COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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TECHNEWS

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Issue Date: March 2008

Changing the game

1 March 2008

When most companies take on the distributorship of a new application, they do not get the source code and move all the development from Europe to South Africa.
Some people may know Columbus Technologies as the local representative of Brainware Solution AG, a European developer of desktop management software since 1988 named Columbus and not in any way related to the South African failure of a similar name. However, few know the extent of its relationship with the European company.
Almost three years ago, Brainware Solutions AG CEO, Rey Schallberger, was seeking to expand the scope of the company's operations. The company had a long-standing relationship with PreWorX, a South African software development company since 1989 and decided to work with people it knew as it introduced the Columbus brand in South Africa.
PreWorX made its name in the global software development market with, among other things, its preboot software. This technology allowed companies to access and take full control of PCs via a network or the Internet, even without booting an operating system. This software was OEM'ed to various companies, among them Novell and Brainware.
Instead of simply signing up as a distributor of Columbus, PreWorX CEO, Ricus Ellis launched Columbus Technologies in South Africa as the Brainware distributor while also providing South African technology and expertise for the further development of the Columbus product suite. What this meant was that PreWorX's Intellectual Property was combined with that of Brainware's and sold through Columbus Technologies, as was all of Brainware's IP. Columbus Technologies therefore now has access to the development roadmap of the product suite sold in Africa and is able to take the challenges associated with the South African operating environment into consideration in its development.
Ricus Ellis, Columbus Technologies
Ricus Ellis, Columbus Technologies
So, while Columbus Technologies distributes the Columbus product suite, foreign currency is flowing into South Africa to further develop the product to suit the South African customers' needs. Ellis is the business development director and founder of Columbus Technologies, with Theo Fourie the CEO. Columbus Technologies is BEE compliant through a 51% shareholding held by Sizwe.
The product
The thinking behind the Columbus product suite is about controlling the desktops, servers and mobile computers. These systems are critical to business, but rarely do companies have the ability to completely control what software is installed on them, if it is legal and if the latest patches have been implemented. Those companies that have policies governing computers on their networks generally do not have the tools to manage them efficiently.
The Columbus Life Cycle Management product suite facilitates the full life-cycle of managing desktops running on the Microsoft platform including all related technical, commercial service management, and e-procurement information providing asset, licence and contract management capabilities.
The Columbus Enterprise product suite takes care of anything users need to do on remote desktops, laptops and servers. This includes the distribution of applications, service packs, updates and the like via the corporate network. It can also be used to ensure unauthorised software is removed to prevent licensing issues.
Numerous modules are available that can be included to provide for the full lifecycle management of desktop systems. These include operating system and applications installation and configuration, patch management, inventory and automated asset management, replication (for site synchronisation), helpdesk and workflow. These modules are available as standalone applications or as tailored suites with upgrade paths.
With an integrated workflow engine to automate the desktop management policies of a company, staff computers can be constantly kept updated and free from unauthorised software. Similarly, with a full asset and inventory management facility, companies can know with certainty what assets are in use and sufficiently licensed.
Using the functionality the software will allow for full lifecycle, or buy to die management and cost control. Companies can even manage their service providers' contracts and SLAs. Integration into business applications such as SAP and Oracle are also possible.
Ensuring that software is not deployed to workstations in a manner that hogs bandwidth and retards the normal flow of business, Columbus also makes sure software proliferation is done in a bandwidth friendly manner.
The Columbus Life Cycle management system is accessible from anywhere via a Web interface.
Local development
The local development team is not only focused on maintenance and product enhancements, it is also taking the lead in expanding the portfolio of applications within the suite. The latest improvement in functionality is a local initiative called Columbus Interactive, which facilitates easier, interactive internal corporate communications that encourages participation and cannot be ignored.
Managed from a simple interface, Columbus Interactive ensures that any information a company needs to distribute to its staff or a specific group of users is delivered, read and if necessary, that a response is sent. The information communicated can be in text, graphic or even video format, whatever is required to communicate a message to staff.
Very soon Columbus will also introduce full Columbus Power Management of remote devices ensuring the efficient use of desktops and servers under corporate policies. Columbus bandwidth on demand will also be introduced soon after ensuring event driven on demand critical service delivery with local vendors developing and selling bandwidth optimisation products to the local market.
Local and International initiatives are on their way namely Columbus@home, Columbus@Office that will allow home and small office users to subscribe to Columbus as a Web service.
Taking a new product into a mature market such as South Africa is never easy. Columbus Technologies has addressed any potential reluctance in companies to change management technologies by offering a direct exchange. If a company wishes to change to Columbus, the company offers a feature for feature exchange option.
For more information, www.columbussa.co.za or www.brainware.ch.


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