Accelerate User-Centric Initiatives with AdminStudio Suite from Flexera Software

Today’s organizations are facing a new workforce, one that uses computing devices in all parts of life, not just work. These new users expect access to what they need to do their jobs, regardless of location or device used. Computing devices are no longer just company-provided PCs as the proliferation of user-owned computers, smartphones, tablets, and thin-client devices continues to add to the picture. In order to address user expectations and reduce management costs, organizations are evaluating or implementing user-centric initiatives enabling a model that removes the dependency of traditional desktop computing management. The idea of user-centric computing is not new, but the ability of IT departments to implement and provide user-centric computing to the general workforce is just becoming a reality. This whitepaper focuses on how AdminStudio Suite® from Flexera Software accelerates the transition to this new model.

User-Centric Computing

At its core, user-centric computing gives users control of their computing experience, providing them with access to any combination of computing environments, applications, settings, and data from any location or device. User-centric solutions provide the user with pieces of the computing environment (desktop, applications, data, and settings) on demand, where only the required resources are delivered based on the user’s device and location. When working from a company managed Windows PC, users can request applications that are delivered directly to their desktop. When using a non-Windows tablet device, the request for an application initiates a session-based connection to an appropriate server-based computing environment that already has the applications installed. In both scenarios, the user is not required or expected to supply the device type or location of the request.

User-centric computing requires more than just targeting users for resource delivery. The first step is to define the resources that require management. Applications, user data and settings, and computing environment are resources that must be managed in order to complete the solution. Applications, and the definition of applications, have changed over time. Today, applications are not only Windows® Installer (MSI) and executable-based installers, but also include application virtualization, session, mobile, and cloud-based.

Administrators must be able to support applications from many different vendors in various formats and produce resources in multiple formats supporting different user devices. User data and settings must roam to the appropriate endpoints to enable application usefulness. The last resource for user-centric computing is the computing environment, since most applications are built for delivery to Windows-based desktops. In scenarios where users are connecting from non-Windows-based devices, a Windows-based computing environment from a session-based or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is required.

Next, user-centric computing solutions must orchestrate the delivery of the appropriate resources to users based on their location and their connecting device. User-centric models require delivery of the resources to traditional desktops, sessions, and VDI with logic that can identify the requesting user, location, and device type. Users working from home access a secure webpage that displays their accessible applications. On request, the self-service portal identifies the user’s location, device type, as well as any dependencies, and routes them to an appropriate delivery mechanism. If the user is accessing the application from a company owned laptop, the application can be delivered as a traditional installation or streamed as a virtual application with the appropriate data and settings. However, if the user is accessing from a home computer, a session or VDI based connection is initiated with the same application, user data, and settings applied on the delivery technology.

In a typical organization, management of a usercentric solution spans many IT technologies, thus the consolidation of management tasks and tools is critical for success. The starting point for user-centric computing is application readiness, as applications must be packaged in formats that support all of the delivery mechanisms, device types, users, and locations. Therefore, application readiness presents a limiting factor for adoption of new technologies like session, VDI, and Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager in user-centric computing.

Microsoft® System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Application Model

Microsoft® System Center 2012 Configuration Manager adopts a user-centric application delivery approach. This is a significant change as applications are not just installed and uninstalled, but also evaluated on a perdelivery basis to ensure applications are delivered to users’ defined endpoints in the appropriate format. Configuration Manager 2012 defines policies and relationship rules to evaluate user identity, application dependencies, device type, and network connection in order to deliver the application in the most appropriate way. This new approach to application delivery is a combination of Configuration Manager 2012 and the information that administrators populate to support user-centric deployment.

Applications are created by defining typical name, and version information, and now include the ability to define multiple delivery types (App-V, MSI, Citrix® , etc.), application dependencies (.NET, Java™ , Silverlight® ), and requirements (RAM, primary device, organizational unit). User device affinity in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is a method of associating a user with one or more specified devices. This enables deployment of applications targeted at users only on devices defined by administrators or the users themselves.

The result is client computers that evaluate policies and rules prior to installation, decide whether it should deploy an application and match which deployment types to use. The decision to deploy an application is made on criteria such as operating system version, available disk space, location for request, etc. For example, if a user is assigned Microsoft Office® as a requirement, the combination of application definitions and user device affinity determines the deployment method. If the user is on her primary device the installation is performed as a Windows Installer deployment. However, on a device that is not a primary device, Microsoft Office is deployed using application virtualization.

As with previous versions, Configuration Manager still supports delivery of business critical applications to devices, but now adds the ability to provide a self-service portal that allows users to select their own applications. The population of the application model is the primary migration task for administrators, as most have hundreds or thousands of applications but do not currently have sufficient data required to complete the process. Adoption of the application model requires administrators to create applications in the Configuration Manager. Each application requires data to enable the user-centric model including:

  • Deployment Types: Multiple deployment options for a single application to address different content locations, programs for installation, detection methods, requirements, and dependencies.
  • Requirements: Set of criteria evaluated before deployment of applications including operating system (RAM, disk space, operating system version, etc…), User (primary devices), or custom (scripts, queries, etc.) identifying the correct deployment type.
  • Dependencies: Requirements that the device must have present prior deployment including the ability to remediate missing dependencies.

Administrators will need to discover and populate this and general catalog information for each application. This information is often dependent on the infrastructure options available including session and VDI, current operating system levels including 32 and 64-bit, device inventory, and available application formats. This process represents limiting factor that must be completed prior to making usercentric computing available throughout the organization.