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ZENworks for Handhelds: Test Drive It Now

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Posted: 5 Apr 2002
 

Version: ZENworks for Handhelds 4.7

If you attended BrainShare 2002, you probably heard a lot about ZENworks for Handhelds (ZfH). It was mentioned in several speeches. You heard about it in sessions. And judging from the traffic at the ZfH demo booth, you probably even saw it in action.

If you weren't at BrainShare, or if you were and want to get behind the wheel of the newest ZENworks offering by yourself, you're in luck. A fully functional 90-day evaluation download has just been added to the Novell Software Downloads page (http://download.novell.com). The easiest way to find it is to perform a search using the Any Product Category drop-down list to specify ZENworks. Go start the download now and then come back to this article. We'll still be here and you'll want to follow along later.

You say you don't manage handheld devices in your organization? That's the approach most of us have taken in the past. Supporting these "fringe" devices has been left to their owners, who probably bought them themselves anyway. The thinking has been, "They're just not mission-critical devices. And they're used mostly for games."

Well, it's time to think again. Why? There are many reasons. One, whether you want to admit it or not, a lot of sensitive business information is now being stored on handheld devices in your organization. Have you noticed people taking notes on them in meetings? How about phone lists and business contact lists on these devices spread throughout your organization? Two, these devices are becoming more widespread. Three, and perhaps most important to people who provide technical support for their companies, more and more upper-level management types are getting them. How do you tell your CEO that his or her problems are just that-his or her problems? And finally, efficiently managing handheld devices will save you and your company time, money, and make your users more productive.

According to Gartner, the total cost of owning a handheld device tops U.S. $2,600 a year.

Until recently, there was no way to manage handheld devices. These devices presented many problems that were difficult to solve-problems that do not exist with managing desktop machines. First, they are not connected to the company network very often. When they do connect, it is for a very short time to synchronize data and usually using low-bandwidth connections. And, for the most part, these devices are spread all over your organization or even all over the world. There was no way to get your hands on them or a convenient method to manage them or to provide support.

What you need is a product to centrally manage handheld devices running Palm OS and Windows CE (including Pocket PCs). You need a product to centrally schedule and deliver software distributions as well as to collect hardware and software inventory. You need a product to help you drive down the high cost of managing handheld devices.

Introducing ZENworks for Handhelds 4.7

Let's talk about ZENworks for Handhelds 4.7. Why 4.7? Last December, Novell acquired Callisto Software and its successful Orbiter product. Callisto Orbiter is being used in many companies today, including Toshiba, the U.S. Department of Defense, Fidelity Investments, and the Bristol-Myers Squib Company. This is not a 1.0 release. Thousands of devices, world wide, are being managed using the technology in ZfH 4.7.

The ZfH architecture makes it ideal for managing handheld devices. ZfH rides on top of the user's existing synchronization software, so your users don't need to do anything different than they are doing today. You set up the ZfH installation, your users synchronize, and you're efficiently managing the handheld devices in your organization. It's that easy.

ZfH is optimized for low bandwidth, unreliable communications using queued messaging, compression, and checkpoint/restart strategies.

The following diagram illustrates the components of the ZfH system. Each component is explained below.

ZfH server: The ZfH server runs as a service under Windows NT/2000/XP. The ZfH server manages communications with all clients (ZfH proxy clients and ZfH handheld clients, explained below) and maintains distribution schedules and results for the ZfH system. The ZfH server also maintains the ZfH database, which stores information about scheduled distributions and hardware/software inventory for all managed handheld devices. The default database is Microsoft Access; you can also use Microsoft SQL Server.

ZfH console: The ZfH console is the user interface to the ZfH server. The ZfH console can be installed on the same machine as the ZfH server or you can install additional copies of the ZfH console on various machines in your organization to let others, such as help desk personnel, have access to ZfH. If you install additional copies of the console, you can define who has full access to the ZfH system and who has read-only access. You use the ZfH console to distribute software and files to handheld devices, collect hardware and software inventory, schedule distributions and monitor their results, and to troubleshoot problems on managed handheld devices.

ZfH proxy client: The ZfH proxy client is installed on every computer (running Windows 95 or above) that a handheld device synchronizes with. This computer, usually the user's desktop or laptop computer communicates via TCP/IP with the ZfH server. The ZfH proxy client acts as an intermediary between each managed handheld device in your system and the ZfH server, managing package delivery and sending distribution results as well as hardware and software inventory back to the ZfH server. After you install the proxy client on each computer that a handheld device synchronizes with, ZfH runs on top of the users' normal synchronization software (Palm HotSync, Puma Intellisync, Aether Software ScoutSync, Extended Systems XTNDConnect Server, etc.). Hint: If you use ZENworks for Desktops (ZfD), you can use the Application Management feature to distribute the ZfH proxy client.

ZfH handheld client: The ZfH handheld client is installed automatically by the ZfH proxy client on each handheld device running Palm OS or Windows CE (including Pocket PCs) when the user synchronizes. After the ZfH handheld client is installed on the handheld device, it is ready to register with the ZfH system and to begin receiving software distributions and sending hardware and software inventory information to the ZfH server.

Managing Handheld Devices in your Organization

Now that we have the technical stuff out of the way, let's see how you can use ZfH to manage handheld devices in your organization.

When you start the ZfH console (Start > Programs > ZENworks for Handhelds Console), the Alerts page displays if you have any system or client messages that require your attention.

Some alerts are informational. For example, the first alert in the previous dialog box informs you that a new handheld device has registered with the ZfH system. Other alerts provide information concerning more important situations. For example, the fourth alert informs you that a software distribution has failed for at least one handheld device. To find out the reason a device did not receive a distribution, right-click the alert > click View Results > and double-click a handheld device with a red exclamation point next to it. One possible reason for a failed software distribution is that the handheld device is out of memory. You can then upgrade the device's memory or have the user delete some applications (or MP3 files).

When a handheld device registers with the ZfH system, in addition to triggering the informational alert on the Alerts page, the device will be assigned to two groups on the Clients page of the console. To access the Clients page, click the Clients tab on the ZfH console.

All handheld devices that run Palm OS, including Palm handhelds, Handspring devices, and most cell phones that have PDA capabilities are assigned to the All Palm OS Handhelds group. All machines running the ZfH proxy client are assigned to the All Sync Machines group. All devices running Windows CE are assigned to the All Windows CE Devices group. Additionally, all newly registered devices are assigned to the appropriate New Clients subgroups.

In addition to the default client groups, you can create user-create groups. User-created groups can be either static groups or query-based groups.

You create a static group and manually assign handheld devices to it. For example you could create static groups that reflect functional groups in your organization (Marketing, Development, Executive, and so forth) or geographical locations (East, West, Europe, and so forth). After you have created static groups and assigned devices to them, you can then distribute appropriate applications and files to each group or view software or hardware inventory for all devices in each group.

You create a query-based group by specifying and running a query to assign handheld devices to it. The query can search for any attribute (or combination of attributes) of the handheld device, including operating system, amount of memory, a specific version of an application, whether a password has been set on the device, and so forth. After you run the query, you assign the appropriate handheld devices to a group. You can then distribute software or files to handheld devices in that group or view software or hardware inventory for all devices in that group.

When your users synchronize their handheld devices using their normal process, hardware and software inventory information is automatically collected and sent to the ZfH server. Using the ZfH console, you can view hardware and software inventory for selected handheld devices. This is useful for troubleshooting problems and upgrading individual devices.

To view information about specific devices, expand the group by clicking the plus sign next to it. Now click a handheld device. You'll see a view open in the right frame with tabs along the top.

To view the hardware inventory on the selected handheld device, click the HW Inventory tab. The displayed hardware inventory lists the OS version the device is running, the processor type, the amount of physical memory, remaining battery voltage, whether a password is set on the device, and more.

To view the software inventory on the selected handheld device, click the Applications tab. The displayed software inventory lists all applications installed on the selected handheld device, including company name, application name, and the version number.

Looking at the software inventory on individual devices is great for troubleshooting problems or upgrading applications, but looking at each device individually is not very efficient. Suppose you want ensure that your company is in compliance with your licensing agreement for a particular application. Click the Software Inventory tab on the right side of the ZfH console. You can use the Software Inventory page to view a list of all handheld devices running a particular version of an application.

Now that we've talked about collecting and viewing hardware and software inventory, let's talk about how you install applications and files on handheld devices.

ZfH uses packages to install applications and files on handheld devices in your organization. Basically, you use the Create Package Wizard to browse to the files you want to distribute, choose whether the files should be installed on a Palm OS device or on a Windows CE device, and name the package. To access the Create Package Wizard, click Operations > Create > Package for Distribution.

One important thing to note about packages is that ZfH is smart enough to inform you if you try to install files on a device that are not compatible with the device you are trying to install them to.

After you've created a package, you are ready to distribute it. You use the Create Distribution Wizard to browse to the desired package, specify when you want to distribute the package, and to specify the devices or groups you want to distribute the package to. To access the Create Distribution Wizard, click Operations > Create > Distributions.

Packages and distributions in ZfH are very powerful. For example, if you were distributing an application, you would specify that the package is just sent once. However, suppose you have a sales staff that needs frequently updated pricing and inventory lists. You could create a package that points to a directory on your network that contains these files. You would then schedule the package to be distributed every Monday morning, for example. Now, during the week, these files are updated or new files are added to the directory. Every Monday morning, ZfH checks the target directory, packages the changed or new files, and sends them to the ZfH proxy clients. Your sales people synchronize their handheld devices using their normal synchronization software and they receive the updated information. Best of all, you didn't have to do anything new (other than setting up the package and distribution schedule). From now on, when the files in the directory change, your sales staff will receive the updated files.

You view your scheduled distributions using the Calendar and Distributions pages in the ZfH console. The Calendar page lets you view a daily or monthly calendar. You can schedule new distributions, modify existing distributions, and more.

The Distributions page lists all completed and scheduled distributions in the ZfH system. In both pages, the icons next to each distribution let you know which distributions are scheduled to run (alarm clock icon), which distributions have reached their distribution time or have run (check mark icon), or which distributions have failed (exclamation mark icon).

One last thing, ZfH lets you create predefined and custom reports to view information stored in the ZfH database, including distribution information, device and group information, package information, and hardware and software information.

ZfH is a great addition to the Novell ZENworks product line. ZENworks products let you manage servers, desktops, and now handheld devices. For more information about ZfH, visit the ZENworks for Handhelds product page (http://www.novell.com/products/zenworks/handhelds/). For more information about what ZfH can do for you, visit the ZfH documentation Web site (http://www.novell.com/documentation/lg/zfh4/index.html).

What's next for ZfH? Well, if you were at the BrainShare booth, you probably didn't see any developers. We have them under lock and key developing the next version of ZfH. Scheduled for late summer, ZfH 5 will be integrated into eDirectory, be managed using ConsoleOne, and will include support for Research in Motion (RIM) devices.

So now that you have a basic understanding of ZfH 4.7, go get the evaluation software (http://download.novell.com). Better yet, talk to your Novell reseller and start managing your handheld devices, saving money, and making your life easier. You'll be glad you did.


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