Symantec continued its raft of acquisition attempts and its pushed into the management software space when it moved to purchase ON Technology for $100 million in cash.

ON Technology shareholders will receive $4 per share according to terms of the deal. The Cupertino, Calif.-based security software provider is interested in Waltham, Mass,-based ON Technology's infrastructure management products to provide a shot in the arm to its own management software business and complement its security business.

The bid also marks Symantec's arrival in the software distribution space, which analysts say is something security vendors have been increasingly focusing on to help them provide not only fixes for ailing systems, but mitigation to head off problems.

ON Technology's software provides centralized and "unattended" management, which includes auto-discovery of network issues, operating system and application deployment, patch updates, and software usage and license management for computing platforms and devices.

This type of management software is being heavily touted by software vendors such as IBM, Computer Associates and Microsoft because it represents another way for the companies to lure cost-conscious IT managers looking to lower total-cost-of-ownership.

For example, automation characteristics in management software keep administrators' system tinkering at a minimum, freeing them up to attend to other tasks. Organizations also use management software improve the availability and reliability of their applications and systems.

Specifically, ON Technology's architecture will allow those who use Symantec's Ghost, which facilitates the deployment and migration of operating systems, software updates, user profiles, and data to desktop and mobile devices, to deploy Ghost configuration changes -- along with application and security patches -- from one administration console. In short, ON technology's features will centralize the management of Ghost.

The planned purchase is the second bid in as many months to significantly boost Symantec's management software capabilities.

Symantec moved to acquire PowerQuest, which makes provisioning, storage management and disaster recovery technologies to bolster Ghost in September.

Gartner analyst Mark Nicolett said Symantec's move into software distribution is important because it highlights how security is intersecting with other aspects of IT, such as management.

"A basic requirement for patch management is that the analysis be integrated with the remediation, which is software distribution," Nicolett told internetnews.com. " Security vendors have traditionally only provided the security analysis but that doesn't solve the problems for the customer. Vendors who wants to solve these patch problems have to essentially get into this area of software distribution."

IBM has been installing self-healing technologies across its product lines, while Microsoft -- though several steps behind -- is planning similar capabilities for something it is calling Microsoft System Center under the aegis of its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI).

ON Technology's software performs many of the same tasks as IBM's Tivoli line and Microsoft's System Management Server perform, including the automation of OS migrations, software deployment, mobile and remote management, asset management, security and patch management and disaster recovery.

John G. Schwarz, Symantec president and chief operating officer, said in a statement that ON Technology's software distribution and configuration management features will help his company deliver a complete management system. He also said ON's partnerships to provide inventory and patch management will dovetail nicely with Symantec's security portfolio.

The transaction is expected to close by March 2004.