Category: Technote

Removing zombies from Service Store

By Max Ranzau

 

From Rick Grimes has no patience for the undeleted dead.the Hacking Dead dept. Service Store is a fine HR data processor and workflow engine, when you set it up to pull people and department data in from an authoritative data source. In a previous article I showed an example on how to do just that.  However, when a person is marked as deleted in your datasource, IT Store doesn’t delete the user. They effectively are the living dead IT Store people, except in this case they won’t try to claim a license or your brains.

Update: This article was updated on May 8th 2016 with new and improved SQL.

Deleting a user in IT Store has always been a two-stage affair. Initially when IT Store marks a person for deletion it uses the opportunity to scan for any and all delivered services. One should not tinker with this. However, once mentioned services have been properly returned, the user is then marked as [Ready for deletion]. But that’s all she wrote. Nothing more happens.

3zombiesEffectively this means over time an organization with thousands of annual onboarding/offboardings (think educational institutions for example) will have a pileup of undead un-deleted people in IT Store. Sure, they’re obscurred from view until you check the “Include people marked for deletion”. Your only current option is to manually go Mischonne on them in the console yourself. (Yes, I know – old screenshot, but it’s the same deal)

Update: There is also a another problem with leaving people not deleted in the ServiceStore. If you need to re-use people identifiers, say when you delete someone, their email address can be re-registered. This is not the case if a person is not deleted manually from the store.

The design rationale is that since some HR systems don’t delete the employee when off-boarded, then neither should ITS. Here’s where I disagree. It makes sense for HR systems to keep a record of previous people for administrative reasons, but since ITS is the conduit into the rest of the IT infrastructure organization, there’s IMHO little point in keeping a record here once you’ve cleaned up everywhere else. After all, during off-boarding we’d probably be exporting the user’s mailbox and zip up his homedrive as we don’t want dead user remains floating around in the production environment.

At this stage there’s only one way to deal with this if you don’t want to manually flush users marked ready for deletion: Hack the IT Store database.

warning, yellowLike any other vendor, RES gets nervous ticks and reaches for their crossbow, when  you start messing with the brraaaiiins grey matter of the datastores, thus the usual warnings apply: If you do this, you’re on your own. See the MOAD for details. Also, may I recommend you make a backup of the datastore and KNOW how to restore it.

That said, let’s look at the updated hack. It consists of 3 consecutive SQL delete queries. The first version of this database hack only deleted the person, but since people attributes and identifiers are stored in separate tables, they would be orphaned if you don’t clean them out before deleting the person. Presuming your datastore is running MSSQL, the new and improved update SQL looks like this:

-- delete all people identifiers associated with this person
DELETE 
   FROM [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_PeopleIdentifiers]
      FROM [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_PeopleIdentifiers] AS ppli 
      INNER JOIN [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_Objects] AS pers 
         ON ppli.PersonGuid = pers.Guid
    WHERE pers.Type = 1 and pers.RecordStatus = 2;

-- delete all people attributes associated with this person
DELETE 
   FROM [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_PeopleAttributes]
      FROM [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_PeopleAttributes] AS ppla 
      INNER JOIN [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_Objects] AS pers 
         ON ppla.PersonGuid = pers.Guid
   WHERE pers.Type = 1 and pers.RecordStatus = 2;

-- delete the person
DELETE FROM [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_Objects]
	WHERE [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_Objects].Type = 1 and 
             [$[in.db.its.name]].[dbo].[OR_Objects].RecordStatus = 2;

The $[in.db.its.name] above is an Automation Manager module parameter, containing the name of the ITS database. Running this update query will be the same as manually marking all the users marked [Ready for deletion]. One SNAFU back from IT Store 2014 was  the people will not be removed from the ITS console before you exit and re-launch it. My guess is that the records are cached in RAM and are only updated when the old IT Store was doing it’s own operations. This is however not the case with ServiceStore 2015, as the affected people are removed immediately.

sql Putting this into Automation Manager, I came across a minor problem with the SQL statement execute task in Automation Manager. It looks like as of SR3 (7.0.3.0) the password field can’t be properly parameterized. Sure, you can rightclick on the password field and insert a parameter, but next time you go back and edit the module, the password stops working. Until RES fixes this and puts in a proper set of credential-type accepting field, you’re better off hardcoding the password.

If you’re still up for it, try out this buildingblock in your lab:  legobrick-cropped

Note1: Buildingblock has NOT been updated with the new SQL statement above, you’ll need to paste that in yourself.

Note2: If you suspect you might already have orphaned people attributes or people identifiers in your datastore you can check with these two statements:

-- test if we have any orphaned people attributes
select * from your_storedb.dbo.OR_PeopleAttributes
WHERE NOT EXISTS(SELECT NULL
                    FROM your_storedb.dbo.OR_Objects obj
                   WHERE obj.Guid = PersonGuid  )


-- test if we have any orphaned people identifiers
select * from your_storedb.dbo.OR_PeopleIdentifiers
WHERE NOT EXISTS(SELECT NULL
                    FROM your_storedb.dbo.OR_Objects obj
                   WHERE obj.Guid = PersonGuid  )

If both queries above come back with zero rows, you’re fine. Otherwise, you’ve got orphans. You can wipe them out like another Scrooge by running these two deletes:

-- delete orphaned people attributes
delete from your_storedb.dbo.OR_PeopleAttributes
where not exists (
    select NULL 
    from resss.dbo.OR_Objects obj
    where obj.Guid = PersonGuid
);

-- delete orphaned people identifiers
delete from your_storedb.dbo.OR_PeopleIdentifiers
where not exists (
    select NULL 
    from resss.dbo.OR_Objects obj
    where obj.Guid = PersonGuid
);

 

Setting up a WM console on a jumpbox

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Multiple Hoops dept. The other day I was tasked with setting up a Workspace Manager console on a jumpbox. You know, the typical setup for a client where you VPN into a non-domainmember computer, from where you RDS to the different servers you need to access. The wish is to have the RES WM console running on this box so you don’t have to do Inception-RDS to make a few changes in WM, thus preserving screen real estate. Note: this will of course only work if your jumpbox is allowed to hit the database directly  If the jumpbox is firewalled to the hilt and only allows outbound RDS connections, stop reading right here.

Presuming you’re still with us, you might already have installed the WM console on your jumpbox and connected it to the relay server. When you launch it, you’ll get kicked right back out as the console looks for your local computername\username in the datastore and obviously it’s not there yet, so let’s add it:

The above sounds simple enough, but it appears there’s a few steps to go through, which incidentally left me wondering if there was an easier way to do it. I mean, under applications you can add users manually, but no such luck on Admin roles… (hint hint, nudge nudge dear product management ;)

  1. Assuming you already have WM running on one or more domain-enabled computers, go to one of these. Presuming it’s a Server 2012[R2], launch the Server Manager, goto the Tools menu and Computer Management.
  2. Go to System Tools | Local Users | Users and add a local user. The User name and password must be the same as for the jumpbox local user. This account is temporary and can be nuked at the end of the story.
  3. Now launch the WM console and go to User Context | Directory Services and chose New from the toolbar
  4. In the dialog, chose Local Computer from the Type dropdown and hit Ok. No further changes are necessary. WM now understands that local computer accounts can be used for access control, which also applies to Administrative Roles.
  5. Go to Administration | Administrative Roles | <your security role> | Access Control tab | Add button | Users/group
  6. From the directory services dropdown, chose local computer from the Directory Service dropdown, then search and select your username, which you added in step 2. Be sure the “Limit to this computer only (COMPUTERNAME)”-checkbox is NOT checked.
  7. If you did the above right, your account will be listed as .\username when you return to the previous dialog
  8. Now it’s time to return to your jumpbox and launch the WM console there. Since your username is now in the WM database it will let you. In practice you could stop here, however this would leave the jumpbox username able to launch the WM console from every computer. Let’s just add an ounce more of prevention by locking in the computername too:
  9. On the jumpbox’s WM console, go to Administration | Administrative Roles | <your security role> | Access Control tab
  10. Select your “.\username” and edit it. Repeat step 6, except make sure this to check the “Limit to this computer only (COMPUTERNAME)”-checkbox. When you return to the previous dialog, you’ll note that your account is listed correctly as your jumpboxcomputername\username
  11. As the last loose end to tie up, go back to the domain member computer where you created the temporary local user account and delete it.

 

Keeping Virtual Sandboxes under control

By Rob Aarts and Max Ranzau

Rob: After using VMware Thinapp in several projects I wanted to share some best practices The first one is about a common mistake I see made on a regular basis. Applications with several entry points for executables, are presented using Workspace Manager, using multiple managed applications. So far so good.

The problem arises when all entry points (from the same Thinapp capture) have their own Zero Profile setting pointing to the same Sandbox location. Are you still with me here? Let’s have a look at the example below:

p1

Here’s a working example:

  • When a user launches Application 1, Zero Profile settings are loaded and written to the sandbox.
  • The user then launches Application 2 and Zero Profile settings are loaded and writes to the same sandbox location.

What is likely to happen, is that settings for Application 1 become corrupted, due to it’s settings are being changed by another process while it’s running. I personally have seen some strange behavior from apps, which absolutely don’t like this messing are around with their appdata behind the scenes. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to imagine what may happen when Application 3 is launched. It will just increase the likelyhood of corruption.

The solution to avoid this mess is simple and was covered previously, although for natively installed applications only: Have a look at Max’s article RG056 in the tech library. Setting up a placeholder application as described in the article will allow you to configure  individual apps app to save the sandbox and direct The Zero Profile from Application 1, 2 and 3 to this placeholder App:

p2

Max: Once you have this set-up, the next challenge is to make sure your User-Settings capture configurations are not overlapping. As of WM SR3 there is a setting for global User settings to grab a setting exclusively. This means that if say 3 different global user settings grab the same registry value you can check one of them as exclusive and only that UserSetting will store it. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t work well for Managed Application based user-settings, as the capture-exclusive feature isn’t available there (yet?). Anyhow, there is a workaround for this. Let’s say you start with creating a suite-settings placeholder app, like described above for Office:

  1. You create a new managed app
  2. Under user settings, you add all the capture templates for Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc. and you have a nice list like shown below
  3. Then everything is cool and ready to rumble, right?

p6

Unfortunately that’s not quite the case, as the templates are likely to overlap. This is not the fault of the template designers, but a function of that they need each to be able to stand alone. This means we have a bit of cleaning up to do, but it’s quite easy. When you are on the User Settings|Capturing tab of the SuiteSettings app as shown above, do the following

  1. Click the Show details checkbox at the bottom of the dialog box
  2. Now click on the data column header to sort on files and registry entries being captured
  3. Look for identical rows (highlight)

p5

Note the line for the ‘Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010’, which I have highlighted and disabled. I disabled it because that particular User Setting was already captured by the template called ‘Microsoft Infopath Filler 2010’ and as you may recall from our discusion above, we do not have the option to capture exclusively on Managed apps.

You disable an item by doubleclicking on it. Don’t fall for the temptation of removing the checkbox you immediately see, as that will disable the entire template, in which you are only interested in disabeling a certain file/reg grab. Instead  go to the Capturing tab, then select the offending/duplicate entry, double click again and THEN remove the Enabled checkbox you see. Sequence shown below:

p7

You can of course also delete the duplicate entries to tidy things up. In this case I kept them around for illustrative purposes. One thing I’d like to make you aware of: First, go to the global User Settings node, and at the bottom check both ‘Show details’ and ‘Show all User Settings’:

p4

dpNotice that once you link up multiple applications to the same suite app, you will see multiple entries of the same user-setting. This is not a bug or an indication that something unnecessary is being captured. For example, look at the example above where about half way down you see about 7 references to %APPDATA\Microsoft\Access and both Word, Excel etc are pointing to it. This does NOT mean the and Word and Excel templates had duplicate entries. It’s simply because the combination of the two checkmarks shows the canonical list of all combinations of apps and user settings, thus the repeats. In short: They’re mostly harmless. Don’t panic!

We hope with this little away-mission into advanced WM User Settings management to have given you some new thoughts on how to both wrangle virtual applications as well as suite settings for multiple apps.

Rob & Max

 

Migrating from a broken UEM product, part 1

doesnot2From the REScue 911 Dept. Recently I was involved in a client project where they had a problem. And it was a big problem:  Effectively they were using another profile management product which was malfunctioning. I’d prefer not to give the game away by naming the vendor. Not that I have any problem with verbally beating vendors over the head when they deserve it – this is out of courtesy to the client.

Suffice to say, the product in question employed by my client was practically holding the user’s profile settings hostage. Allow me to clarify: If your current UEM tool redirects a write to a proprietary format, you are putting all the user’s profile data into a basket you have no or little control over. Meaning: If you switch said UEM tool off, then all your user’s settings are stuck in said basket. The following article puts you on a path out of this situation.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

 

Seamless switch from Policies to WM

gpo-morpheusFrom the The-GPO-has-you Dept. As of recent, one of my clients was facing an interesting issue: They wanted to do a seamless switchover from a currently windows GPO managed environment to a RES Workspace Manager environment. Essentially the job was to devise a method to make one system let go and have the other one take over at the same time. This example was built on a 2012R2 AD with a Win7 front-end.

This method revolves around using a simple AD group that serves a dual purpose. 1) When a user is put in the group, specified policies are denied and 2) Workspace Manager takes effect. The nice part of this approach is that it is fully reversible, just by removing the user from the group.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

Setting up a Lab HR system for IT Store

xor-logoFrom the Lab Essentials Dept. This article is to show you how you can stand up your very own open-source HR system and hook it up with RES IT Store. One of the things you may often hear about in regards to RES IT Store, is the ability to do employee on/offboarding. If you want to test this out for real, you probably won’t get access to a live HR system in production, thus I wrote this article.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

 

Updated WM Registry Guide

iabtFrom the About-Damn-Time Dept. One of the most popular articles on RG is the Registry reference for RES Workspace Manager. Unfortunately it’s been sitting on the backburner for a while, but no more! As of this weeks release of Workspace Manager 2014 FR2, the guide has been updated with all published registry settings available from the base 2014 release notes and up to. If you come across missing or any other spooky settings, feel free to contribute in the comments section on the article.

doc-icon2<<< Click to view the WM Registry Guide.

 

New Technote: Webservices & Automation Manager

Animated, Gears, boxFrom the Technotes-R-Us Dep: Today I have the pleasure of sharing a new article based on some preliminary work I did for a couple of clients who are looking to integrate SOAP based web-services into RES Workspace Manager. I put together a simple demo that show how to use SOAP calls to pull a live weather report from major airport cities around the world. If you can make that work, you can do pretty much anything from configuring a firewall, set up infrastructure or even process creditcard payments.

This is the first of a two-part article, where we next time will look at wrapping a service around the module and learning a few nifty tricks on how to deal with value dependent dropdowns.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read part one

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read part two

Automated XenDesktop 7.5 Build with RES AM

By Max Ranzau

 

From the BuildingBlock Dept. You may recall a couple of years ago that I published a RES Automation Manager buildingblock for Citrix Xen Desktop 5.5, XA and PVS.  Today it’s my pleasure to publish a new buildingblock that will do the same for Xen Desktop 7.5. It’s pretty slick, as it hardly needs any configuration or special prerequisites and allows you to choose all the install options for Xen Desktop.

mr-jMy friend and co-blogger Mr. Jeroen Speetjens from the Netherlands has been kind to share this with the RES community. You folks over at Citrix might also want to take note of this work. In order to use this buildingblock, all you need is the Xen Desktop ISO and a fresh Server 2008 or 2012. Deploy a RES Automation Manager agent to the target server, then import and schedule the module. The module contained in this RES Automation Manager buildingblock will configure everything else you need.

res_am_fileshareWhen you import the buildingblock, you will be prompted for the path to the contens of the XD .iso file, as shown on the screenshot below It is recommended to either mount it somewhere and share it, or copy all the files out of the ISO to a share. Either way, it’s about 2GB and you don’t want to add that as a AM resource, not that Automation Manager can’t handle it, it’s just a hassle next time you’re updating the binaries when you have a new .iso.

XD75_01When you schedule the module to the target server, the module will prompt you for what kind of installation you want. After that it’s off to the races: The average deployment time is about 10 minutes on a target system with SSD’s.

Note: If you decide to download this AM buildingblock and take it for a spin, I kindly ask you to take a moment to comment your feedback below and send thanks to Jeroen for his efforts.

Click the brick as per usual to download the buildingblock:  legobrick-cropped

Remember: RESguru.com is still the number one place to get noticed if you are doing cool stuff with RES: If you’ve got something to share – the guru community cares!

Understanding Automation Manager traffic

By Max Ranzau

 

BandwidthexampleFrom the Nuts, Bolts and Bandwidth Dept. As some of you noticed, a while back RES released the Reference Architecture document for Automation Manager, so now we have one for both the core products, great. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read the document here. The reference doc leads in with the basic deployment scenarios and similar things, but the nittygritty stuff is on page 22+23, where we get down to the actual traffic load numbers. Some of these numbers are obviously based on estimates: For example the resulting network traffic of any job, invariably would be linked to what’s in the job in terms of modules, tasks and resources. Note: The ref.architecture doc specifies packet numbers, but since we are interested in the overall bandwidth consumption I’m leaving those number out as they’d only muddle the picture.

One more thing before we get started. The numbers listed below are obviously without Automation Manager bandwidth management involved. I may do another piece on that particular topic in the future so you get a better idea of what it actually does…

AM Agent-to-Dispatcher idle-traffic.

To begin with, lets talk about idle traffic. It’s a fact of life that all components in a network chat. The question is how much, how often and what the impact would be on the fringes on your infrastructure. Given the numbers below, chances are that you can work out the impact by yourself. While RES is keeping the formula on how to calculate the precise idle traffic under NDA, it’s pretty easy to make a couple of observations off the provided numbers. According to the examples in the document:

When idle, one AM agent spews about 47.5kByte worth of traffic per 5 min/300 sec. That’s not a whole lot as it boils down to just below 160 bytes/sec per agent.

Let’s expand on that: Even if you had 3000 agents on the same site, your total background noise from the AM agents, across all switches would be around 475k/sec. This is next to nothing on a regular LAN. Remember this is the agent-to-dispatcher poll traffic, so it would never have to cross a WAN link when you place your dispatchers strategically on your external sub-nets.

AM Dispatcher-to-Datastore idle traffic.

As most of you know, an AM Agent is wired never to talk to a datastore directly, but always go by way of at least one dispatcher.  How many dispatchers you will need depends entirely on the shape of the infrastructure you want to deploy AM in. Since each Dispatcher+ can handle 1500 concurrent agent connections, you are obviously going to have a lot less dispatchers than agents, however the kicker is that the dispatchers will usually be crossing WAN links if you have them. If you go about your dispatcher layout smartly, you should not need more than one dispatcher per wan, link which makes the following math rather easy. When the dispatchers aren’t doing anything job related, the idle traffic depends on:

A) Are there agents connected?

  • If no, the base impact is about 616k over 300 sec †1), being around 2kB/sec per dispatcher, which is negligible on most WAN links.
  • If yes, it seems there is a slight overhead when an agent is connected (22kB over 5 min = 73 bytes/sec). Presuming that number scales linear, then even with a fully loaded dispatcher with 1500 attached agents, you would be looking at around 110kb/sec dispatcher-to-datastore traffic †2)

†1)Disclaimer: As RES is keeping the formula for calculating this under wraps with the NDA stuff, I’m going to have to make a couple of leaps of faith here. Unless somebody with WireShark and the necessary time on their hands is prepared to run the numbers and verify (or spill the beans in the comments section ;)  – we can only go by what is stated in the doc. The reference document said the Agent idle traffic was measured over a 5 minute interval, but it doesn’t say so for the corresponding dispatcher traffic, thus we are going to presume they used the same measurement interval for that test. †2)The other presumption I had to make, is that each additional agent connected to a dispatcher adds on average the 73 bytes/sec onto the idle dispatcher-to-datastore traffic.

B) The other item to briefly consider: Is the dispatcher a garbage collector? This role has a very low impact and not much is posted about it anywhere at present, other than it’s selected dynamically amongst the dispatchers – supposedly similar to Citrix Zone Data Collectors as they all know about each other through their datastore. What the purpose of the RES AM data collection precisely is, when it happens, what the election criteria is, are still unanswered questions, but hopefully someone will provide that information in the near future. Anyway, based on the released numbers, we may presume the garbage collection role adds approximately 215k/5min to an idle agent, equivalent to just under 780 bytes/sec for the garbage collecting dispatcher. So unless part of your infrastructure is running over a 2G cell data connection you can probably ignore this completely.

AM Dispatcher-to-Datastore traffic, running a job

Since you hopefully won’t have your new Automation Manager installation sitting idly too much, it’s also worthwhile knowing what kind of traffic patterns you are looking at when a job is actually processing. Again we have to do a bit of guestimating based on the provided numbers in the RES reference architecture guide. The numbers are based on a job that downloads a 5.5MB AM resource. The only thing they really tell us is, that regardless if you are master caching or connecting a dispatcher directly to the datastore, the amount of data going across the wire seems roughly equivalent to the size of the resource payload + 500kB. If a dispatcher is set up as a master caching dispatcher, the transfer overhead looks to be about 200kB less than for a regular dispatcher connected to the datastore.

In conclusion, while the overhead isn’t very large, it is not easy to create usable rules of thumb out of this, as the reference document only provides one datapoint (5,5MB and resulting traffic), so in order to make an accurate estimate on traffic size, one would have to know how/if the 500kb overhead grows with the size of the resource/modules. I would suggest this would be an excellent addition to a revision of this document.

Other than that, clarifying comments are welcome!