Kace – KBOX 1000 Series Systems Management Appliance review

systems management tools on a ready to use appliance
Photo of Kace – KBOX 1000 Series Systems Management Appliance
£6,000 + VAT upwards

The idea behind the Kace KBOX 1000 is far from radical: it simply delivers systems management on an appliance. The results, however, are quite astounding. Instead of days, or sometimes weeks, getting to grips with the tools involved, you can be up and managing the desktops and servers on your LAN in just a few hours.

Aimed at small to medium-sized companies, ill served by alternative, software-only solutions, the Kace product comes pre-installed on industry standard rack-mount hardware. For our evaluation we were sent a KBOX 1100, able to handle up to 3,000 nodes, with a more capable 1200 model (starting at £7,800 + VAT) for those with more to look after.

Inside are a couple of Xeon quad-core processors, 4GB of RAM and some hard disks, but you really don’t need to know that. Neither is it important to know that it’s running FreeBSD. All we had to do was plug it into our network and type its name into a browser, then wait for a very nice Kace expert to take us through some of the so-called JumpStart training, included in the price.

The training is all done remotely via WebEx and really did help us get familiar with what the KBOX had to offer. And that truly is quite a lot, with an impressive suite of systems management tools already on-board plus a number of extras that can be added if wanted. So, for example, it took us just minutes to start collecting the inventory data that underpins most of the other tools, then quickly begin distributing software remotely over the wire.

We were able to distribute both complete apps and patches using the KBOX, Kace employing Lumension’s highly regarded PatchLink technology to handle both Windows and Apple Mac operating systems plus application updates from all the leading developers. Owners of Dell systems also get integration into the supplier’s own OpenManage software, plus there’s an optional security audit and enforcement module to plug more general security vulnerabilities.

There’s plenty of choice, too, when it comes to rolling out new applications. As with other systems management tools we were able to push programs out to PCs and servers and install them remotely, in addition to which there’s an optional Virtual Kontainer module which can be used to create and distribute ‘virtual’ applications.

Virtual Kontainers take a lot of the pain out of installing apps as they contain all the supporting DLLs and other files each needs to run. They also virtualise the required registry changes, so conflicts with other programs are rare. On the downside, you have to create a separate Kontainer for each OS involved, using a suitable host PC. However, this again was easy to do, our ‘expert’ guiding us through the process which is all done remotely via the KBOX appliance.

Another small hurdle is the need to install agent software onto each PC before any of the management tools can be employed, but that wasn’t difficult either. The KBOX can either push the agent out to each in turn, or you can arrange to rollout the agent using login scripts or group policy. Either way it’s fairly painless, with agents for all the current versions of Windows (desktop and server) plus Apple Mac. Linux is also supported, although only the Red Hat version.

We found the whole KBOX experience remarkably easy. Admittedly, the Web-based interface does take a little getting to used and, with so much functionality on offer, it took a while to work out where everything was. Still, within a few hours we were confidently performing all manner of complex tasks whereas some of the more traditional alternatives can take days to understand, let alone become comfortable with.

Much of this is down to the fact that everything you need comes ready configured in one place. However, special mention has to go to the use of labels to dynamically group managed systems, plus integrated access to the Kace AppDeploy Live knowledgebase which was a real help when it came to the nitty gritty of software distribution.

And there’s a lot more besides, including remote control, a self-service user portal and optional helpdesk module. Scripting also comes as standard, with lots of sample scripts to automate common management tasks, plus the inevitable alerting and reporting tools needed to stay on top of what the KBOX is up to.

It’s not cheap, but then the alternatives don’t include hardware, and any training is likely to be an expensive extra. Take all that into consideration, along with the completeness of the solution and its ease of use, and the KBOX 1000 starts to look like a real bargain.

Company: Kace

Contact: 01344 875574


Verdict
Putting management tools onto an appliance isn't radical but the results with the KBOX 1000 are impressive. Everything needed to remotely manage desktops and servers is either pre-installed or can be added, delivering the tools needed to collect inventory information, distribute new applications and patches plus a lot more besides. Maintenance and training are also included, making it about as close to a plug-and-play systems management solution as you're ever likely to get.