All posts by Ryan Wood

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The SysTrack Software Analytics Kit: Software Performance

Monitoring software performance plays a vital role in the observation of software assets. Software performance monitoring is driven by the need to understand how well applications are working in the environment, and where resources should be directed to improve the performance. We’ve created a Software Asset Analytics kit to make it easy for IT admins to understand and observe software performance in order to help maintain a successful environment. There is a section dedicated to monitoring software performance involving key metrics like resource consumption details (CPU, memory, IOPS, network bandwidth) as well as number and frequency of app faults and hangs. Having a full understanding can help answer daily questions like “why does my application keep crashing?” and “what application takes the longest to load?”. Gaining insight in software performance can lead to a successful environment.

The observation of software performance is a vital component to understanding the source of impact to the user experience, preventing that impact from getting worse, and understanding how well an environment is working together. It is a category often noticed first by an end user, which makes it very important since it has a direct impact on productivity and user experience. Our performance dashboards make observing aggregated data easy for IT by highlighting trends and details in resource consumption metrics as well as app performance metrics like load time and faults. To identify issues or track performance, IT can choose between the provided dashboards that provide both summary views and detailed, deep-dive looks at application data. To prevent app issues from spreading through the environment, IT can easily see where trends may start to go down, implying the end user environment may become poor. After big changes to an environment, such as a new version of Outlook, IT can easily monitor how well the environment is performing based on the observation of resource consumption, user experience, app faults, and similar metrics.

A simple use case can help illustrate the value in app performance data. Let’s say an IT administrator notices that an application consistently crashes, but isn’t sure of the root cause. The Application Faults and Apps Running at Time of Fault dashboards in the kit provide details on crashing applications. They start with the more general dashboard, Application Faults, and search for the application in question in the chart displayed below.

They now can take note of details such as how many systems this application crash is affecting and the number of faults, providing an idea of whether the issue is isolated or widespread. They venture further into the Apps Running at Time of Fault dashboard and again search for the crashing application. This dashboard highlights details like what kind of fault occurred, faulting module, time of fault, and more. They also have the ability to see their system at the time of fault to understand what other apps were running as well as system stats like resource consumption. This added context provides a much more complete picture of what was happening around the time of app crash.

As they proceed further down the dashboard, they can now observe trends on CPU, memory, IOPs, or disk space to help determine the reason for the application fault as displayed below.

This finalizes our categories covering our newly released Software Asset Analytics Kit. For more details on this topic, read our upcoming white paper, Software Asset Analytics!

The SysTrack Software Analytics Kit: Software Usage

Taking stock of an environment’s software portfolio – what’s installed, what’s being used, what isn’t being used – has consistently been one of the most common use cases of SysTrack. The basic philosophy of SysTrack is to improve the user experience through data-driven business intelligence, and maintaining an efficient, well understood software portfolio is a big part of that. Unused software means you could be paying for unnecessary licenses, and puts more of a burden on IT through additional management overhead caused by expanding the number of applications installed. And the software that is being used needs to be well understood, standardized to recent versions, and delivered through the appropriate mechanism.

At a glance, those examples may seem like something that isn’t all that important to IT, especially if they’re spending the majority of their time fixing issues and responding to help-desk tickets, but being proactive with asset management can dramatically reduce the amount of those issues and tickets that creep up in the future. A few of the main benefits of being proactive with tracking software usage are: reclaiming unused licenses to save costs, mitigating security risks by ensuring recent versions and patches are installed, deciding which applications should be published versus which should be installed locally, and identifying business critical applications for different job roles.

Out-of-the-box datasets displayed through visualizers and reports, available in the standard SysTrack product suite, contain a variety of valuable software data that can put you on the path to realizing those benefits. But given the importance of software asset management, we’ve introduced a Kit that provides focused, interactive dashboards to dig through your software data and provide the insight needed. The Kit contains dashboards related to software performance, usage, and dependencies. In this post, we’ll go over how the content pertaining to usage can be applied to a real-world scenario.

The IT administrator starts off with our Software Portfolio Usage Summary dashboard. It provides an overview of the software package usage within the environment. Right away, the IT administrator can see that among the systems the packages were installed on, very few are actually being used, as displayed below.

As they proceed down the dashboard, they have the ability to view applications within a certain usage percentage, and further down it highlights all the systems that have the previously selected application, as displayed below.

The IT administrator now has the information to start piecing together what each job role requires and how to adjust the licensing accordingly. The IT administrator continues on to the Software Usage for Target System dashboard where they obtain further details of application usage for each system like which applications are most used, as displayed below.

The IT administrator now concludes that the applications that make up the top level license are not being used by most workers and the ones that are being used have a very low usage frequency. This leads the IT administrator to replace the low usage application with a different online application and thus allowing a lower license level. They notice that while this new license applies to most job roles, there is a job role that only requires the lowest license level. Not only were they able to save the company money, but environment is now also less vulnerable to impact due to containing only the necessary applications.

The understanding of software usage is one of the vital components when observing software assets. We will continue to expand on our final category, Performance, with real-world examples of our Software Asset Analytics Kit to show how valuable observing this data is to maintain a successful environment.

Introducing the SysTrack Mac Agent

A lot has been written about the rise of bring-your-own-device initiatives and the freedom that provides to the users, as well as the advantages to the IT admins. And it’s no secret that a lot of users gravitate towards using Apple devices due to the comfort they have with those products from using them in their own lives. Apple has long been considered a very user friendly company, but the enterprise space has traditionally avoided non-Windows systems. The belief that Macs can’t be managed at scale and are too expensive compared to their PC counterparts is proving to be based on very few facts. More companies are beginning to add Macs to the mix of systems they manage for various reasons: they’re more secure out-of-the box, they’re very mobile, they tend to require less maintenance over time, and a laundry list of other reasons that make them suitable for a lot of workers at a lot of companies. Of course, once Macs are added to the mix they need to managed the same as the PCs. Recognizing that Macs are an increasing piece of the IT puzzle, we’ve built an agent specifically designed for them. And recognizing the need to cover all systems in an environment, not just Windows, we’ve expanded to monitor Linux along with the new Mac agent.

With the release of SysTrack 8.2, users will be able to add Macs and Linux systems to their tree the same as any Windows system. Not only will this allow admins to monitor the user experience and performance of the Mac and Linux systems, the same as with the PCs, but it also provides the added benefit of being able to compare performance of distinct system types, creating more insight into which systems are best suited for your environment. The same metrics and level of granularity that our users have come to expect from SysTrack will be intact so you can perform the same level of root cause investigation and management.

MacBlackBox

Adding Mac and Linux monitoring capabilities to SysTrack allows admins to do some important tasks:

  • Monitor and improve the user experience for users currently using Mac or Linux systems
  • Compare and contrast productivity and performance differences between Macs and PCs
  • Base business decisions about expanding the use of Macs and Linux on real user data

Whether you’re just considering adding Macs or Linux systems to your environment or already have them under management, you’ll want to make sure you have the data you need to keep the systems running smoothly. We wanted to ensure SysTrack was able to monitor more than just the Windows systems, so the picture we paint of the environment is more representative of how it actually looks. The addition of the Mac and Linux agents is a big part of that, and we’re excited to see it hit the market.

Three Basic Steps to get Started with Personas

If I’ve learned anything about the IT industry, it’s that it tends to move in waves. Several years ago, VDI was the hot topic as more and more people began adopting mobile work styles. Needing a solution that would allow workers to be unbound from a physical workstation, admins started adopting streaming applications and fully featured virtual desktops. Once those types of delivery options became commonplace, the next wave started to form: BYOD, or bring your own device. Businesses could reduce costs by allowing and encouraging employees to use their personal devices to connect to the corporate virtual infrastructure. The common theme across these waves of IT innovation is that there is an increasing number of work styles, delivery options, devices, security concerns, and the management and overhead tasks that go along with them. In response to this growing complexity, a new wave in IT is emerging: Personas.

Personas are models of end users that allow IT to segment the environment and efficiently meet the user’s needs based on their actual work styles. With all of the user centric data we collect, SysTrack is uniquely positioned to build personas and ensure they remain accurate over time. Our roadmap includes working with partners to build persona libraries, developing automated persona discovery reports, and even web-based persona tools. With the release of SysTrack 8.2, we introduced Persona Visualizer, an automated tool that aggregates user data and divides the user base into workstyles and roles based on actual work habits. 

personas

We’ll start our persona discussion here with some best practices. Ideally, you’d want to be as granular as possible with persona definitions. In other words, you need to develop an adequate number of personas to cover every type of worker in your environment. Here’s a few basic steps to take that allow you to start with simpler concepts and move towards the more detailed, granular concepts.

Step 1: Mobile vs. Non-Mobile

This is a great place to start. Having the basic knowledge of which users tend to spend most of their time working from a single location and which are on-the-go is a critical component in determining the appropriate delivery option. SysTrack collects data around subnet changes, device changes, and similar metrics that allow us to determine what portion of a user’s time is spent away from the corporate network. Automatically discovering this data saves a great deal of time and resources during the initial phases of segmenting the user base. Persona Visualizer takes this information into account when assigning a user to a specific workstyle. 

Step 2: Compute Resource Needs

Another critical component is understanding the hardware requirements for different users. You may have heard of this defined as something like knowledge worker, task worker, power worker, etc. What it really means is that using a one-size-fits-all model for the hardware that’s provided to the users is a recipe for wasted resources and cost overruns. This can be especially wasteful when it comes to virtual desktops; some users might only require one vCPU and 4GM of RAM, while others may need multiple vCPUs and 16GB of RAM. We’re constantly collecting resource consumption information so you can make data driven decisions on what type of hardware needs to be allocated to each user. Not only does Persona Visualizer consider resource consumption, but it will also calculate what percentile a given user’s consumption is, allowing you to understand how the raw data compares relative to the other users.

Step 3: Application Usage

The final step we’ll discuss is application usage. Similar to step 2, this can be a major source of waste if you aren’t being careful about which applications are delivered to which users. Provisioning a software license for a user that doesn’t require it produces unnecessary cost and management overhead. Most users will have a core set of applications they require based on their job responsibilities, having data that tells you which apps are installed where, which are being used, and which are being underused or unused ensures you’re only delivering the appropriate applications. Persona Visualizer introduces the concept of user critical applications, which utilizes an algorithm to determine which apps are important for different users and their assigned roles based on things like focus time.

Having these three basic areas covered puts you well on your way to developing the right personas for your environment. And while you can manually discover this information, it’s both painstaking and time consuming. Having this information automatically gathered saves time, money, and resources, and has the key advantage of staying current as the environment evolves. Users will join and leave the company, change roles, and change work habits. Not only that, but the hardware will age and the software portfolio will evolve with new versions and user installed apps. This means that you need to be constantly watching for these things and responding accordingly in order to keep your personas relevant. We’ve got the data you need to simplify that process, and Persona Visualizer will do the number crunching for you. We’re continuing to focus on personas by improving the visualizer, collaborating with partners, and developing reports so you can focus on other tasks.

Introducing the Citrix Health Assessment

We’re seeing a never ending IT scenario – the landscape of how applications and workstations are delivered – continue to play itself out right before our eyes. BYOD and mobile workstyles are becoming more and more common as we march towards web based applications, published apps, and fully featured virtual desktops rapidly displacing more traditional IT infrastructure. Administrators are relying heavily on Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, among other Citrix products, to meet their user’s needs and deliver the performance they expect. Of course, actually delivering the performance they expect can be easier said than done, in most cases. Tracking down problems with published apps, without the right data, is like trying to put together a puzzle in the dark. That’s why so many of our customers who manage Citrix environments rely on SysTrack – it provides the insight they need to make smart, data-driven decisions and keep their users happy and productive.

Our traditional SysTrack setup requires an on-premises server to act as the master system. And while this works perfectly well for long term deployments, it can be a bit burdensome for short term assessments. Some of the admins we speak to want a quick look at the state of their Citrix environment, or to get an idea of how they might benefit from investing in XenApp and XenDesktop. In order to make sure those needs were met we streamlined the process of setting up SysTrack and moved the main infrastructure to the cloud, enabling customers to simply register, download and the deploy the data collection agent, and then login to our assessment website to get immediate access to dashboards, data visualizers, and SSRS style reports telling them exactly what’s going on in their environment.

The Citrix Health Assessment is a free, cloud based service that delivers SysTrack’s unparalleled data to help admins manage and plan for Citrix environments. Utilizing SysTrack’s patented distributed database architecture and SSL connections for data transfer, users get the data they’ve come to expect from SysTrack with the security to make sure it’s kept safe. The assessment was designed, in part, to answer specific questions like what quality of service the users have, what level of demand exists, and what are the best delivery options, while also providing the platforms for doing ad-hoc investigations and deep dives into the data to discover a variety of other insights.

Outside of XenApp and XenDesktop, which are standard virtualization solutions, Citrix has introduced Secure Browser and the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack, which allows for Skype for Business to be delivered as a virtualized application or within a virtual desktop. These new products fit well with the philosophy of XenApp and XenDesktop – centralize the management of the application or desktop to reduce costs and overhead. Before investing in new products it’s always a good idea to look at some data in order to get an idea of what type of benefit you’ll see from that investment. We’ve developed reports as a part of the Citrix Health Assessment that analyze the data collected by SysTrack and present detailed analysis of the browser and Skype usage in the environment so you’ll know exactly how Secure Browser or the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack would fit into your enterprise.

Don’t make guess work a part of your IT planning or management strategy. If you’re already utilizing Citrix solutions, or if you’re planning on them, check out our Citrix Health Assessment. This free, cloud based service lets you know things like the health of the environment, detailed session information, XenDesktop readiness, latency summaries, software usage, and a variety of other useful data. It’s simple to setup and use, and you’ll never have to make an IT decision that isn’t data driven and fit for your environment.

SysTrack Use Case: Supporting Office 365

The proliferation of SaaS apps is changing the landscape of both how users do business and how IT supports them. You can find a great discussion about this topic in a post by Tal Klein. The basic gist of the post is that in the dark ages of computing, let’s say pre-2010, IT delivered the app to the user and hosted it within their own infrastructure, controlling all aspects of management and support. But as BYOD and mobile work styles picked up steam so too did the popularity of SaaS apps like Office 365. This movement was great for users, but at the same time has changed the way IT needs to think about its support model. All of a sudden they went from controlling the backend and delivery of the app, which gave them visibility into causes of performance issues, to ceding that portion of management to the app vendor. This benefits IT by simplifying their app portfolio, reducing the number of apps they need to manage from front to back, freeing up infrastructure for other purposes, and shrinking the aspects of support for those apps to only how they impact users. Of course, IT will still be called upon by the user when there’s an issue with a SaaS app, but since the internal infrastructure is no longer hosting the app then what’s left? The user is now the only real place to get valuable information as it relates to supporting SaaS apps.

SysTrack has always put a strong emphasis on end-user computing with features like system health scoring and point-in-time looks at historical data. IT will have the visibility it needs to understand what’s going on with the user’s systems and what the causes are for performance issues. SysTrack’s unique “inside-out” view provides insight into what the end user is experiencing and provides tools to assist with diagnosing issues that may be impacting their performance. With that in mind here’s a few questions SysTrack can help you answer as you’re supporting Office 365 users.

How many Office 365 Users are there?

Even seemingly simple questions like this aren’t as straightforward to answer as you might think. With Office 365 being accessed through a web browser you’ll need data on what users are visiting what URL’s. In the Observations area of Site Visualizer you can open the Popular Web Sites dataset and filter the results to show only Office 365 data. Here you’ll get some great basic data including number of users, number of systems, number of times accessed, first and last access dates, page load time, time page was open, and page focus time. This high-level data illustrates the scope of users and systems you need to support. If you’re interested in which users or systems in particular are included in this data simply right-click on the column you’re interested in, number of users, for example, and select show details. A detailed information box will pop up showing you user accounts, number of times accessed, and first and last use dates.

Office365Users

In addition to web applications you might also use the same method to find information on the Office 2016 Windows client software that gets downloaded to the user’s system. Check out the Applications or Software Packages datasets to find out usage information and aggregate resource consumption.

Is User Experience Impacted by Office 365?

While there are a lot of factors that go into the user’s Health score, 13 categories in fact, it is a very powerful way to gauge the general experience of the user. I find it especially helpful to judge the impact of a big change in the environment. Maybe the user just migrated to Windows 10, or maybe a VDI user was just migrated to a different storage system – take a look at how that system’s Health has trended from before the change to after. In this case, maybe your entire user base just adopted Office 365 for Outlook and Office online. That’s quite a big change since these are such widely used tools in everyday business. Enterprise Visualizer allows you trend the aggregate Health score across the entire environment to give you a quick idea of whether that change has had positive impact or sent your user’s experience in a downward trend.

If you’re interested in only a certain group of users or even an individual user you have the ability to trend Health for those scenarios as well. Site Visualizer is great for filtering data to a specific set of users while Resolve allows you to target an individual user. You also have the ability to view the trend over a custom time frame. One last important thing to note about viewing Health score trends is that you can look at the impact from a specific factor – maybe you’re only interested in seeing what the trend has been for Network Impact or Latency Impact as it relates to a surge in browser usage with more users accessing online apps. An increase in network activity would be expected since the backend is no longer on premises.

What’s going on with the User’s System?

Answering questions about what caused slow performance or a system crash can be very tricky, especially when the event happened sometime in the past. SysTrack Resolve is perfect for this as it connects directly to a system of interest and allows you to view any point in time and see which apps were running, what the resource consumption looked like, and much more for that exact time. If a user is telling you that this morning around 9:30 their system was crawling and they weren’t able to access their Office 365 Outlook account you could check out Resolve Black Box to investigate what the culprit was. The screenshot below is a simple illustration of what you might find.

Office365Resolve

There was a local app consuming about half of the available CPU. It is very likely this was the cause of the slow performance that was preventing the user from being able to access their email, the entire system was being slowed due to this app. This kind of insight directly into the user’s system is critical in being able to find out what’s causing performance issues, what events occurred that could be of interest, what the latency has looked like in the past, and all other kinds of extremely relevant data.

The market is rapidly moving more and more towards SaaS and cloud computing in general. This means it’s more important than ever to retain some level of visibility into the environment, but with more and more of the apps a user interacts with coming from outside of IT’s borders, you need the visibility to come directly from the user, an “inside-out” view. SysTrack is evolving right along with this market shift to make sure you can always have the data you need to keep your environment running smooth.

Health Monitoring of PCoIP® Protocol with SDA

Providing the tools necessary to complete an assessment – whether it be for migrating the workforce to a new operating system, adopting a new storage solution, or incorporating virtual infrastructure into the environment – has always been one of SysTrack’s strong suites. As the landscape of IT evolved to the cloud to accommodate for global business and mobile workforces we needed to evolve our assessment capabilities just the same. Streamlining and simplifying the process for getting all the moving parts in place to perform an assessment by moving the SysTrack master system to the cloud was the first step to aligning SysTrack-based assessments with the modern IT narrative: make it simple, make it easy to use, and make managing it available from anywhere.

SysTrack Desktop Assessment is our cloud-based service for performing VMware Horizon assessments. As the service has grown in use we’ve worked to continue enhancing it through the addition of new tools and content. It’s now easier than ever to monitor PCoIP and health data with SysTrack Desktop Assessment. An interactive dashboard was added for each, and as a part of the overall service they add great value and enhance your ability to continuously monitor the state of your environment.

The PCoIP Summary dashboard allows you to trend average latency, average receive packet loss, and average transmit packet pass. The day over day trend line quickly illustrates typical values for the selected item, making it simple to spot an outlier that might warrant further investigation. Selecting a day of interest will display session summary details for that day to give you insight as to what may have caused the spike. Additionally you can see the top 15 users by average bandwidth use as well as session summaries and top ten focus applications for a selected user.

PCoIP1

The PCoIP Summary dashboard is a good way for monitoring specific metrics, but if you’re more interested in the general health of your systems then the Environmental Daily Health Trend dashboard can offer some great insight. Similar to the PCoIP dashboard it provides a trend line that then allows you to select a date to drill down to more detailed data. The logical flow of dashboard is to select a date of interest, select a system of interest based on that system’s health score for that day, and then view the health trend of the selected system. This an easy way to uncover a particular system that may be experiencing issues leading to a poor user experience.

Health1

Once your assessment is underway it’s a good idea to be continuously monitoring and managing the health of the environment. SysTrack is, at the end of the day, all about the user experience. While providing the tools and data for doing a VMWare Horizon assessment we wanted to make sure to also provide the tools and data for looking after the users. A core component of any assessment should be examining user and environmental health to make sure there are no major issues that need to be addressed prior to completing the assessment. The PCoIP and Environmental Health dashboards allow you to do just that.

SysTrack Use Case: SDA and Image Planner

At Lakeside our mission is to provide the insight you need to make smart business decisions concerning your IT systems. We work to make sure SysTrack can deliver the data required to understand, plan for, and manage the newest technology and products in the industry. In recent years the pace of innovation has really started to gather steam with things like data center modernizations, cloud-hosted services, and new enterprise software products. Right now there’s a growing demand in the industry to offer cloud-hosted services and products, and we’ve been working with VMware to deliver an online assessment that meets that demand. SysTrack Desktop Assessment is an online tool that provides detailed data and reports to help plan for a migration to a VMware Horizon solution. The initial rollout of this service provided access to static reports, some interactive dashboards, and a data visualizer tool.

To enhance the service we’ve added access to additional tools, and in this blog we’ll explore how to use the Image Planner.

One of the biggest challenges when planning to move towards VDI is developing an adequate image plan. A typical environment could have thousands of applications, and figuring out which ones are required by which users is an extremely complex task. Image Planner automates much of the work by tracking application usage, so the suggested image plans are based on user behavior and not anecdotal evidence. Starting a new Image Planner model is simple; you just choose a name and add any system selection rules you choose, such as excluding servers.

IPP1

After your model is created you have several interactive screens that enable you to tweak the model before it becomes finalized. Your options include Provision, Retarget, Automation, Delivery, and Layering. Each of these options addresses a component of the image development process and are designed to make sifting through large amounts of data seem easy. We’ll look at each of these options a little closer to see exactly what’s offered.

Provision

The Provision section displays a list of all installed software packages along with some basic information like version, number of users, and number of systems. The purpose of this section is to allow you to reduce the total image count and simplify the software portfolio. Within this section you have visibility into basic usage data, helping to reduce the complexity of the image models. This valuable insight drives important decisions about which packages should be included or excluded from all images. A simple example would be searching for Microsoft Office, an extremely common software package. The filtered results show me all installed Microsoft Office packages, versions, number of users, and number of systems installed. At this point I might make the decision to install the latest version of Office everywhere. 

IPP2

Looking at the overall software portfolio for the first time, especially when performing tasks like choosing a version of Office to install everywhere, can highlight a very common issue: The number of different versions present in the environment for the same piece of software. You might uncover ten different versions of Adobe Reader, for example. This leads us to the next Image Planner section.

Retarget

The idea of Retarget is to select a single target version for a particular software package. Sticking with our example of Adobe Reader, I can filter the results to display all the versions of Reader that were discovered. At that point I can select any of them and retarget to another version. Logically I might want to choose all of the outdated versions and retarget them to the newest version. The result is a simplified model with reduced clutter. 

IPP2

Automation

Unlike the previous two, this section allows you to make more general decisions that aren’t related to specific packages. You’re presented with sliders that let you set thresholds for whether or not a package is to be user installed, installed everywhere, virtualized, or published. You set your preferred threshold based on usage, except for the case of virtualization which is based on package complexity. This allows you to quickly update and iterate your model as you go through the process. 

IPP3

Layering

The layering section is a very powerful method for reducing the overall image count and simplifying your model. It allows you to automatically group users with similar usage characteristics into a layer that gets delivered as a set of software packages based on those characteristics. Before the automation is done you set the maximum layer count, minimum coverage, minimum packages per layer, and minimum machines per layer. This is a great way to automate the task of deciding which users fit best with which image. In a perfect world each user would have their own image tailored to fit their exact needs, but the complexity of actually accomplishing that is not realistic. Layering can quickly and automatically accomplish this based on which users have similar software needs. 

IPP4

Delivery

The Delivery section allows you to choose if a package should be delivered through a method other than installing it to the image. Your options include user installed, virtualized, or published. If a particular software package is commonly used in your environment and has a high complexity score it would be best to leave the delivery method as installed on the image. Or maybe there’s a set of packages that have a very low usage rate, you could choose to have those be user installed. This is another good way to reduce the overall complexity of the portfolio you have to manage. 

IPP5

After working your way through these sections and iterating a few times the detailed results for each image can be viewed through an SSRS-style report. Image Planner works to simplify what is an inherently complex task, and in doing so it can save you a lot of time and cost. Now included as part of the SysTrack Desktop Assessment service, planning for a migration to a VMware Horizon solution is much easier. 

SysTrack Use Case: Windows 10 Migration

In June we launched a new blog series called “SysTrack Use Case.” The first post in this brand new series explored how SysTrack could help with investigating user reports of a faulting or crashing application. Each post in the ongoing series will discuss a new use case to help provide a wider perspective on the different IT projects and challenges that can be addressed with SysTrack. The follow up to the first post comes at the same time that Lakeside has released new content around the Windows 10 launch, and that gives us the perfect opportunity to explore the best way to consume that content and get the most of SysTrack before and after your Windows 10 migration. We’ve released several blog posts in the past few weeks dealing with Windows 10, so here we’ll try to take a succinct look at the basic phases of a migration and how SysTrack can help with each.

Going into a large migration project without properly developing a plan first is a recipe for disaster.  Any IT administrator will tell you the same. That’s why gathering data about the environment is so crucial; simply estimating the resources needed or the readiness of the environment for a migration won’t work. You need objective analysis. With Windows 10 hitting the market we wanted to help our customers prepare for the upgrade. A good place to start is understanding the value of Windows 10 and how it could help your organization. We recently released a whitepaper that discusses, in detail, the benefits an upgrade to Windows 10 can provide. Having a solid understanding of why the upgrade is a smart decision can start the whole project off on a good note.

The whitepaper serves as a nice initial approach, but where SysTrack really helps out is with providing data-driven insight. The Windows 10 Assessment Report, part of our MarketPlace program, is a great tool for the initial steps of sizing out the project and gathering data about the environment. MarketPlace reports are accessed through Virtual Machine Planner. You’ll just need to create and run a simple model of the environment and SysTrack will feed data gathered for the model into the Windows 10 Assessment Report. The great thing about this report is that you can go back to it after improvements, updates, or changes have been made in the environment and rerun it with SysTrack’s most up-to-date data to see the results of your changes. Maybe an initial run of the report shows Windows XP systems with a low health score, and that leads you to investigate those systems with Site Visualizer and you discovere the cause of the low health score is insufficient memory resources, for example. After implementing a fix to that problem you can execute the report again to get an updated look on your Windows 10 readiness status.

After the migration is completed you’ll want to continue monitoring the systems that received the new OS to make sure they aren’t experiencing any new problems. A great way to do this is to track the health of those systems over time. Create a SysTrack group of Windows 10 systems and use Enterprise Visualizer to graph the health over time, this is a perfect way to visualize the experience of those systems from before the OS upgrade to after the upgrade.

Health Trend

Another great steady-state tool to use is the Resolve Comparative Analytics function. This allows you to compare a selected system to other individual systems, a group of systems, and all systems. You might want to compare the Windows 10 group to systems that have yet to be upgraded, or a system of interest with Windows 10 to the rest of the group to identify if an issue is due to the upgrade itself.

Comp Analytics

From gathering your thoughts about the migration, to preparing for it, to implementing it, and finally, to validating it in the steady-state, SysTrack has the data you’ll need. If your organization is considering Windows 10 make sure to take advantage of data-driven analysis to make better decisions throughout the project that will simplify the task, save time, and minimize the risk.

Windows 10 Readiness Made Easier

The impending release of Windows 10 is certainly generating plenty of coverage. Consumers and IT administrators alike will have a lot to consider when they’re deciding if it’s the right time for an upgrade to this newest iteration of Microsoft’s popular OS. Consumers using Windows 7 or 8 will be treated to a free upgrade, and with only their personal devices to worry about the choice is made much simpler. But what about the IT admin who’s responsible for thousands of devices? Preparing for and executing a large-scale migration is no simple task. Simply trying to figure out which applications are critical and need to be compatible in the new OS is enough to make your head spin when there’s thousands of users, most of them with different sets of apps, along with unique cases like apps developed in house. Luckily SysTrack has all the data you need to help you through the process.

There’s a great overview of how SysTrack fits into the migration process in this blog post. It covers some examples of how the different SysTrack tools can help paint the picture of the current state of the environment to help minimize issues that may arise with upgrading the OS. In addition to that type of insight available throughout the product suite we’ve also released a Windows 10 report through our MarketPlace program. With one click you’ll get a Word format report filled with SysTrack data observed in your environment that answers those initial questions you might have when you’re beginning a Windows 10 upgrade project: What’s the current OS breakdown?  What’s the age of the systems in the environment? What kind of third-party apps are being supported that may no longer be necessary? All of these types of questions get answered along with some discussion of the key features of Windows 10 as they relate to the enterprise customer.

The case of the mobile worker is a good example of a dataset covered in the report. A lot of modern workers will use multiple devices from multiple locations. This is great for the worker and the business, but it can create challenges for the IT staff. It introduces issues like security of corporate data or devices and apps that require additional support. Windows 10 is designed with these types of scenarios in mind. Built-in features like two-factor authentication and Enterprise Data Protection help to keep everything secure. The mobile worker is an ideal candidate for an upgrade to Windows 10, but simply figuring out what portion of the workforce is mobile is a challenge in and of itself. A simple pie chart in the Windows 10 MarketPlace report breaks this down so you can easily visualize how many users stand to benefit from a mobility perspective.

Whether you plan to upgrade to Windows 10 this year or wait and see how the market reacts and then upgrade in a couple years you’ll inevitably have to go through a long planning process. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be – having the right data available can save a lot headaches.