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Centralis AXE: The power utility for ZENworks for Desktops

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Ewen Anderson

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Posted: 22 Nov 2000
 

Current version: ZENworks for Desktops 3

Centralis AXE simplifies, standardises and accelerates the process of turning snAppShots into usable application objects. Centralis AXE contains built in functions which overcome many of the problems associated with deploying applications to PC and MetaFrame / Terminal Server environments, and allows administrators to create, store and apply their own processing rules.

Benefits

  • Standard PC snAppShots-- Centralis AXE significantly reduces the time required to process applications and increases the object portability between different client configurations
  • WTS / Terminal Server snAppShots - Centralis AXE extends the functionality of ZENworks for Desktops to the thin-client server environment

It should be noted that ZENworks for Desktops administrators have a unique knowledge of the environment in which they work. Centralis AXE is not designed to replace that knowledge, but rather to provide a means of storing, applying and sharing that knowledge.

Key Features

Handling Complex Applications -- Variables, file names, directory paths and other settings, even in Windows applications like MS Office 2000 & IE5.5, make turning snAppShots into application objects complex - Centralis AXE overcomes common problems, allowing most snAppShots to be turned into applications objects without further editing.

Create & Save Rules - Most snAppShots require manual editing of settings such as user name and drive mappings before they can be made into application objects - Centralis AXE allows administrators to create and store rules which automate the manual changes.

Built in Functions & Rule Library- Many operations are standard, and can be applied to a number of snAppShots, however applying these standards to every snAppShot is a highly repetitive and time consuming task - Centralis AXE provides a database of rules which can be shared by ZENworks for Desktops administrators, improving standards and supporting best practice.

Creating Flexible, Portable Application Objects -- Organisations often have a variety of client environment settings, including drive letters and application directories - Centralis AXE can automatically insert the variables and other settings required to provide portable applications.

Redundant Entries - snAppShots contain temporary files, system and user information not related to the application, which could cause problems if installed - Centralis AXE rules strip redundant entries from snAppShots, improving the accuracy and reducing the size of final application object.

Thin Client Server Solutions - ZENworks for Desktops offers an ideal "thin client" management solutions - Centralis AXE rules split snAppShots into separate user and workstation objects, allowing administrators to install 95% of the application once to be shared by the users.

Dynamic File Copy Assignment - Updating files shared by multiple applications can cause problems if incorrect file dates lead to older versions being deployed - Centralis AXE scans files for version information, and can apply the "set copy if newer version" flag to each file containing version information.

Tracking User Files - ZENworks for Desktops can flag user specific files, to be installed on a per user, per workstation basis - Centralis AXE contains rules to identify which files and settings are user specific, and automatically set on "Track Distribution per User".

ZENworks for Desktops Compatibility - snAppShots from older versions of ZENworks for Desktops do not contain the information needed for the latest release - Centralis AXE can export files compatible with earlier versions but maintains the information required for the latest version

Multi-User - Many organisations have several ZENworks for Desktops administrators - Centralis AXE allows them to create, share and apply rules in the same database.

How AXE Works

Uses of Centralis AXE

This compares the standard methods and AXE equivalent procedures for these scenarios:

  1. Creating a new snAppShot for deployment to PC users
  2. Creating a new snAppShot for deployment to WTS / MetaFrame users

Deploying Applications to PC Clients

New PC snAppShot -- Existing Method

The administrator:

  1. Creates a new PC snAppShot (.AXT)
  2. Uses a text editor to manually replace specific entries with variables
  3. Uses a text editor to identify and manually remove redundant files and registry entries
  4. Uses a text editor to identify and manually apply system settings such as file copy options
  5. Imports the edited Object into the NDS
  6. Tests the object to identify issues
  7. Re-exports as an .AXT file for text editing or edit through NWAdmin
  8. Edit and retest until a working object is finalised

New PC snAppShot -- Centralis AXE Method

The administrator:

  1. Creates a new PC snAppShot (.AXT)
  2. Imports it into the Centralis AXE database
  3. Selects which processing rules to apply
  4. Exports the working, portable .AXT for import to the NDS
  5. Retains a copy of the original snAppShot in the database for reference and editing

Deploying Applications to Windows Terminal Server / MetaFrame Servers

Activities common to both methods

The administrator:

    1. Begins the snAppShot process
    2. Puts the Terminal Server into "install mode" & installs the application
    3. Runs application compatibility scripts if required
    4. Completes the snAppShot to create the .AXT file

New Windows Terminal Server / MetaFrame snAppShot -- Existing Method

The administrator:

  1. Uses a text editor to manually replace specific entries with variables
  2. Identifies redundant and duplicate files and registry entries (over 20,000 entries for the example application) created by Terminal Server
  3. Uses a text editor to remove the redundant entries
  4. Tests applications to determine which settings and files are for individual users and which are shared system files
  5. Uses a text editor used to manually apply system and user settings such as "Track Distribution per User" to allow ZENworks for Desktops to identify system and user files
  6. Overwriting files (e.g. DLLs) with older versions is a particular issue in multi-user environments, so file versions must be checked carefully and "Copy if Newer Version" set on any files with incorrect dates
  7. Imports the edited Object into the NDS
  8. Tests the object to identify issues
  9. Re-exports as an .AXT file for text editing or edit through NWAdmin
  10. Edit and retest until a working object is finalized
  11. The full application is then deployed to every user (Note that Verify will also be performed against the full application)

New Windows Terminal Server / MetaFrame -- Centralis AXE Method

The administrator:

  1. Imports the .AXT into the Centralis AXE database
  2. Selects which processing rules to apply
  3. Exports the working .AXT files for User and Server installations
  4. Imports the .AXT's into the NDS
  5. Retains a copy of the original snAppShot in the database for reference and editing
  6. The shared part of the application is then deployed by the administrator
  7. The user part of the application is installed (or verified) on-demand by the user

Comparison of .AXT Processing Methods

Area

Standard

Centralis AXE

Replace specific snapshot entries with system variables

   
 

User ID

No

Yes

 

Dive mappings

No

Yes

 

File paths

No

Yes

 

.INI files

No

Yes

 

Registry settings

No

Yes

Identify & remove redundant entries

   
 

Registry Settings

No

Yes

 

System files

No

Yes

 

Temporary files

No

Yes

Identify and dynamically apply system settings

   
 

Version information for "Copy if Newer" option

No

Yes

 

User files for "Track Distribution per User"

No

Yes

Typical time required (for MS Office 2000 professional)

   
 

Process application for deployment to PC or Thin Client Server

2 days

3 hours

 

Deploy application to Thin Client Server user

20 mins

10 secs

Script portability between multiple client PC builds

Limited

High

Download Eval

Download a eval copy and give it a try. You can download the software, which comes as an install package with a license key. The software will work for 30 days, then a valid license key must be purchased from Centralis. Entering the new key fully enables the software. The only restriction on the eval copy is that the import/export of rules doesn't get enabled until you have the full license key.

Check out this site for more information.


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