Tech Talk 1 by Ken Baker
Smart Box, Low Touch
Simplify Remote Location Management with Novell Products
This methodology for provisioning users accommodates the needs of remote locations with limited or sporadic WAN connections. Also, because the appliance is not actually part of the central management directory and only has to check in periodically, the central management directory can easily scale to support thousands of appliances.
The process for deprovisioning users is similar; but because it might have longer lapses between appliance check-ins than desired, the NHS solution also included a user auto-expire feature. The appliance runs a task every day that checks each user's last login time. If the last login time is more than the time value IT has configured, then the user is automatically disabled and moved into an expired container for that appliance. The expired user is not deleted automatically at this time, just disabled.
Policy provisioning is handled similarly to user provisioning. A group policy is centrally configured, pushed out to a specific set of appliances, and will then apply to a specific set of users. However, application provisioning is handled a bit differently than user and policy provisioning because application packages are typically quite large. Due to limited or sporadic bandwidth that might be available in remote locations, the NHS typically schedules applications to be provisioned to its appliance after hours. To facilitate application provisioning in a consistent manner to both the appliance and the clients at the remote site, the solution leverages the automated software distribution and patch management capabilities inherent to ZENworks Configuration Management. (See Figure 2.)
In addition to provisioning, Novell has also helped NHS simplify the day-to-day inventory management of distributed remote locations. The solution leverages ZENworks Configuration Management to automatically collect inventory data on all the clients the appliance supports and then delivers that data to the central management directory each night. (See Figure 3.) Each deployed appliance is separated into its own ZENworks Configuration Management Zone, making it easy to perform site-by-site inventory management, while also viewing and reporting on client inventory at all of the organization's sites.
Remote Backups Made Easy
Backing up servers at remote sites can be a frustratingly difficult endeavor, especially when you don't have local IT personnel on site to deal with the process. The satellite site solution Novell deployed at the NHS caters specifically to the backup needs of these remote locations.
The solution's design enables the NHS to not only centrally manage backup operations easily, but also to perform online backups to a central repository in a way that accommodates low-bandwidth scenarios.
One of the major design aspects that accommodates centralized online backups is the solution's use of Dynamic Storage Technology. (See Dynamic Storage Technology - OES 2.) With Dynamic Storage Technology, you create two independent partitions for your appliance data-a primary partition for your active or important data, and a secondary partition for your static, less active or noncritical data. The technology overlays these separate physical partitions so they appear as a single partition to users, but allows you to manage them individually. For most organizations, only about 15 percent of their data tends to be active or critical data, meaning that most backup efforts focus on that 15 percent stored on the primary partition. This greatly facilitates backup operations over limited WAN links.
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To minimize impact at remote sites, satellite site solutions can leverage the AD domain integration provided by the CIFS protocol support and Domain Services for Windows included in Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 Service Pack 1. A satellite site solution using Domain Services for Windows eliminates the need for the Novell client. When an appliance object is created using this model, you would also have the option to integrate it with any existing Active Directory domain controllers. Not only does this allow Windows workstations to join the domain and access resources without any additional software, but it also lets you leverage either eDirectory or Active Directory to manage and provision users, policies and applications.
Whether you manage multiple remote locations for health care, schools, retail operations or any other industry, Novell can design a solution to simplify the centralized provisioning and day-to-day management of your distributed enterprise. Such a solution would give you a low touch, repeatable process to build standard servers out in the field without deploying people to those sites, while making it easy for you to centrally manage, update and back up those servers.