They're KBOX Systems Management Appliances from KACE Systems Management in Mountainview, Calif.
Truliant is using six of the appliances, all in the central IT area, said Jason Allen, help desk technology support specialist at Truliant in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"They all work together, but each one is designated to a certain purpose-for instance inventory, help desk reporting and scripting," he said. "It's also Web-based, and we'll be able to push it out externally to people who can use it that way, like board members."
About 500 end users right now can log in tickets, often seeking support for one of the approximately 1,000 devices on the $1.3 billion credit union's network, including servers, PCs, printers and ATMs.
"Basically it's for everything but our core system. We have another department that takes care of that," Allen said.
The KBOX systems management boxes are hardened and self-healing and include discovery and inventory applications and others for asset management, software distribution, application virtualization, remote control and security and patching, although Truliant is not using the latter.
Help desk and application management software is not unique, but KACE is unusual in its use of hardware for deployment.
"Most of the guys we compete with on a daily basis are using software-based solutions, but what we have found is that the appliance form factor is one of the easiest things to use for our customers to get up and running quickly," said Wynn White, vice president of marketing at KACE.
"Most of the guys here at KACE come from software backgrounds," White said. "Our intellectual property is software that we package and put in hardware that end users can just slap in a rack, plug in and give it an IP address, and they're up and running."
Allen at Truliant said, "We had a few bumps and bruises because of learning how each thing works as opposed to other applications we use, but overall it has been fairly simple."
He said the KBOX solution has cost Truliant at least $20,000 less than the help desk software the credit union had been using and is also saving money in other ways.
For instance, it helps the dozen or so IT staffers manage application updates and other help-desk related chores at Truliant locations in four states, saving more than 7,000 hours of staff time worth about $170,000 a year, he said.
Application updates is another key area. The software inside the hardware keeps track of what version is installed where and facilitates mass upgrades.
Before, every time a key application at the credit union was upgraded, it could have required hundreds of individual installations at an organization the size of Truliant.
Instead, "we can now automatically set up queues of specific software to run for each department, no matter where it is or what the department needs," Allen said. "This directly saves money because we can more easily share software instead of buying and configuring separate copies."
What could take a week now takes minutes, he said.
The efficiencies show up in other ways, Allen said. For instance, usage of the self-serve help desk portal has increased from about twice a month to about 200 a month, Allen said, attributing that to ease of use for the staffer seeking help and the ability to fulfill those requests more quickly.
The system is proving handy across multiple departments, he said. "For instance, in our general services area. They can use it to keep track of how much it takes to prepare and clean up for events through knowing when a ticket was picked up and it was completed," Allen said.
"The whole enterprise can use it to keep track of how we're doing our jobs," he said.
White at KACE Systems Management said he expects to see his company's solution really show its chops as the newly launched Windows 7 gets traction as enterprise users of the decade-old XP operating system adopt it after eschewing the much-maligned Vista OS.
"That's an issue a lot of credit unions are going to face," he said.
"Instead of going out to each remote location and upgrading individual systems, the KBOX can just push out an image to the remote site, then upgrade and migrate the machine over that way," White said.