Automation Manager Dispatcher Discovery and WoL

RES Automation Manager agents are configured to auto discover an available Dispatcher by default, but this will cause issues when the Dispatchers are located on another LAN segment or VLAN. In addition, the Wake on LAN (WoL) packets won’t generally be forwarded by switches/routers by default either. Therefore, how do we resolve this little conundrum?

Now I’m not a network engineer. I can configure basic switch ports and VLANs on HP/Cisco switches, but I couldn’t tell you how BGP works its magic to keep the internet running. I know what it does, but I’ve no idea how it does it. When requesting network infrastructure changes to support the Dispatcher discovery process and WoL on a customer’s site, the network engineer typically wants to know exactly what needs configuring. By simply saying, “enable Multicast for discovery and Broadcast for WoL throughout the network” generally puts a network engineers in a panic and they break out in a cold sweat! So what are these “exact requirements” that network engineers speak of?

Dispatcher Discovery

The RES Automation Manager dispatcher discovery process utilises Multicast. In its simplest form, there are devices on the network that subscribe/listen to a multicast address. When packets are sent to this multicast address, they are forwarded to devices that are actively listening or are members of the group. This process eliminates broadcast storms on the network that could otherwise exist by being selective about whom receives the packets.

In RES AM terminology, when a Dispatcher comes online it will attempt to register to receive UDP packets on the Multicast address on UDP/3163. When a RES AM Agent comes online, it broadcasts via UDP on port 3163 to the multicast group, address Hopefully the dispatchers receive the request, and one responds. Therefore, when speaking to network administrators, you need to ensure that IGMP/PIM is enabled on all network equipment that RES AM Dispatchers and Agents are connected to and that the Multicast address is permitted.


The WoL process works completely differently in that the “magic packet” needs to be broadcast on the LAN segment that the targeted machine is connected to. In RES Wisdom 2009 (and prior) global broadcast packets to needed to be permitted from all RES Wisdom Dispatchers to all LAN segments that client machines were connected to. Needless to say that this is inefficient and network admins are generally reluctant to enable it.

In RES Automation Manager 2011 we’ve got a shiny new Global Option available to us:


This option will use Subnet Directed Broadcasts (SDB) for all WoL packets. The last network hop will broadcast on the targeted subnet without flooding network (unlike the global broadcast address). Like the Discovery process this requires Layer 3 network switches to be implemented and SDB enabled. Note: care needs to be taken when implementing as this could enable DDoS attacks. Remember to limit the origin of the SDB packets to only RES Automation Manager Dispatchers from UDP/3163 (by default) to the subnets that each Dispatcher needs to broadcast to.

If anyone knows the specific Cisco/HP terminology that needs to be used to avoid ambiguity then please let me know and I’ll update the post. Thanks, Iain

Service Orchestration Client for iPhone/iPad

Did you know that RES Software have an iPhone/iPad application available on the iTunes AppStore for the Service Orchestration components of RES Automation Manager 2011? No? Neither did we until we accidentally stumbled upon it!

Users are now able to both request services and approve/deny services directly from their mobile device. Included within the app is a demo mode to demonstrate how the approval process and workflows are performed. Here is a screenshot from the AppStore complete with BIG BUTTONS for denying or approving a service request.


We can only hope that there is also an Android application in development! Windows Phone anyone!? Remember that if you receive emails on your mobile device you can still be in control of the workflow processes – it’s just not as intuitive as links are launched in the mobile web browser.

Automation Manager 2011 – Master Dispatchers

RES Automation Manager (AM) Master Dispatchers now enable an administrator to remove replicated SQL instances that have historically been used for scalability purposes. In prior versions of RES Wisdom, if two or more dispatchers are deployed over a WAN link it was recommended to place a replicated SQL instance on the remote site. The reasoning behind this was sound. As every Dispatcher talked directly to the SQL database placing two Dispatchers would require the resources to be downloaded twice. If we replicated the SQL database instance the resources would only traverse the WAN once as the Dispatchers would get their resources from the replicated SQL database instance.

Unfortunately the replication was only supported by Microsoft SQL Standard and up. Microsoft SQL Express was out the question so we had additional licensing costs. The setup and maintenance of SQL replication is also complicated and generally requires dedicated DBAs. Adding SQL database instances in large environments with many sites was challenging. Note: In large RES Wisdom/Automation Manager installations a replicated SQL instance is still highly recommended for resilience.

Enter 2010 and RES Automation Manager 2011! The new Dispatcher (now known as an “Engine”) model now includes the notion of Master and Slave Dispatchers. We don’t need to configure the Master Dispatchers per se, but we can point a “Slave” Dispatcher at a particular “Master” Dispatcher (or Master Dispatcher List). Now if there is more than 1 Dispatcher required at a remote site, we configure all but one as Slaves and the resources are only downloaded once over the WAN via the Master Dispatcher. The “Slave” Dispatchers download their resources from their Master Dispatchers; no more additional Microsoft SQL licensing and no need for DBAs (if you don’t already employ them!).

From a “RES Wisdom/Automation Manager Service Provider” (RAMSP – yes I did just make that acronym up!) point of view it now means you can protect your SQL instance and configure all remote Dispatchers as Slave Dispatchers, pointed at the hosted Master Dispatchers. Only the hosted Master Dispatchers will ever need to talk the SQL database improving security and reducing the number of open ports.

Note: It is possible and supported to daisy-chain or tier the Engines. I have no confirmation on the official tested/support limits, but being able to tier the AM Engines to two or three levels deep should enable us to support even the largest infrastructures (just wish Workspace Manager used this model Smile). Kudos RES!

Automation Manager 2011 – Evaluators

One of the major failings of RES Wisdom 2009 (and prior) was the inability to automatically action the results based on a query. For example, there has never been an easy way to defragment computers if the local drives were above a threshold. We could always automate the querying of machines and automate the defragmenting of disks drives, but basing an action on the results of a query involved manual intervention.

Some if this has been remedied in RES Automation Manager 2011. The list of queries that support the new “Evaluators” is limited, but it certainly a good start and hopefully this list will grow in future Service Releases (or are they now Service Packs?) and/or RES Automation Manager releases. These are the query types that are supported:

  • Query Computer Properties
  • Query Disk Space
  • Query Installed programs
  • Query Service Properties
  • Query TCP/IP Properties

This new feature provides us with an additional tab on particular queries. We can evaluate (now you know why they’re called Evaluators!) the results of the query and set whether query is successful or not. RES Automation Manager 2011 will fail the task if the evaluator fails our criteria enabling us to have some logic control. Note: setting Evaluators automatically sets the job to “Continue On Error” where the normal default is “Stop On Error.” Unlike Conditions, Evaluators are evaluated after the task and not before (like Conditions).

The example RES provides in the Help takes a Windows Installer job that queries the amount of disk space first. An Evaluator can be set to fail the query and the job (assuming you alter the task error control). Here is an example of this Evaluator that will fail the query if there is less than 500MB of free disk space.


If we alter the task properties like this then we can fail the job as a whole (which we would probably do in this instance):


Notice that we still can’t do this with the disk defragmentation example at the beginning of this post as it’s not a supported query type!

Note: If the query fails the job as a whole is reported as failed which makes managing by exception difficult when evaluators are used and clouds the job results view. Hopefully this behaviour will be updated (tested with the Release Candidate) in the RTM or a Service Pack release.

RES Software have Rebranded

RES 2010 Logo

Today, RES Software’s web site has a new look and feel. In addition the RES PowerFuse and RES Wisdom products have also been rebranded. Here are the highlights:

  • RES PowerFuse will be now known as RES Workspace Manager.
  • RES Workspace Manager will no longer be licensed as different Editions, rather each module will be licensed separately (Yay!).
  • RES Workspace Manager Modules:
    • Composition & Personalization
    • Advanced Administration
    • Security & Performance
  • RES Wisdom will be known as RES Automation Manager.
  • RES Automation Manager Modules:
    • Task Automation
    • Resource Provisioning
    • Service Orchestration
  • The RES Dynamic Desktop Studio will be available as the new bundle of all technologies.
  • RES Subscriber/Workspace Extender will be known as Virtual Desktop Extender (VDX) and available as a standalone product from January 2011.

Overall – exciting times!

Hosted RES Training Labs

RES Workspace Manager 2012 and RES Automation Manager 2012 training labs are now available for RES training partners. Virtual Engine Hosted Labs provide RES training partners with greater flexibility and efficiency when delivering Workspace Manager or Automation Manager training. Now you can focus on growing training revenue, reducing costs and improving student satisfaction by unifying your training delivery.

Delivery of up-to-date training labs is accessible via a web browser with internet connectivity. Now you’re free to just “turn up and teach” rather than having to update, maintain and schedule time to configure the training environment prior to each course. For further information, please contact us.