IT Administrator Article:
Deskcenter Management Suite 11.0

Pagina 2: Artículo profesional IT-Administrator

Data service, Management Studio and Webfrontend

Thus equipped, we could begin to install the Deskcenter infrastructure, starting with the Data Service. In the process, the setup routine requested a license file, which Deskcenter had provided for 100 clients and for all aspects of the software deployment. This also included Application Metering and AppCloud functions. The former helps with cost optimization and also determines if and for how long distributed applications are used. This happens aggregated in terms of data protection; the system only records the usage duration within the last 90 days without an exact time and anonymizes usernames if desired. AppCloud is an online service with which Deskcenter makes ready packages available for numerous applications (more on this later).

Bild 2: Deskcenter Data Service und Worker Service bilden organisatorisch und geografisch verteilte Umgebungen ab.

Image 2: Deskcenter Data Service and Worker Service map organizationally and geographically distributed environments.

Then we installed Deskcenter Management Studio, which is the central management interface of Deskcenter Management Suite, followed by the optional Deskcenter.Web. This ASP.NET web application forms the basis for the Servicedesk system including Knowledge Base and for the self-service for the installation of applications. The web application setup also took care of the REST-API inventory.

Wizard-guided initial configuration

Now we were able to log in to Management Studio using the initial admin account that we had created during installation. In Studio, a wizard guided us through the total of 16 dialog steps for the initial configuration—a comprehensive list of working points, some with additional sub-points—at the end of which, Management Suite was immediately ready for use. After the welcome window, we specified a default user for remote access on the client. Inventory and software deployment also use the context of this account, which requires at least local admin rights on the clients.

In the next step, we created an initial Worker Service, to which we assigned all inventory tasks via IP scan and AD Sync as far as the endpoint for SDI Agents. Depending on the size of an infrastructure and logic or geographic segmentation, Deskcenter alternatively allows the tasks to be distributed on multiple Worker Services on different servers.

 

Next, we defined two time plans for hourly and daily execution by way of an example, with Deskcenter proving to be extremely flexible in this respect. The system can execute tasks on a one-time basis, or according to minutely, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly intervals. It can be set to use either universal time or the clients’ local time. Each individual task, such as synchronization with the Microsoft Update Catalog, download of updates, or also patch scans of clients and servers, runs on demand according to its own time plan. Optional time frames with daily, weekly or monthly intervals give the time plans a framework, thereby restricting execution to defined time frames.

comprehensive online software catalog

The optional DNA catalog is an online database that helps Management Suite identify, on the software installed on the clients for the inventory, license management and also patch management. Per details supplied by Deskcenter, the database recognizes 1.5 million fingerprints of individual files belonging to 400,000 products from 16,000 manufacturers. To activate this option, we had to assign one of the previously created time plans and opted for update compilation of the catalog once per day.

The following dialog step prompted us to create one or more inventory groups. At least one such group must exist, since Management Suite automatically assigns all recorded systems to a group. How can there be multiple groups? The inventory group determines which method is used for the inventory, either the agentless recording by means of Worker Service and WMI or the SDI Agent. In both cases, deviating from the global default user, we were also allowed to enter the login information of a different account. This would be practical in terms of considering clients that do not belong to the AD domain.

 

Also worth mentioning is the “Create monitors as asset” option. With this, the inventory on the client records additionally connected external monitors on demand in asset management. The file scan establishes the directories where Deskcenter should search for installed software and permits inclusions and exclusions.

 

In the course of the inventory, Deskcenter can execute any further actions as script in the system or user context on the clients. We had to specify a script such as Visual Basic, C#, PowerShell or batch code.

 

Management Suite uses separate groups for clients with installed SDI Agents. For example, one of these groups determines whether the local agent loads the optional user module, and therefore informs the end user about upcoming installations, or runs completely hidden in the background. Furthermore, the group assigns one or more Worker Service instances to the agents. This is useful for large infrastructures, so that clients only connect to Worker Services in their vicinity.

We continued with the software share, where we configured our previously created SMB scope. At this point, we could also specify an alternative connection via FTP(S), HTTP(S) or WebDAV. A third type of group, known as software groups, assigns the software share to the clients.

NUMEROUS INVENTORY METHODS

The next points of the initial configuration serve to record, as completely as possible, the surrounding IT infrastructure for Management Suite. An IP scan searches by time plan in defined subnetworks to inventory endpoints. In addition, the system synchronizes user and computer accounts with an Active Directory, on demand also only with a specific OU.

Furthermore, Deskcenter also reads hosts such as VMs from virtualization infrastructures and is compatible with VMware ESX/vCenter, Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen-compatible solutions. As an additional source, Deskcenter uses a Microsoft DHCP server to determine assigned IP addresses. Finally, we were allowed to store SMTP configurations, so that Management Suite can also send information via email.

WELL-STRUCTURED COMPLEXITY

This completed the basic configuration, and we were able to focus on the well-structured Management Studio, which divides the complex scope of function into logically traceable and, after a brief familiarization, controllable areas. The main navigation is arranged horizontally at the lower edge of the image, which leaves space at the upper edge for one icon bar per specific area. We were able to subsequently change any decisions that had previously been made in the wizard in the “Configurations” area. Here, we were also allowed to create SNMP groups, including version community, in order to inventory SNMP-able endpoints such as printers and IP telephones.

In the “Infrastructure” area, Management Suite had a pleasant surprise in store with its wealth of information about our environment that Deskcenter had detected automatically. The system had now imported all our users and computers existing in the AD, VMs existing on virtual hosts, in Hyper-V and in the Xen descendant, XCP-NG, and found network printers not represented in the AD by means of IP scan. All objects were therefore also usable in the Organization and Asset Management area. In doing so, we were allowed to configure which attributes from the AD correspond to which ones in the Deskcenter database. On demand, Deskcenter can either synchronize in one direction only or bidirectionally so that information, for instance about a user’s department or location, only has to be maintained in one place. Since we had already filled out these fields in the AD, our organization was quickly displayed in Deskcenter. Deskcenter had used WMI to determine which software was installed on our clients. We only had to enter the number of available licenses in the license management area.

NEW INSTALLATION PER MAS

Even the complete new installation of a client is by no means difficult. For the installation, Deskcenter uses the common PXE method and also installs a PXE Service on the Worker Service. The clients find it by the usual route, via DHCP Option or IP Helper. If neither is possible, then an ISO boot image will help.

Ready-made packages from Appcloud

After we had equipped out clients with the SDI Agents, we could finally focus on the installation of applications in the “Software management” area. Here too, Deskcenter Management Suite proved to be aimed at the requirements of larger environments. The smallest unit is a software package. This involves a single installation routine, thus an EXE or MSI file, such as an installation command for unsupervised installation. If there is no installer with corresponding parameters available, then Deskcenter offers the option of purchasing a license for Package Studios, which supports the creation of an installation package. One or more of these packages form a compilation, which integrates the 32- and 64-bit variants of an application, for instance. In turn, software bundles tie up multiple compilations to larger units.

Figura 3: La "AppCloud" ofrece compilaciones listas para numerosas aplicaciones.

Image 3: “AppCloud” supplies ready compilations for numerous applications.

We were able to understand how everything works in practice by looking at examples in the “AppCloud products” catalog (Image 3). There, we found numerous ready packages for software. For each item in this catalog, we were able to create a compilation in our system, select the desired software share and also define whether the software should go only to the test group or be transferred immediately into production as a release. Once we had used the software rule groups to assign clients and compilations to each other, we saw firsthand how Deskcenter successfully generated corresponding software jobs and deployed the software on our target computer.