IBM has updated its software distribution and provisioning software, claiming it will make upgrading systems less of a burden.

IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager 5.1 will help sysadmins automate parts of the process required to deploy and decommission laptops, desktops, wireless devices and servers, and can judge when to distribute software to clients based on available bandwidth.

"This feature enables the product to be aware of how the network is being used for business needs at a given time and help IT staff to reduce resource requirements, and avoid over-provisioning to accommodate software distribution," said IBM Tivoli chief architect Dave Lindquist. "The updates shouldn't impact network traffic or end user's experience."

The software, IBM says, can reduce the impact of software rollouts on the network with a new peering feature based on grid computing, which allows clients to download updates from a local server or desktop if the network traffic or high server volume slows the process.

This is "a bit of a different direction for software distribution technology," said analyst Joe Clabby. "IBM is automating workflows and the pragmatic processes within IT shops. The idea of doing software updates en masse without wreaking havoc on performance will hit IT managers where they live."

The update uses technology IBM acquired from Rembo Technologies in June, which uses a differencing technique to store and save the various customisations in client and server operating systems images, thus maintaining the changes and enabling speedier recovery if a system needs to be rebuilt.

The software installs on a dedicated server (ranging from AIX to Windows to Linux to Solaris) and can deploy IT components from virtual servers and middleware to network devices acting as routers or load balancers, IBM said. IT managers can also set up 'depot' servers from which to install packages on targeted client and server machines, depending on the size of the environment and how IT managers would like to distribute software, for example, based on set groups or class of servers or time of day.

Tivoli Provisioning Manager 5.1 will be available this month, costing $1,100 per managed processor and $65 per managed client.