While infrastructure and delivery options evolve rapidly to better provide workflow and application solutions, one of the most challenging things in any environment is choosing what options best fit the requirements of users. Modern users take advantage of tools available to them in a host of different, and not always complementary, ways. Compounding this, users often install their own applications or use consumer cloud options when they feel IT lags behind their needs.
The reality of a complex and continually changing workplace is the need to discover the most critical aspects of end user activity and plan versatile, streamlined methods to deliver precisely what's needed where it's needed. Traditionally the largest burden with this kind of analysis has not been developing a simple inventory but rather identifying distinct workflows and planning the underlying architecture. Establishing core images, picking technology for application virtualization, choosing when to publish packages, and remediating software can often be too convoluted for organizations of any size to accomplish even without shifting user needs adding more layers of complexity.
Migration to an optimized software portfolio is completely dependent on understanding these layers and how they impact the community of users. What this means to IT is that development of a robust implementation plan must first begin by discovering those computing needs that make each environment unique. By first assessing the "why" of software packages, the process of deciding the "how" is greatly simplified by making the discussion purely about technological requirements. However, this assessment is often a difficult proposition for the same reasons developing a plan without one is.
Extracting relevant information as efficiently as possible depends on finding the right tools to provide the insight and later the reporting or data interaction necessary for action. Using a toolset designed for direct integration makes the transformation from discovery to delivery seamless and simple, greatly reducing the time and cost of migrating to the right future environment.
One of the most beneficial parts of moving to a more agile application delivery style is the savings accrued from a more rational software portfolio. Rather than provisioning based on envisioned need, automated discovery allows the option to give users only the applications that they actually need without the need for extended interviews (which frequently don't yield meaningful results) or "guess and check" installation. Through upfront analysis of the real usage of licensed software, significant savings can be found by eliminating unneeded purchases of expensive software programs. Critically, this can also allow more insight into real usage of the applications to uncover the work styles unique to an environment.
With increasing mobility requirements, one of the most important needs is understanding the relationship between users of new devices and their interaction with content. Even beyond enabling sets of users for tablets or mobile systems, cost savings can be found by investigating if content creation is required or if the work style of certain users is based around only consumption. This opens the door to using freely provided viewing applications for documents or pictures rather than costly creation applications.
The concept of workflow analysis can be expanded to also explore how poorly performing applications are adversely affecting productivity. By reducing the complexity of base images and in turn cutting down on deleterious application interaction, performance of software can be greatly improved. This has the added benefit of reducing support and management costs, resulting in a finely tuned custom design for each user segment.
Ultimately, the fruit of this planning is the development of a custom portfolio with asneeded provisioning for not only applications but workstations as well. The optimization of a flexible workflow provides immediate and tangible benefits to IT organizations by cutting costs while increasing user satisfaction.
The first step in any meaningful data gathering exercise is defining metrics of interest. For a true user-centric picture of application activity there's a core set of data that describe usage: platform dependency, user interaction, resource consumption, and application complexity. Each one of these points is in turn composed of a wealth of important, illustrative information that provides direction for each of the distinct segments of users in every environment.
A certainty of the current IT landscape is the demand of users to have access to applications on their terms. Agility is a paramount requirement for IT in all industries, but balancing security and stability with the right methods of delivery for all users can be extremely difficult. Knowledge of where users access applications and data drives later decisions for when applications can and should be delivered. Mobility and enablement of mobile devices is, rightfully so, a focus for the new "average" class of users that needs data and applications on demand, and starting the discussion with an analysis of current needs is a necessity. Will highly mobile users require offline access? What backend data stores are in use? Are there concerns with methods of interaction available on the future platforms chosen? Real user workflow information is pivotal in determining what options will meet the needs of an environment.
Insight into distinct work styles can also serve a broader purpose than enablement. By knowing where packages are installed, how many users really use them, and the type of usage for each application significant cost savings through license reductions and productivity increases can be achieved. Key questions must center on differing modes of interaction: How many users use this application simultaneously? Are users actively making content or viewing it? What user bases share software packages in common? Use case planning allows for technical planning for infrastructure required to support mechanisms like XenApp application publishing that enable phenomenal flexibility for users.
Capacity planning for application virtualization is of paramount importance in exploring the feasibility of moving important applications to a new delivery mechanism. By first building the case for either developing net new delivery or expanding on current capacity planning becomes a straightforward architecture discussion. By understanding the resource demands of applications, their requirements for accelerated graphics, and the concurrency of usage a complete picture of provisioning needs can be developed to plan backend requirements to meet the needs of the user population. The concept of application complexity is directly related to this, and the amount of difficulty in delivery may play a large role in determining whether a package is installed directly into an image or delivered via virtualization.
Thorough environmental understanding is driven by familiarity with users, and key points that must be understood include:
Knowing the pivotal data points that drive the decisions for why certain applications should be delivered or installed directly, it becomes important to explore options for how to gather and best use that information. Based on the sheer amount of points to be examined, it quickly becomes obvious that the use of a toolset with a large focus on automation is an absolute necessity. Without automated aggregation, comparison, and analysis it rapidly becomes an extremely time-expensive proposition to explore an environment of any scale. To solve this problem, Lakeside Software developed SysTrack with an open DataMine to streamline the process of moving from data collection to data usage with tools like AppDNA.
The SysTrack discovery process begins with the instrumentation of platforms in use in the environment, enabling an integral part of the assessment: live data gathering. The most meaningful insights can only be gleaned from real usage, and dynamic collection of user characteristics in situ provides an easy and fast way of building out a complete map of user workflows and dependencies. Based on a patented architecture that intelligently caches statistically representative information in a central data store for reporting, SysTrack automatically builds a DataMine that contains all of the central dimensions of user-centric planning.
Through SysTrack's visualization toolset, analysis of the data across the enterprise and in collections of interest is directly presented with minimal user input. Presenting integral information on package usage, both from a user and system resource perspective, through intuitive and automatically populated Datasets, SysTrack provides live collection information as the discovery process proceeds. The wealth of data seen in the Enterprise and Site Visualizer tools provides a basis for the mathematical modeling for capacity and use case planning for SysTrack's Virtual Machine Planner.
Figure 1: Automated aggregation of software package information
Once the SysTrack infrastructure is in place, it continues to gather information with no interaction required until a representative set of data is captured, allowing the use of the capacity and image planning features available within the Virtual Machine Planner. The Image Planner (IP) provides base image optimization and automated use case grouping by providing a framework for decision-making based on the critical dimensions of planning:
These Datasets provide a way to build out a complex delivery plan based on maintaining simple base images through provisioning additional software through virtualization or user installed applications. Through picking which delivery mechanism is most rational for each package based on usage and application characteristics, the IP quickly cuts down on the time necessary to develop a plan for migration.
The true power of using a data-driven discovery process with SysTrack is the ability to directly feed decisions derived from real world data into a remediation engine directly. Instead of an extended reporting phase and time consuming manual data import process, information is presented on demand for rapid drafting and what-if analysis. More importantly, through using SysTrack for use case planning, the important provisioning choices are already prepared for AppDNA remediation.
Using AppDNA for application remediation decreases drastically the cost and time spent fixing compatibility issues for direct installation and for virtualization. Instead of spending many hours per package, often missing critical packaging considerations, AppDNA provides a quick, straightforward method to quickly analyze large numbers of packages. Pairing this with the ability of AppDNA to plug directly into the SysTrack DataMine to take collected data to provide immediate remediation instruction and packaging provides unparalleled effort and time savings.
Using the tools in conjunction provides a solution complex enough to be customized to any environment while still shortening an entire migration into one uniform process. By uniting assessment data, design information, and swift remediation, delivery is not only done more quickly, but far more accurately.
Following delivery, SysTrack also provides a way to quantitatively demonstrate success in a migration through analysis of service quality and end user experience. Management and monitoring in steady-state is essential to ensure that users continue to enjoy the benefits of a newly streamlined environment, and using the same metrics for a before and after picture illustrates the ROI conclusively
Choosing to optimize delivery for users provides numerous, quantifiable cost savings and end user experience benefits. The use of SysTrack in conjunction with AppDNA makes the process of deciding what applications are needed and remediating compatibility and virtualization concerns for them simple, robust, and time efficient.
To begin, contact your systems integrator or technology provider for more information about using SysTrack in your environment. A greatly simplified SysTrack assessment is also available in the form of FastTrack, delivered directly through the Citrix Desktop Transformation Accelerator provided to qualified Citrix clients. Installation and deployment is straightforward and immediately rewarding through uncovering the complete story of your unique environment.