Solaris, Mac OS X, Red Hat Linux, Novell's SUSE Linux and Ubuntu Linux.

At the heart of the KBOX appliances themselves, KACE is using the open source FreeBSD operating system. White noted that KACE has hardened and optimized FreeBSD and is running it on top of a dual-Xeon processor Intel chipset.

Though KACE can control most aspects of system deployment and management, it also has different sets of APIs that enable enterprises to further customize the platform.

The KBOX can also work a part of a network access control (NAC) infrastructure, as well. Kacin noted that KACE has been a partner of Cisco's NAC program for several years and that Cisco is actually a KACE customer.

The KBOX can be an authority within a NAC architecture or on its own. One of the properties of NAC is admission control, which is gauged against an endpoints compliance with patch-management policy.

"Really the KBOX itself can be used as a standalone NAC solution outside of the definition of a proprietary Cisco NAC solution but can be used for quarantine and access control," Kacin noted. "The one thing we don't do is we don't have any Cisco-based hooks to turning on or off switch or port control on their network hardware."

NAC integration with systems management isn't a unique innovation in the market, though. KACE's competitor LanDesk rolled full 802.1x support for NAC control earlier this year and is interoperable with Cisco NAC.

Though KACE may be the new kid on the systems management block, Kacin argued that being a startup in the systems management space has also meant that it has a clear target when chasing deals.

"Half our deals have had something in place but they were looking for more," Kacin said.