All posts by Ben Murphy

Foundations of Success: Digital Experience Monitoring

We’ve all seen the rapid evolution of the workplace; the introduction of personal consumer devices, the massive explosion of SaaS providers, and the gradual blurring of the lines of responsibility for IT have introduced new complications to a role that once had very clearly defined purview. In a previous post, we discussed quantification of user experience as a key metric for success in IT, and, in turn, we introduced a key piece of workspace analytics: Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM).  This raises the question, though, what exactly is DEM about?

At its very heart, DEM is a method of understanding end users’ computing experience and how well IT is enabling them to be productive. This begins with establishing a concept of a user experience score as an underlying KPI for IT. With this score, it’s possible to proactively spot degradation as it occurs, and – perhaps even more importantly – it introduces a method for IT to quantifiably track its impact on the business. With this as a mechanism of accountability, the results of changes and new strategies can be trended and monitored as a benchmark for success.

That measurable success criterion is then a baseline for comparison that threads its way through every aspect of DEM. It also provides a more informed basis for key analytical components that stem from observation of real user behavior, like continuous segmentation of users into personas. By starting with an analysis of how well the current computing environment meets the needs of users, it opens the door to exploring each aspect of their usage: application behaviors, mobility requirements, system resource consumption, and so on. From there users can be assigned into Gartner defined workstyles and roles, creating a mapping of what behaviors can be expected for certain types of users. This leads to more data driven procurement practices, easier budget rationalization, and overall a more successful and satisfied user base.

Pie chart showing the number of critical applications segmented by persona

Taking an active example from a sample analysis, there are only a handful of critical applications per persona. Those applications represent what users spend most of their productive time working on, and therefore have a much larger business impact. Discovery and planning around these critical applications also can dictate how to best provision resources for net new employees that may have a similar job function. This prioritization of business-critical applications based on usage means that proactive management becomes much more clear cut. The experience on systems where users are most active can be focused on with automated analysis and resolution of problems, and this will have the maximum overall impact on improving user experience. In fact, that user experience can then be trended over time to show what the real business impact is of IT problem solving:

Chart showing the user experience trend for an enterprise

Various voices within Lakeside will go through pieces of workspace analytics over the coming months, and we’ll be starting with a more in-depth discussion of DEM. This will touch on several aspects of monitoring and managing the Digital Experience of a user, including the definition of Personas, management of SLAs and IT service quality measurements, and budget rationalization. Throughout, we’ll be exploring the role of IT as an enabler of business productivity, and how the concept of a single user experience score can provide an organization a level of insight into their business-critical resources that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Learn more about End User Analytics

Director Integration for Ask SysTrack

One of the unintuitive results of the progression of technology is the massive proliferation of different sources for different pieces of information that are critical to managing an environment. There are just so many tools that provide a depth of detailed data that the sheer number of them makes it difficult to figure out which one to use and how to find it within the interface. Information seeking behavior then takes users across multiple tools with multiple methods of interaction; the net result can be confusion and lost time. This is where cognitive analytics and the ability to ask simple questions can make the difference between solving a problem and bouncing between reporting tools.

The popularity of Ask SysTrack’s recent set of advanced integrations has been very eye opening to how pervasive the need to have a single, easy to use interface for getting contextually relevant answers to questions can be. Because of this we’ve worked with our partners to try and provide a single source to answer IT questions that then provide what’s needed when it’s needed.

At Citrix Summit we’re showcasing one of our most recent examples: plugin integration with Citrix Director. This plugin not only displays SysTrack information in the Director interface, but also provides Director and Citrix related answers to questions that are found in the interface through Ask SysTrack.

The key is providing the Ask SysTrack plugin interface directly in the Director interface home page. Now any IT administrator that makes use of Director has a Watson power cognitive helper to answer questions like “What is the user experience of my environment?”

Clicking the link takes them directly into the relevant data in SysTrack. Alternatively, they can also just ask questions about Director.

We’ve also added a User Experience Trend for delivery groups that are discovered in association with the instance that allows administrators to view what kind of user experience their end users have been getting alongside the other data presented in Director.

This makes it much easier for administrators to now get the key details they need when they need it without having to spend time working through multiple interfaces.

For more details check out a quick video run through.

Answering GPU Questions with SysTrack

Ask SysTrack has become one of the most popular topics we’ve ever discussed in the industry, and our top question is always what we’re adding next. The benefits of using our Natural Language Processing (NLP) tool for common IT questions has appealed to a massive number of our partners in the industry as well as customers. Basically, our goal is to provide an analytical system that takes any question you may have about IT and tries to hook you into the best source of information available to help.

Zach mentioned our first integration in a previous post, and in the new year we’ll be launching a series of new integrations that cover different areas. One I’m personally excited about is our added GPU-based monitoring and reporting from NVIDIA GRID.

GPU utilization in general has been a hot topic for a while, and with the great progress NVIDIA has made with the creation of the first vGPU profiles for VDI, the potential to bring a great graphical experience to anyone has exploded. We’ve provided support for NVIDIA GRID from the very beginning, offering a cloud based assessment tool that can help plan what profiles would work for a currently physical environment to make the move to vGPU and VDI. As a natural progression to that we’ve implemented new monitoring with NVIDIA to help understand workload and usage in VDI systems. 

This kind of insight is especially critical when first undertaking a project to start transforming an environment using new technologies. John Fanelli, vice president of NVIDIA GRID, agrees, “With Lakeside Software’s Ask SysTrack workspace analytics insight engine administrators can make natural language queries to gain contextually relevant NVIDIA vGPU insights and help continuously assess and align vGPU benefits to user personas.”

Of course, the key point is connecting users to all that great content. This is where the expansion to Ask SysTrack comes in. Specifically, we’ve now integrated our additional collection and planning for Ask SysTrack to be able to help answer basic questions like “What kind of NVIDIA vGPU profiles do my users need?”

We can also answer other questions post migration that are critical to maintaining user experience. Things like, “What’s the total GPU usage on Ben’s system?”

Basically, if you can think of a question relating to GPU utilization we have the answer available.

To get started, check out our assessment site at nvidia.lakesidesoftware.com to first size out a new environment or just get an introduction to SysTrack.

Expanding SysTrack Desktop Assessment for VMware with AirWatch and Windows 10

VMware Windows 10 Migration and Management Assessment

As a Windows 10 launch partner, Lakeside has had resounding success with helping organizations move from legacy workspace components to more modern Microsoft solutions. Now we’re pleased to announce a next step in this with VMware, specifically targeting customers that are interested in improving their enterprise mobility management (EMM) and security with VMware’s cloud-first technologies. Available today at http://assessment.airwatch.com (http://assessment.vmware.com), the SysTrack Desktop Assessment service has been updated to integrate key metrics for implementation of AirWatch and migration to Windows 10. This means that with a free assessment, organizations can at once get a full analysis of application and user behaviors, mobility needs, and their overall readiness for Windows 10 adoption as well as a fit for VMware solutions.

So, what are the details? With the new update you’re going to get two critical new pieces of functionality:

  1. Windows 10 readiness and hardware analysis for an in place migration. This specifically focuses on how AirWatch can help with management of existing or net new physical assets. One of the key considerations here is whether some physical assets require a hardware refresh either for compatibility or for performance optimization. Below the systems that would require an update are market as “Refresh and AirWatch”.

VMware Solutions

  1. Risk exposure and potential security concerns through our new (and evolving) Risk Visualizer tool.

Risk Scores

Alongside this we’ve updated the core report to reflect the overall readiness of existing physical systems that may need to stay physical (for example, systems that are highly mobile or have offline usage) to migrate directly to Windows 10.

Windows 10 Readiness

This is all available today and absolutely free. To get started just go to http://assessment.airwatch.com (or http://assessment.vmware.com) and sign up now.

Have a Question? Ask SysTrack

The overarching theme of all the content we’ve created here has been trying make it easier to find interesting data and allow organizations to engage in intuitive information seeking behavior. If there’s anything the outgrowth of chat based interfaces has taught us, though, it’s that often the most meaningful way to bring the answers that users need to them it’s to allow them to craft their own questions in their own terms. So, the logical evolution here is to introduce a method to make it easier to get answers out of SysTrack with simple, natural language.

This is why Lakeside Software has partnered with IBM to use their Watson cognitive API library to introduce Ask SysTrack. This Natural Language Processing (NLP) question tool allows anyone to ask questions they may have for the SysTrack Workspace Analytics platform in basic, conversational form.

For example, say I want to find what my most heavily faulting application is. I can ask a simple question: “What application faults the most?”

ApplicationFaultsQuestion

Just asking that question gives me the most heavily faulting applications in order and even some other related things for me to look into if I’m interested.

Let’s say I wanted to find out specifically what’s wrong with a system.

Specific System Problems

Again, with a simple question I have the ability to know what this user has been having problems with lately.

With GA of SysTrack 8.2 this feature is now available for anyone, and I’d encourage you to check it out. You can download a white paper that expands on how it all works.

Introducing the NVIDIA Graphics Assessment

When NVIDIA first announced their groundbreaking approach to introducing accelerated graphics to virtualization they began bridging one of the last gaps in making sure that users get the best possible experience with virtual desktops and applications. Building on their success NVIDIA has introduced newer, Maxwell™ based GRID cards NVIDIA that go even further to create a rich graphical experience for users and decrease complexity for IT administrators looking to optimize the visual experience of their users.

The evolution of the GRID solution set coupled with their new software means that more users than ever can take advantage of graphical acceleration. This couldn’t come at a better time given the rise of advanced media usage in enterprise. As an increasing number of organizations begin to explore making their virtualized environments even better many want to explore what their current graphical needs are and plan for the future with NVIDIA.

This is why Lakeside Software has partnered with NVIDIA to develop a totally free graphical assessment hosted on Azure to deliver a detailed series of reports leveraging the SysTrack workplace analytics platform. Available for a 30-day period for up to 500 systems at no cost, this allows any interested organization to deploy SysTrack and review their current environment. At the end of the data collection period a customized report can be generated to provide key insights on how users are using graphically accelerated applications and what GRID profiles may work best for them.

Segmentation

Additionally, NVIDIA has also introduced vGPU monitoring as a key component of their GRID technology. As an early access partner Lakeside has been able to leverage this to build out new management and monitoring components to help ensure that critical end user experience components deliver the immersive experience users expect. This is showcased in some of the updated NVIDIA Kit contents that IT administrators can now use to monitor their vGPU implementations.

DeviceMonitoring

So, get started today. Check out https://nvidia.lakesidesoftware.com to learn more about how you can use vGPU and SysTrack to help give your users the best possible experience.

Citrix Secure Browser Assessment with SysTrack Cloud Edition

The web browser has come into its own as an indispensable part of the enterprise software portfolio. With web based apps an amazing amount of flexibility can be achieved, but paradoxically one of the ubiquitous and useful applications can also be the most frustrating. For an end user that has to interact with potentially dozens of web portals with numerous plugin dependencies they can often find themselves moving experiencing browser hangs or crashes with great frequency or having to switch between different browsers to just complete different business functions. More critically IT has to support any number of different browser types with any combination of required plugins, user added extra components, and possibly dozens (or hundreds) of different versions. The reality of the situation is that the component that’s supposed to be “platform independent” or give a uniform user experience can create headaches for everyone involved.

There’s another side to this problem, too: how do you make sure that users get the most straightforward pathway to their applications? With internal web apps especially there’s frequently a need for a user to either be connected directly to the network or use a VPN to broker a connection. This introduces yet another component that can fail or make basic user interaction a hassle. Worse, in some scenarios, especially when users are highly mobile, this also potentially exposes data to loss.

That means there are really two problems: making sure that users get access to a browser that always works and making sure they can connect securely and minimize breach potential. This is where Citrix Secure Browser introduces a really interesting resolution. By publishing a known good browser that can be embedded into any modern browser seamlessly existing XenApp customers can provide their end users with a great experience and minimize their support needs.

The SysTrack Citrix Secure Browser Analysis assesses the current state of browser usage in the environment to try and articulate the net advantage of moving to Secure Browser. How many different web applications are currently used? How many internal web applications are interacted with? How frequently do browsers hang or crash? What plugins are the most common in the enterprise?

SecureBrowserSummary

The lead in summary from the Citrix Secure Browser Analysis establishes the massive number of different browsers in active usage in most environments, and the numerous plugins that are employed. From there we break out more interesting pieces of information like the monumental number of application faults associated with browsing apps that users interact with daily. Throughout the report we expand on all of the details that are critical in determining what kind of impact implementation of Secure Browser may have in an enterprise. Brett Waldman covers some of the key details on Secure Browser in a blog entry, but essentially imagine taking all of the aforementioned concerns and eliminating by publishing a browser that always works with business critical web applications and is, by nature, secure.
The SysTrack Cloud Edition for Citrix is a free service that allows you to assess your environment for Citrix solution fit, including another report focused on Skype for Business and how Citrix can optimize delivery of Microsoft collaboration tools. Check it out here.

SDA Image Planning and Portfolio Optimization

After having completed assessments for thousands of workstations with the SysTrack Desktop Assessment service provided for VMware we’ve been inundated with requests for all kinds of features. One specific need kept coming up time and time again, and I’m happy to announce that we’re now able to provide a solution for it. With the start of VMworld not only are we going to start providing the SysTrack Cloud Edition for vCloud Air as a “SysTrack as a Service” offering with the capability to extend your data collection indefinitely into the implementation and steady state deployment phases, but we’re also offering expanded planning tools to help tackle the problem of portfolio planning.

Overwhelming feedback from users of the SDA has been that one simple addition would provide monumental benefits: access to our Image Planner. With an on premises deployment of SysTrack it’s possible to simply build an image plan directly in the IP web application and have that imported directly into SysTrack Transform for project management. The latest update to SDA unlocks that functionality for any customer to allow cloud based image planning and portfolio rationalization. This means that with our automation focused web app it’s possible to build out a plan for a base image and map out user application requirements with ease.

With IP you can start with a list of systems you want to work with; you can choose to begin with all systems or a subset if you want to have multiple plans. Once you’re ready to get started you’re immediately able to start whittling down your potential inventory of applications by making choices for what to keep and what to exclude. There’s also an interface for standardizing on specific versions of software if you’ve got multiples or if you want to remove apps that serve duplicate business purposes.

The real key feature, and the one that makes IP such a valuable way to map out user entitlements, is the automation area. This allows you to pick some basic settings for when to install applications separately from a base image, when to deliver an application via RDS, or when to virtualize applications. This then maps out the user entitlements for which users in the environment need access to those applications and assigns them to the appropriate choice.

Another key feature is the addition of AppVolumes app stack planning. This appears in the Layering section of IP and provides a mechanism to automate the analysis and assignment of applications into stacks that are then associated with users. Basically it’s a way to streamline picking what applications should go where and pinpointing who should be entitled to use them.

The net outcome is a comprehensive report that contains a list of images that are required, the supporting files necessary for those images, and a complete mapping of users to the applications they require. This makes it much easier to plan a migration, and it remove quite a bit of the manual effort that would otherwise be required to ensure every user has their critical applications.

These new features are all live over at the VMware SDA site, so if you haven’t already registered get started today!

Announcing SysTrack Cloud Edition for VMware vCloud Air

One of the greatest advantages of the growing influx of cloud based solutions is the opportunity to move IT to be service oriented. The ability to take advantage of consumption based models for everything from infrastructure all the way through software subscriptions frees up substantial time that would otherwise be spent with complex and expensive provisioning and management tasks. More and more IT organizations are taking advantage of various cloud services providers to make their lives easier, and this has created a wide set of different, potentially disconnected data sources that can be difficult to unify and report across. Lakeside sees this as a fantastic opportunity not only to tie together all of the various data feeds and tracking areas necessary to understand all of the service provider performance and usage, but to also expand into offering SysTrack as a service as well. This provides a simple way to generate consistent reporting using a system of record that’s been proven across millions of endpoints with the ease of a simple subscription. This is why the SysTrack Desktop Assessment (SDA) has been expanded to provide continuing collection after the assessment, allowing the use of SysTrack through the lifespan of a transformation and beyond.

The introduction of the SDA service in conjunction with VMware has been a resounding success, and so far through that offering we’ve helped with analysis and reporting across many thousands of endpoints. With all of this activity, a resounding request that we’ve received time and time again is to provide access to this data collection throughout the lifespan of a project, and I’m happy to announce that this is now available through a subscription to SysTrack Cloud Edition for vCloud Air. Basically if you want to keep your collection going to show how your end user experience evolves with the solutions you implement, and if you want to have meaningful, quantitative methods to resolve any end user problems that may arise, it’s as simple as continuing your SDA project indefinitely. There’s no need to provision heavy on premises infrastructure, you’ll continue to use the interface you’re familiar with, and the solution will ramp up with you as your needs evolve. We’re also introducing some newer features that expand the value of SysTrack in the cloud and bridge the gap between a full on premises deployment and cloud based SysTrack.

You’ll now have access to tools like Resolve through the use of our simple SysTrack Forwarder (an easily deployed proxy service), as well as our Image Planner. That means that the full life cycle of a project can now be assessed, planned, and tracked continuously using the same toolset for fair and accurate comparison and analysis. With that it’s simple to prove that you’ve succeeded in optimizing your environment with real insight into the end user experience improvements you get with your transformation.

To see how easy it is to get started (if you haven’t already), why not register today? Just head to the registration site and start a new project. It’s simple and straightforward to begin the data collection, and, if you like the depth and quality of environmental visibility you gain, now it’s simple to keep that collection going as long as you need it.

Microsoft Kits – Windows 10 Optimization and Data Center Modernization

With the launch of Windows 10 imminent, and the end of support for Windows Server 2003 official, we’ve launched two SysTrack Kits targeted at helping enterprise environments characterize and modernize their Windows desktops and servers. They each focus on different aspects of executing those transformational exercises as well as steady state monitoring for the EUC estate and data center.

Making Windows 10 a Painless Transition

First, the Windows 10 Kit comes along with the official launch of the Windows 10 Migration MarketPlace report. This provides two ways to explore your environment’s readiness for a move to a more modern EUC OS experience, and also has some interesting stats on current usage. It starts with an analysis of key information like your system fits with the core upgrade requirements and the current age of your existing hardware.

Windows 10 ReadinessThe Windows 10 Readiness Summary provides an overview of how many systems in the environment are ready for a migration at the moment.

Taking advantage of a targeted hardware refresh to avoid unnecessary over-expenditure can make the investment to update the enterprise computing environment much lower. It can also help expose where existing users may have difficulty with older hardware, helping to make the case that updating their devices can have a concrete impact and help increase their productivity.

Planning the EUC Software Portfolio

An OS migration also provides a great opportunity to rationalize the software portfolio in use in the environment. This begins by first taking a full inventory of all of the applications distributed throughout the environment, something that’s easily done in existing SysTrack tools. The next step then requires analysis of user interaction and demand for that software, and this is where Kits can provide easier ways of visualizing that data. In a previous post on motivations and strategy for Windows 10 Migrations the concept of using user interaction as a method of prioritizing what software is most key for the enterprise was discussed. The Windows 10 Optimization kit includes an application focus time planning dashboard that helps find the key applications in use enterprise wide.

Application Focus PlanningThe Application Focus Planning dashboard shows how many users are fully covered for their core application needs with a small set of key applications.

The key is finding packages that have the maximum impact, basically items that constitute the core of what most people use on a day-to-day basis. By finding the shortlist of key applications it’s possible to uncover users that can be easy and early migration targets, those “fully handled” with the core portfolio. Try the Application Focus Planning dashboard out for an example of how to use this day.

Understanding the Data Center

The second Windows modernization kit is based around understanding activity, configuration, and system demands in the data center. This includes things like enabled features and roles, SQL instance provisioning, IIS inventory, and even application connectivity requirements.

Application ConnectionsA summary of the application connections in the environment. 

There’s also a set of pre-configured inventory reports targeted at providing a thorough overview of all of the important characteristics of legacy systems.

DCM Reporting ContentThe DCM Kit contains a complete set of exportable inventory and provisioning reports.

Operational Management

Of course, after the migration it’s essential to accomplish two key goals: demonstrating the success of the modernization by showing the end user experience improvements and maintaining the service quality of the environment. With both kits there are several operational tracking dashboards that are intended to provide the insight to track user impacting problems.

Alarm BreakoutThis dashboard provides a live refreshing breakout of the active alarms on each system in a selected group.

Keep watching for more Kits updates. We’ve got even more coming soon, and we’ll keep you posted here.