SysTrack Cloud Edition for VMware vCloud Air

Introduction

Assessing an existing end user computing estate is an absolutely critical component of ensuring the success of any IT transformation. Lakeside Software's SysTrack provides the industry's most thorough method to truly understand application behaviors, capacity needs, and end user experience; tying the comprehensive metrics together with automated forecasting and reporting, SysTrack can generate detailed reports that outline how IT organizations can move forward. This is actually the primary concept behind SysTrack: constant collection of an enormous amount of system and user data from end user and infrastructure devices tied together with automated processing and normalization. This means for an assessment you get reliable, targeted information from a rich and granular data source. With continuous collection beyond just the assessment it's possible to derive even more value by showing concrete, quantitative evidence of success with your projects. Traditionally this has required an on-premises deployment of SysTrack with some supporting infrastructure (generally one Windows server), and in some cases this can introduce a little bit of time into the assessment timeline. Many customers and interested parties requested a streamlined, simple process to get introduced to the type of actionable information available in the SysTrack platform. The SysTrack Cloud Edition for vCloud Air provides exactly that.

To help IT organizations of any size rapidly deploy and begin collecting the detailed data necessary to guarantee great end user experience, Lakeside and VMware worked together to deliver SysTrack Cloud Edition for vCloud Air. SysTrack Cloud Edition provides a quick and easy way to take advantage of SysTrack as a cloud based service by handling all of the data staging and management needs necessary to process the tremendous volume of information collected by the SysTrack micro-agent. After a simple registration the only action required is using a software distribution tool to install the agent on systems in the environment. Within twenty-four hours data is sent up to the cloud system, and within a week clear behavioral patterns and analysis of the user population are available. That means that without any net new infrastructure or maintenance requirements IT is provided with the reporting detail and rich information they'd expect from a full SysTrack deployment. The net result is a series of reports and visualizations of the current state of the environment, as well as several of the steady state analytical tools available within the full SysTrack portfolio. The SysTrack platform continues to evolve, and a SaaS model enables Lakeside Software to add new functionality on a regular basis without requiring new software installation.

With VMware, our SysTrack Cloud Edition launch partner, Lakeside Software harnesses the power of vCloud Air to provide continuous visibility with the option to maintain the SysTrack cloud data collection indefinitely. Portfolio planning tools like the Image Planner, and perhaps most importantly the root cause analytical tool Resolve, are included at no additional cost. Making use of a simple on-premises proxy service that's easy to set up and rapidly deployed, it's now possible to use SysTrack's deepest level of visibility to connect into an individual system and understand user workflows and health issues in depth. This provides access to items like the Black Box Data Recorder and the unique Dependencies view to track what users were connected and when with the ability to turn the clock back up to three years to witness application, user and system behaviors. So, how can we achieve all of that functionality without extensive on-premises provisioning?

SysTrack Cloud Edition is built on a scalable, demand driven cloud architecture that provides a simple, secure, and painless method to collect the rich data expected with the SysTrack platform. Hosted on vCloud Air, the system has ramp up potential to match the needs of the community as it continues to thrive and expand. This makes it perfect for a wide variety of organizational sizes. Adding a SysTrack data forwarder in the environment allows the use of cloud-based Resolve over SSL, ensuring communication is protected. This element allows us to broker connections back into the environment through the forwarder's secure communication for tools that need a live connection back into the endpoint-collected information.

Distributed Collection

One the key advantages of using SysTrack is our patented distributed database architecture. This key differentiating data management technique is preserved with SysTrack Cloud Edition, in fact the advantage of leveraging minute amounts of compute resources on the end point for data normalization and processing is incredibly powerful when coupled with a cloud based data aggregation mechanism. Effectively it means that we're able to scale the solution to meet the demands of a massive user population, maintain complete data partitioning for privacy and security, and maintain highly performant reporting. Architecturally our SysTrack cloud agent makes all of this collection possible. Figure 1 contains a basic diagram of the layout of the flow of data from the end user devices and instrumented systems contained in an existing environment to the SysTrack cloud master.

Figure 1: A high level diagram of the SysTrack Cloud Edition architecture

All of the data transmission between instrumented devices and the cloud master is fully encrypted and transmitted over the standard SSL port (443), meaning that it's simple to use established network and firewall rules for most environments to allow secure reporting to the SysTrack cloud master. The same is true for the SysTrack Data Forwarder, our low overhead software component that allows the use of our detailed user experience management tools from the cloud. The details for connectivity are all handled seamlessly for the IT user looking for data, and after a simple deployment process the system is automatically configured for collection and reporting. This means no on-premises server deployments, no need for managing or patching systems in steady state, and an incredibly quick time to value.

Central Reporting

Whatever complexity may exist under the covers, we have ensured that the SysTrack administrator immediately has easy access to the vast and continually expanding amount of information in SysTrack. The plumbing is transparent, resulting in a single repository for an amazingly broad set of information across platforms. This also includes some of the most extensive reporting and root cause analytical engines available within SysTrack, such as Resolve. This means that within a single reporting mechanism an IT organization or supporting partner can get visibility from a single system's granular, time correlated performance details all the way up to the complete enterprise computing environment.

Planning for User Requirements

Cultivating a deep understanding of the complexities of an environment is at the heart of any successful IT endeavor, and this is precisely what SysTrack Cloud Edition is designed to enable. With access to tools like Site Visualizer and targeted dashboard content for key value areas it's simple to start getting immediate insight into what's critical in the environment. In many cases this starts with an exploration of the usage of the enterprise software portfolio. Identifying underutilized applications can be a great way to start planning the assets necessary for a net new environment or optimize an existing one. As an example visualization of the effectiveness of the current portfolio Figure 2 shows a sample dashboard that reports the level of consumption in the environment.

Figure 2: A summary of the actual utilization of the software portfolio discovered in the environment.

Of course there are other items to consider with an existing application portfolio, like resource consumption characteristics, application components and virtualization potential, and application faults. All of these and more are covered in core SysTrack reporting. In a potential hybrid environment or dedicated vCloud Air roll out, one of the most critical aspects of planning how to handle the existing application workload is through capturing the dependencies found for software. Essentially categorizing the backend components, databases, and other required servers that are necessary for application function and identifying key items like existing latency and location. This mapping of dependencies makes it easy to evaluate if a workload can simply be migrated directly to a new data center or if more detailed planning is necessary. Figure 3 outlines a map of dependencies for an existing system with a summary of latency characteristics.

Figure 3: A summary of the outbound application and inbound session connections for a sample system.

For those considering desktop or application virtualization, a deep understanding of the capacity requirements for the existing user population is essential. Key items like compute resource usage, memory, and I/O footprint can help to pick an appropriate size for systems to be assigned to users. User segmentation is one of the fundamental requirements for an assessment, and it's something that's easily made available within SysTrack Cloud Edition. Figure 4 has a detailed analysis of the average active resource requirements for users in an environment.

Figure 4: An overview of the various resource requirements for users in a sample environment

There are a variety of different metrics for planning available with SysTrack Cloud Edition in tools like Site Visualizer, and the ability to perform nuanced data analysis on deep application, environmental, and system metrics is invaluable. This provides deep resources for self-investigation, and is coupled with pre-configured, solution specific reporting for VMware Horizon solution components to provide structured, presentable information when needed.

Automated Reporting

With the prebuilt SysTrack reports it's simple to export rich summaries of the information collected from an environment. The assessment focused SysTrack insights are specifically focused on providing recommendations on how to best take advantage of the powerful end user and infrastructure components found in the Horizon portfolio. This includes an analysis of fit for virtualization for existing clients, recommendations about system sizing and resource requirements, and existing end user health reporting. Figure 5 shows an example of this segmentation with candidates for Horizon View or vCloud Air.

Figure 5: A sample segmentation of the fit for users for either Horizon 6 on premises or Horizon Air.

Other available reports are targeted at illustrating which solutions are ideal for an environment, including App Volumes and general sizing for EVO:RAIL. This provides some high level summary guidance, and it can also be a useful explanation of potential benefits for less technical audiences. This also extends to select partner offerings such as the NVIDIA GRID vGPU technology. Figure 6 contains a sample of some of the information available in the NVIDIA planning document.

Figure 6: An example of some of the planning data available in the NVIDIA graphical analysis report.

SysTrack Cloud Edition also simplifies the assessment work necessary to plan a migration can be completed with a simple export, resulting in time savings in addition to the benefits of executing on a full plan. This means that the transformation can be undertaken with confidence. But how can the progress of a project be tracked as it proceeds? Maybe more importantly, how can a meaningful benchmark for comparison of the old environment be created to show how things have progressed?

Demonstrating Success

A proof point required at the end of a project is some quantitative evidence that the undertaken transformation was successful. Without a reliable, consistent system of record to provide that insight it can be greatly challenging to fully illustrate the kinds of improvements in the end user experience that have been achieved. With SysTrack it's easy to show the starting point of the environment and track precisely back to the institution of a change to show what the net impact has been. This can be done across the environment, for a group of systems, or on an individual system basis. Figure 7 shows the trend for an individual system for comparison to the expected average.

Figure 7: The health trend for a specific system in SysTrack Resolve.

Through the use of the new SysTrack subscription service you now have unfettered flexibility to choose how you engage in a continuous end user experience assessment. IT organizations now have the option of a traditional, managed on-premises deployment of SysTrack or the option to leverage cloud hosted services. SysTrack Cloud Edition includes a wide variety of different key data elements, detailed end user experience management tools, and assessment reports, and more importantly it provides overarching structure to take an IT environment from the preliminary planning stages through the transformation and beyond into the steady state operation phase. This means that future planning exercises and current problem investigations will be painless and easy to manage for environments with a variety of needs and configurations. With SysTrack you'll have access to a continuous assessment platform that serves as a method of always keeping up to date on the nuances of an environment, always maintaining visibility into end user experience issues, and understanding environmental vulnerability.

Figure 8: A visualization of the SysTrack Cloud Edition continuous assessment concept

Get Started

We've made it easy for you to hit the ground running. SysTrack Cloud Edition provides a simple, no cost method to give SysTrack a try in your environment. Simply head to the SysTrack Cloud Edition site, register, and get going; it's free, easy, and within a few days you'll start learning about your environment in a completely new way. As you progress and eventually reach the end of your assessment period you can continue to use the SDA through a simple subscription.