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The Agile Enterprise focus of this seminar enabled Centralis to bring in Panasonic with its Toughbook laptop. Apparently, a combination of rugged hardware, secure software and good support allows Centrica to claim that over a five-year project lifecycle, the total cost of ownership of an engineer’s rugged laptop will be only an estimated 20 per cent of that of a standard desktop device in the office.

Macrovision also presented, to remind us that it is a more than just a purveyor of annoying digital rights protection solutions for DVDs, important though that no doubt is. Since its acquisition of InstallShield, it has a strong application-packaging story to tell. Developers sometimes overlook this aspect of development, but they won't be developers for ling unless their applications are packaged so that they install effectively, without annoying their owners.

Finally, Centralis introduced ScriptLogic (which isn't about scripting although, hopefully, it's logical enough). This is a network and desktop configuration management and control software vendor that is new to the UK. It competes with Altiris, Landesk, Microsoft's SMS and Novell's Zenworks but claims to offer much better value for money. ScriptLogic's mission is to remove complexity in a Microsoft environment by automating time consuming and costly manual processes and it is probably worth a look.

This rather eclectic mix of products does rather explain why companies employ companies like Centralis.

Centralis doesn't try to sell you hardware and its customers are looking for long-term partnerships rather than quick-fix technologies - and it is proud to use its own employees on contracts rather than shipping in bodies, according to MD Ewen Anderson.

It's a Citrix thin-client computing specialist, which currently implies the Windows platform (Citrix could move onto Linux easily), but it also has expertise on the Novell platform with eDirectory and Zenworks and in providing Citrix access from Novell environments. This gives us some confidence in its advice, as it hasn't sold itself entirely to Microsoft's vision yet: Novell's eDirectory and identity solutions are still probably better than Microsoft's offerings and Netware still has customers that appreciate its security and manageability in, for example, large educational establishments.

As well as integration consultancy, Centralis also offers design and deployment consultancy and a dedicated service desk for Citrix Access. Anderson points out that Citrix is powerful but it isn't really a plug and play environment – you will need experienced help. And Centralis can quote some notable success stories such as Centrica (it helped design and build and now manages a 135 server, 3,000 concurrent user Citrix farm) and Tesco (a similar project with 20 or 30 server farms and a web interface supporting over 2,000 concurrent users). We're not talking small departmental servers here.

We meet people who think that you should do everything in-house, in case you lose control. However, if you are a mature company than can manage external relationships (perhaps that does exclude a lot of companies), a good partner can enrich your company knowledgebase with experience from a wide range of environments, experience you simply don't have internally. As a business, your job is to concentrate on your business, not on gathering experience for its own sake just in case it proves helpful. ®

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