Zen and the Art of Usage Tracking

From the revamed slidedeck division. If you are new to this blog, you may have missed a posting that I did almost two years ago, called Zen and the Art of PowerTrace. This article was about how to get the most out of the advanced tracking module (known back then as PowerTrace), built into the Enterprise version of the RES Workspace Manager.

With the help of my good friend Sascha Maier, I was back then able to create a slide-deck using real-world screenshots of a live customer environment with thousands of users, showing you the true power of Usage Tracking unleashed. Not an easy feat to replicate in a lab environment, I’m sure you’ll agree. As RES recently changed product names, logos etc. I thougth this would be a great time to re-introduce the revamped slide-deck with updated terminology and graphics.

If you are new to RES products: This slidedeck will teach you how to get the most out of Usage Tracking, which is an extensive logging apparatus, essentially linking all the user does in a session, what apps are being used for how long, on what devices, online/offline status, resource consumption, and much much more. Usage Tracking will answer the following and many other questions:

  • What’s going on right now?
  • What did a certain user do at a certain time?
  • Who’s been doing things they’re not supposed to do?
  • Who’s been editing a certain [type of] docment in a given department?
  • Web activity of a user or department
  • What’s the Top-10 usage of applications and websites?
  • What’s the daily maximum users on my terminal servers?

If you are a Veteran Workspacer, throw out the old PowerTrace slide deck and click below to download the updated presentation. Note: The screenshots still say PowerTrace here and there. Eventually I’ll get around to grabbing new screenshots when the viewer changes someday.

In either case, be sure to read the speakernotes section of the Powerpoint presentation as it contains the entire talk track and a lot of useful information about the capabilities of this system. In addition to this presentation, be sure to read article RG007 on the sizing of the Usage Tracking Database and RG02D about splitting the Usage tracking log data away from the Workspace Manager 2011 configuration datastore.


Click on the slidedeck on the right to download:




New technote: Splitting the WM2011 datastore

From the Technotes-R-Us dept. A new article has been added to the Technote Library. This time we’re popping the lid off good things to come, namely WorkSpace Manager 2011. In this article we will be looking specifically at a feature which may positively impact the way you set up your datastore infrastructure to cater for Workspace Managere 2011, namely the ability to move log data out of the primary datastore and move it to a secondary datastore.

If you’re new to RES products, here’s the deal: Speaking in reference to the architechture, there is no such thing as a Workspace Manager server. However a SQL DBMS of your choice is used to store things in. This database up until now, stored everything – including all the logs and the detailed user activity tracking module, called Usage Tracking. The resulting dataset has the potential to become quite massive.

By offering the ability to split the logs and Usage Tracking off to a secondary datastore, things are kept much more manageable. Depending of course of what you’ve put in there it is very rare to see the configuration part of a Workspace Manager datastore exceed 100 Meg, which for a regular DBMS is small potatoes. The logging (and especially usage tracking can generate Gigs worth of logs. This may be within your operating specs that you indeed want detailed logs and statistics, so now you will have the option of storing these things somewhere else.

Finally, please note that the described functionality is not available in PowerFuse 2010. It will be available January 2011 in the new Workspace Manager release.

To read the article RG02D, click here.

Updated: AM2011 License Calculator

Back in Febuary 2009 I posted an article (#RG00D) on the licensing of RES Wisdom as licensing had changed a lot at the time. With the release of Automation Manager 2011 this year, we have a new license scheme on our hands once again. Basic licensing of a workstation has been dropped from 1 to 0.5, a new Small Busines Server connector has been added and also there’s the whole Service Orchestration piece which charges 0.5 licenses per serviced user. In short, it was time to give the Licensing article a well deserved overhaul.

Tip: Try clicking on the calculator on the right to jump directly to the new calculator thingy.

To read the entire licensing article, click here

Inside the Automation Manager 2011 RC

From the new-hotness dept. Today, November 1st 2010, RES Product management announced the Release Candidate of the RES Automation Manager 2011 (formerly known as Wisdom). It is now available for download for SA customers through the portal. The version number for this release is The main areas of improvement are centered around the Service Orchestration module, Scalability, Integration, Security and compatibilty.

This update is massive, i.e. the enhancements are too many to mention here, although they are all covered in the releasenotes, available for download below. I would however like to highlight a few items which may be of interest to you, especially in regards to licensing as these things have changed with the latest release:

  • License cost for PC’s cut in half. From this version, a workstation now only charges 0.5 licenses. This due to the fact that Automation Manager now supports the service orchestration pack. If you upgrade your exising Wisdom installation to Automation Manager, you will notice that your license consumption on workstations will be half of what it used to be. You’re welcome :-) Note that servers and terminal servers still are charged 4 and 8 licenses respectively.
  • New licensing for small business servers: A new connector type has been added, which allows you to use a domain controller, a SQL server and an exchange server on one box. Where up until now this combo would cost 50 licenses in order to enable existing connector licenses (SQL:1 + Exchange:16 + DC:32), the new Small Business Server connector will enable all 3 on one box, charging 33 licenses, saving you 17 licenses for something else.
  • Service orchestration now a part of Autmation Manager: From this version onward, the service automation module shares the Automation Manager database and thus the license pool also. So how’s service orchestration charged then? 0.5 license per serviced user. What’s a serviced user then? It’s a user to whom a orchestrated service is delivered. In other words, suppose you set up a service, such as an app the user can request to have installed, then 0.5 licenses is draw from the Automation Manager license pool when the service/app is delivered by Automation Maanger. If the service is returned (i.e. the app is uninstalled), then the 0.5 license is returned to the pool. I’d say that’s a quite fair model. Watch this blog for another article on Service Orchestration later.

Be sure to visit the updated Automation Manager licensing 101 article which is available here. This article contains a calculator which will help you figure out how many licenses you would need.

Besides the above changes to licenses, there are several other important improvements worth mentioning, although most of these have been available in the interim versions of Wisdom that have been available throughout this year. Anyway, if you’re not on the Early Adopter program, these items will likely be of interest to you:

  • New Engines node in the console: From this version the console node formerly known as Dispatchers has been renamed to Engines. Reason for this change is that once  you install the Service Orchestration module for Automation Manager, you’ll also be able to monitor the status of the Catalog Services and the Transaction Engine, besides the regular dispatchers.
  • Master Dispatchers: This is a pretty cool way to manage large-scale environments where you have a requirement for multiple dispatchers on a remote site. You may also have a situation on your hands where setting up a replicated datastore is not an option. Setting up the Master Dispatcher allows dispatchers on a given site to talk to another dispatcher instead of talking directly to the datastore. Configuring this involves setting up 3 registry keys. There’s currently no GUI for this. These are described on page 4 of the releasenotes. Click the illustration on the right for a visual explanation of how the master dispatcher fits into the big picture.
  • Job notification via email and SNMP: In Automation Manager 2011 it is also possible to configure alerting, very much like you know it from PowerF.. erm, Workspace Manager. The SNMP integration does not require installation of SNMP agents. Supported SNMP versions are v1 and v2c. The .MIB (Management Information Base) file, is located where you initially deployed your Automation Manager Console under %programfiles%\RES\Automation Manager (or ..\Wisdom if you’ve just upgraded).
  • Ability to tweak Wake-on-Lan options: You can now change in Global Options what port WOL packets are sent on, default is 3163. Also you can tweak the default behavior which is sending to the 4×255 broadcast address, and instead send to a specific target subnet. See page 7 of the releasenotes for details.
  • Enhanced SSH script support: Automation Manager can now use sudo, which is the UNIX equivalent of runas. Also, instead of executing a SSH script line by line, the script can be created in it’s entirety in the users homedirectory on the target system.
  • Support for more Microsoft and Citrix environments: MS Exchange 2010, SQL Server Native Client 10.0, Windows 7 and Server 2008R2. The exchange support is especially cool as it will allow you to move mailboxes from say Exchange 2003 to 2010. Note however that such a job must be run on the Exchange 2010 box. Also worth mentioning is the ability to support Citrix Workflow Studio. By enabeling this integration existing workflow users will be able to take advantage of the advanced scheduling and conditional execution of Automation Manager. Existing RES customers will be able to take advantage of the Citrix-specific tasks available through the Workflow Studio.
  • Query Evaluators: This is a very interesting piece which will alow you to make conditional executions based on the result of a given query. For example – if diskspace is less than 10% run a task to clean out the %temp% folder etc. Currently query evaluators are only supported for the following queries: Computer Properties, Disk space, Installed programs, Service properties, TCP/IP properties. I’m sure we will see more of these in the future. The important bit is that every query evaluator is different and, as a result of a query you can set a given module parameter to any value. The idea is that you can then use regular Conditions to check on the value of these further into the modules.

The above is just a few items I picked out from the stuff included in this major release of Automation Manager. For the complete picture, make sure to have a look at the releasenotes, which you can download right here.

Click here to download: