Category Archives: SysTrack

SysTrack Use Case: What’s Impacting My System?

One of SysTrack’s many uses includes providing insight on negative sources of impact in an end user’s environment. Specifically, it can be used by an IT administrator to find out what the source of issues are that cause user experience problems. This helps the IT organization find underlying causes for common user complaints like “my system is running slow” or “I just can’t open my email!”

Because there are numerous reasons a system could be having issues, it can be difficult for an IT administrator to know where to start. Let’s take a concrete example with a user that calls into the help desk with a generic complaint.

The IT administrator receives a complaint from a user who says his system is running too slow. The administrator begins by targeting the user’s system in SysTrack Resolve. They start searching for the user in the General: Change Focus tab and selecting the appropriate system. The user can potentially have multiple systems, however, the online system is most relevant because it’s the system they are currently using. The administrator continues on to Analytics Overview, where they notice some applications and events in critical state. However, due to the immense amount of time that has passed since they were stated as critical, they can be reasonably ignored for this situation. The administrator decides to check the health of the system under the Health tab of Resolve because it will provide a summary on any source of impact on the system. They notice the Total Impact graph (displayed below) in the summary section highlighting how many minutes of impact each category has on this system.

The administrator takes note that the network category has the highest total impact on the system but they decide to continue to look at the Quality Trend graph. It displays the quality of the environment per day compared with the average quality. This allows them to be able to see how the system was performing for the end user compared to how it performs on most days. They notice that it begins to go towards a downward trend on the day that the user started to notice the poor performance.

The administrator notices that the network seems to have the highest total impact overall, but decides to check out the daily impact chart to see the day that the user started noticing a slower performance. As displayed below, the administrator notices that the day the user started noticing a poor performance shows a high network impact and continues to show a high network impact.

The administrator now knows the source of what is causing the largest impact in the user’s system and can use that knowledge to fix the decreasing quality of the user’s system and the environment overall. They continue further into Resolve’s Black Box and looks closer at the network system data. They choose to switch the filter in the System Data panel from System to Network since this is the category they are most concerned with (displayed below). This reveals further details on the network interface cards such as a high retransmit rate resulting in the large network impact.

The IT administrator discovered the source of the impact for that specific user, but is wondering if other users are also having this same problem. They dive into Visualizer Enterprise and look at the health for the overall environment. The health appears to have good user experience across the board and the administrator concludes that this situation was only applicable to that one user. Finding the largest source of impact for an environment is just one of SysTrack’s many uses to promote a successful environment.

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.

The SysTrack Software Analytics Kit: Software Dependencies

A key component of observing software assets is understanding software dependencies. To address this, we here at Lakeside have developed the SysTrack Software Asset Analytics kit. A portion of this kit is entirely centered around discovering and monitoring software dependencies within an environment to meet the needs of the IT professional. These dependencies provide insight into the requirements needed for the proper functionality of software and identifying answers to important questions that IT might have such as “are all my software packages being used?” or “what are the connections required for my applications?”. The driving force behind understanding dependencies is the promotion of innovation for software package delivery and thus a more positive end user experience.

Dependencies allow for the ability to observe what the applications that make up a software package require to function every day.  Requirements for software can vary, but the core attributes to monitor are application connections, required systems components, compatibility, and application usage. The ability to identify required connections and system components is vital due to potential system restrictions such as unusable ports or unsupportable system

Let’s say an IT administrator, Joe, is analyzing software packages that he provides and is wondering how to make it more optimal for him and end users by trimming deadweight from his packages to reduce install and delivery size, limit the chance of errant components interfering with one another, and streamlining application connections. The perfect place for him to start would be our Software Dependencies Summary dashboard. He notices in the Software Summary panel that there is a software package installed in most systems but only used by half of the systems it’s installed on. It is also clearly highlighted in a graph next to the given data and displayed below.

 

By diving into one of the detailed dashboards provided by our Software Asset Analytics Kit, he can easily search for the package and see additional details including the number of associated applications, how many of those applications require connections, and where those connections are going. He goes further down the dashboard and takes note of which systems are using the software and even the last time it was used. With this information, he can conclude that only certain groups within the company need to have that software. As he continues to follow the flow of the dashboard, he notices that only some of the applications within the package are being used and many of the system components required by the unused applications are unnecessary. He can use this information to optimize the software package and only include the necessary applications and components. The image below shows how easy it is for Joe to view this information and thus reach his conclusions.

Finally, he ensures that the applications that do require connections are using approved correct ports to guarantee the security of the environment and potentially simplify network traffic. Through proper use of this dashboard, Joe could easily navigate the pertinent data and know what to trim from the software package and how to limit its delivery to only the groups that required it. He even confirmed that the software package would only make connections through approved network ports.

Dependencies is just one of the three key categories when observing software assets. We will continue to expand on the other two categories, Usage and Performance, with examples taken directly from the SysTrack Software Asset Analytics Kit to show the importance and practicality of monitoring this data for maintaining a successful environment.

Software Asset Optimization with SysTrack

Workplace analytics encompasses a vast amount of end user computing related information collected from a variety of sources, and a vital component of the topic is the observation of software assets. Obviously, a broad topic, we’ve chosen to break that further into three key categories: performance, usage and dependencies. Software performance monitoring is driven by the need to understand how well applications are working in the environment. Software usage is predicated on the idea of optimizing licensing and delivery to provide necessary applications. The last category, Dependencies, is vital to understand what pieces are necessary for software to function.

Software performance is itself a complex topic, but broadly the idea is to identify the answer to key questions like “why does my application keep crashing?” and “what applications take the longest time to load?” This incorporates key metrics like resource consumption details (CPU, memory, IOPS, network bandwidth) as well as number and frequency of faults or hangs. In many ways, this is one of the first items thought of in the context of software asset analytics, and it’s often one of the first things an end user notices about the environment. Diagnosing performance issues and understanding the resource consumption for the average user can help steer hardware requisition and delivery methods. Clearly, though, a preliminary question in many cases is exactly what packages belong in the environment.

Accurately observing software usage can be invaluable to a company. The ability to know which applications are used versus installed directly relates to the distribution of licenses, and that’s a direct cost driver. Another consideration is support cost savings made possible by making images less complicated. Intrinsic to rationalization is a host of potential ways to make sure that the delivery of applications to end users is as closely tailored to their needs as possible. There are some technical considerations to this as well, not the least of which is exploring the components or backend connections required for software in the environment.

Gaining insight into the required components a given package needs to function can be very important to choosing appropriate delivery mechanisms and options. Application compatibility concerns driven by incompatible components, fundamentally unsupportable system components, and complex networking requirements are all key to understand. Identifying what applications call on to function on a day to day basis dictates many of the decisions IT need to make to modernize and continually innovate with their delivery options.

We’ll be going into more depth on each of these categories as we release our upcoming Software Asset Analytics Kit. With each area, we’ll expand on some real use cases and provide some real-world examples of how each provides essential information for an environment.

Digital Experience Management and Event Correlation with SysTrack

SysTrack provides the ability to score an environment’s end user experience using digital experience management metrics. The resulting end user experience score provides a clear view of the end user’s experience in that environment and is composed by a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs are structured to provide direction to any problems in the environment that may affect the end user. The key to the philosophical approach with SysTrack, though, is the joining of this scoring to event correlation and analysis through the use of proactive alerts. These proactive alerts tie that overarching score to triggered, targeted events to provide a fuller and easier to understand portrait of the IT environment.

This starts with our end user experience score, and it’s best thought of as a simple grade. Basically, the score comes in a range of 0 to 100, with a score of a 100 implying the environment is providing the best end user experience. The score is composed of 13 different KPIs that represent aggregate data points on potential sources of impact. These  roughly fall into the categories of resource issues, networking problems,  system configuration issues, and infrastructure problems. This results in a great, normalized score to understand across a broad set of different systems what kind of performance issues are occurring. Even more importantly, it provides a platform for long-term analysis for trending to see the trajectory and evolution of that experience over time. The image below displays an overall view of the end user’s experience of the environment and the ability to monitor the evolution of those impacts over time. 

For more operational items that require an immediate response the alerting mechanism comes into play. Alerts are an active component that are triggered by events generally correlated with negative impact. Alert items roughly correlate with the end user experience score KPIs to help further IT administrators’ direction towards resolving problems. The image below demonstrates an environment with active alerts.
The key piece is correlating these items to that impact in a meaningful way. So, the big question is this: how do they work with one another?

One of the most common ways alerts and user experience scores are used in conjunction is through a feedback loop.  An administrator determines which KPI is causing the largest source of impact and continues to drill down providing a clear view of placed and potentially triggered correlating alerts. The alerts will direct the administrator towards the underlying causes of the problem and finally to the potential source of impact. After the resolution the administrator can track the increase in user experience as a result of their improvements to see how successful their changes have been.

End user experience scores provide an overall indicator of the quality end users are experiencing, while alerts provide immediate information on the source of impact. The integration of both tools provides an easy and clear way for IT administrators to discover the source of a system’s impact. To learn more on this topic check out our white paper, Utilizing KPIs and Alarm Methods!

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.

INTRODUCING ASK SYSTRACK FOR AIRWATCH

At Lakeside Software our goal has long been to make insightful, high impact analytics readily available to help answer questions and enable better decision making in IT.

In August we took a major step forward in data accessibility with the introduction of Ask SysTrack, in partnership with IBM Watson cognitive services. This Natural Language Processing (NLP) question tool made it possible to find highly specific SysTrack data using nothing but everyday questions, greatly reducing the barrier to entry for all SysTrack tools. A basic introduction to the Ask SysTrack was provided in a previous blog post by Ben Murphy. You can download a white paper for more in-depth information on how the tool works.

One of the interesting things we discovered in the intervening months has been that Ask SysTrack was getting asked questions it understood but didn’t know the answer to. We inadvertently trained Ask SysTrack’s AI dictionary to understand nearly every question someone in IT might ask it. The best metaphor for this would be like being asked for directions to somewhere you don’t know how to get to. Say someone stopped you on the street and asked:

“How do I get to Bob’s burgers?”

You understand they are looking for directions to an eatery named Bob’s burgers. But you don’t know the answer.

Something similar was happening to Ask SysTrack in production – it was getting asked lots of questions about mobile devices.

Since SysTrack is traditionally a desktop analytics tool, it offers only limited visibility into the mobile device space. It’s difficult for users who are unfamiliar with the vast quantities of data available to them through SysTrack and other tools to navigate to the mobility data they need in the moment. But that data was easily found in their EMM console.

Since the most popular EMM tool in SysTrack Community is Airwatch, we reached out to our friends at VMware with a proposition: Let us extend our natural language insight engine to your platform.

One thing led to another, and today we’re introducing Ask SysTrack for AirWatch. Through partnership with VMware AirWatch, the Enterprise Mobility Management leader in the Gartner VMM Magic Quadrant, the Ask SysTrack workspace analytics insight engine now includes Natural Language Processing capabilities for the entirety of the AirWatch platform. This means that the ease of use made possible by the industry first Ask SysTrack now expands into the mobility space.

Using nothing but simple questions you can track down otherwise hard to find data that typically requires a large amount of familiarity with AirWatch to locate. Say for instance that you want to know where to access your compliance polices.

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Or maybe you want to know how many of your employees use iPhones.

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Once again, what would normally be difficult to find only took a simple question.

The Ask SysTrack tool is available with SysTrack 8.2 while Ask SysTrack for AirWatch is made available through installation of an AirWatch SysTrack Kit.

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.

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.

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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.