Get Into the Nitty-Gritty of Zenworks for Desktops 4

by Jacqueline Emigh

Independence from Netware (and its occasionally pesky client) is just one reason network admins are finding a useful remote management tool in Zenworks for Desktops. Jacqueline Emigh investigates some of the new features being reported from the field.

If you're a Windows administrator with no NetWare server in sight, Novell now has a Windows desktop management product that might work for you. Meanwhile, existing NetWare managers are looking to upgrade to the new Zenworks for Desktops (ZFD) 4 for reasons ranging from new Windows XP desktops to pesky legacy Novell Win32 clients.

The new version 4, codenamed "Prometheus," is the first edition of ZFD not to require use of a NetWare server. In most scenarios, it will also work on the desktop either with or without Novell's Client 32.

Likewise, ZFD 4 brings first-time support for Windows XP desktops. Novell is rolling out several new features with catchy names: "checkpoint restart," for mobile device management; "application chaining," for dependency hierarchies; and "rogue process management," for dealing with processes started outside Novell's app launcher.

Also brand new are Web-based application delivery; remote discovery; a new scripting engine; disconnected inventory scanning; remote control; policy delivery; Crystal Reports inventory reporting; scheduled Wake On LAN; and several big enhancements to application launcher, including a new Web browser view.

As with earlier editions, ZDF continues to provide Client 32 support; lights out distribution; remote management and diagnostics; desktop imaging; hardware and software inventory scanning; and Windows and traditional "POLEDIT" policy management, for instance. Seemingly gone in version 4, though, are a couple of older features, such as chat and remote agent PING.

No NetWare Needed?
Typically, ZDF4 requires no NetWare on either the server or the desktop. "I don't think the story about this has gotten out as much as it could. More (administrators) should know," maintains Fred Broussard, an analyst at IDC.

"ZenWorks 4 doesn't expect you to be on the LAN. You can be on the Internet, in sort of half connected, half disconnected mode," observes beta tester Matthew Kriefer, who is associate director of global network architecture at Reader's Digest.

With the new edition of ZFD, though, Windows administrators will still need to operate Novell's eDirectory for W2K, Novell officials acknowledge.

ZDF 4 is based on HTTP and XML, posing obvious advantages for Windows/NetWare integration. Administrators foresee other advantages, too. "You can use a thinner client-based model," Krieger notes.

"This will be a huge benefit, in terms of making desktop management work more efficiently," predicts Sean Welsh, an administrator at Mount Sinai NY Health System. Welsh, though, is a beta tester for Novell's DirXML, as opposed to ZDF4. Mount Sinai uses an earlier version of ZDF, bug doesn't go out "on the bleeding edge" with every product, Welsh says.

The Novell client has often been criticized for consuming too many resources, and for conflicting with Windows software. "Is there a way to prevent the Novell client from loading even when it's not wanted? I'd prefer to be able to choose whether or not I want to able to access Novell services, but instead Novell seems to assume it's always required, even when the PC isn't physically connected to a network at all," writes one administrator, in an Internet newsgroup.

"I find the presence of the Novell client seems to reduce performance when the PC is not working in a Novell environment. If I remove all the Novell stuff and use in the PC in a standalone Microsoft peer-to-peer configuration, it flies. Put the Novell stuff back on again, and the performance is awful," he adds.

"I am installing Safeword Premier Access on a W2K SP2 system running Exchange 2000. After installing Exchange 2000 (it) takes about three hours for services to start. I uninstalled Safeword, and that left the Novell client for Windows 2000 on the server. Exchange still took forever to start. Only when I completely uninstall the Novell client does everything return to normal," another user complains.

"We are running a Novell 4.1 IPX network using Novell Client 32 for the Win95 workstations. If I set up my laptop with the same config for the dialup adapter. I can get connected to the Shiva, but do NOT see the Novell network. If I remove the Novell Client 32, add the MS client for Netware, and add the MS IPX/SPX compatible protocol, then it works!!! - but I can't see the Novell NDS tree, and therefore can't log in to any user ID that is NOT in the root, nor perform any system NDS maintenance," echoes a third.

With ZFD 4, though, some applications will still require features only available through the traditional Novell Win32 client. These include "executables, when run from the server; MSI applications, when installed from the server; and then, when remote, full install when in browser," according to Ted Haeger, ZenWorks witness for Novell.

Also, for scripted applications that aren't using Client32, administrators will need to replace the traditional login script parser. Some traditional scripts may need to be ported to the new scripting language. Moreover, the new script engine may need to be brought down locally to allow some apps to "go disconnected," Haeger says.

XP At Last
Some network managers with XP desktops have grown impatient waiting for the release of ZDF 4.

"Zen (is) a great product. But why, after so long since Windows XP (was released) to the market, is Zen 4 not available? We recently chose to use a lot of new products from Novell, and first had to go for Zen 3.2. Now, because of some things not working correctly with Zen 3.2 on Windows XP, we are getting very tired of Zen 4 not being available," writes one user, in an Internet newsgroup.

According to Novell, XP Pro will be manageable by Windows administrators without NetWare servers, as well as by NetWare administrators without Windows 2000 Server or Active Directory. ZDF 4 also supports application installation, inventory, remote control, NTFS, and MSI application management on WinXP, along with both Windows XP group policy and "traditional" policy management.

Checkpoint, Chaining & Rogue Management

The new "checkpoint restart" feature, also new in ZDF 4, is meant to let mobile users postpone downloads of large applications until they're reconnected to the network at the office, for instance. End users can also get estimates of the time remaining for downloads, according to Novell's Haeger.

Application chaining, on the other hand, lets the administrator link together applications based on a hierarchy of dependencies. "You can set up an application to be dependent on more than one application," Haeger notes.

Rogue process management, for its part, lets the administrator ignore, kill, or report the usage of processes that get started outside the launcher. You can also single out specific "bad" processes, such as QUAKE.EXE, and kill them instantly, Haeger says.

Rogue process management is configured through registry settings that can be brought down through an application object. It uses existing launcher reporting. You can either place launch events in the reporting database, or send them out as SNMP traps.

App Launcher

Zen's application launcher will be able to keep accessing Novell eDirectory and the Netware file system using Novell Client 32, according to Haeger.

"Launcher will also provide background authentication in the absence of a legacy Novell client connection," he adds.

Novell's app launcher also gets a new Web browser view, together with several new configuration settings, a customizable UI, and a new debug tool.

Browser View
With Web browser view, network managers can launch, verify or install launcher apps directly through a browser, Haeger says. The view is installable through a Web package of about 1.4MB. Changes made to server- side files such as HTML and CSS are reportedly automatically synchronized to the client.

"Functionally, you need to be able to handle administration from more than one place. You might be using multiple PCs from within a single IT shop. Also, though, you're not necessarily going to be staying within the shop all day. You might be going to Building A, and then to Building B," points out IDC's Broussard.

Operable on desktops as well as laptops, the Web browser view "respects all system requirements and launcher configuration settings," Haeger contends. Applications can be displayed while either online or offline. The browser view is supposed to be compatible with Novell Client 32, and works with or without industry standard portals.

New config settings in the app launcher are for remote access detection; writing to the cache; reading from removable cache; and the new checkpoint restart feature.

Remote Access Detection
Through remote access detection, you can tell whether or not a user or workstation is remote, according to Haeger. Options include "always assume local; always assume remote, prompt the user, and auto detect using max interface speed, and based on an IP network ID."

Under the "prompt the user" option, the user gets prompted when the launcher starts. Under auto detect, if the max interface speed is less than a configurable threshold, the user or workstation is assumed to be remote.

Also new in app launcher is the ability to launch an application based on a file extension. "The administrator can set up an application object that points to a file instead of an executable. The executable associated with that file type will be launched," he says. The executable does not have to be NAL-delivered.

Moreover, the launcher's UI can now be customized with "connected" and "disconnected" icons for the desktop and system tray; a launcher splash screen; a Novell mini banner in the bottom bar; a mini banner bar bitmap; and "progress" and "uninstall" dialog AVIs.

New Types For App Wizard
Novell's app creation wizard now includes two new application types. "Web application" sets up the application object to automatically launch the default browser, as well as to navigate to the specified URL.

"Terminal server application" sets up the application object to use ICA/RDP. Meanwhile, it supplies additional snap-in pages for customizing the thin client environment.

The new launcher debug tool in Prometheus offers views of launcher service status; launcher workstation agent status; association details; effective launcher configuration setting; and authentication mode (client 32 vs. middle tier). You can also debug the log configuration; manage the applications dialog; and export contents of a dialog to a log file, Haeger says.

App Reporting Enhancements.

Novell has also enhanced many features first introduced in earlier versions of ZFD. Application reporting, for instance, gets new termination-reporting events, along with the ability to report to a database through a firewall. ZFD4, though, is "firewall friendly" only for ports 80 and 443.

Also new this time around is the ability to report events as XML documents to any URL. ZFD ships with a servlet which converts the XML document into JDBC, and then updates a launcher database, Haeger says.

In terms of policy administration, Zen can now manage NT4, 2000 and XP policies at the "granular" level, according to Novell officials.

Win95 Support Goes Away?
In materials posted on its Web site, Novell claims to support only the 98 and 2000 flavors of Windows, as opposed to Windows 95. Microsoft, of course, no longer supports Win95, either.

"Unfortunately, I do not have control over our organization's budget to upgrade all the PC hardware and OS licenses to something from this century," quips one user, concerned about this issue.

"See those brick imprints on my forehead? That's from my beating my head against the wall trying to get them to upgrade. Our company is about 50% Win95 and 50% Win2000. And I would not be surprised to find some of those Win95 users till using 486's. Ugh!" he adds.

Some users, though, say they have gone ahead and used ZFD 4 with Win95, anyway, with successful results. "I have tried ZFD 4 with Win95 and it appears to work fine. I have seen nothing that makes me believe it won't work for certain things," writes another user, in an Internet newsgroup. "The extensible policies and desktop preferences work fine for us," he elaborates.

Other Platforms
ZDF 4 doesn't support NetWare 4.2 either, according to Novell. However, ZDF 3.2, the predecessor to Prometheus, DOES support not just Win95, but NetWare 4.2, as well.

ZDF 4 and ZDF 3.2 each support desktop OS that include Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 98, and Windows NT workstation, along with the following server OS: NetWare 5.1; NetWare 6.0; Windows 2000 Server; Windows NT Server; Windows 2000 Terminal Server; and Windows NT 4 Terminal Server Edition.

This article was originally published on Monday Aug 19th 2002