This blog contains the ramblings of a man who has just installed System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 in our RES Demo Showcase, to show how the integration works with RES Workspace Manager 2012.
The first thing I’d like to point out is why anyone would prefer to use Configuration Manager over RES Automation Manager is beyond me, but that’s probably left for another blog post. One thing I will say is that “simplicity” is not something I’d ever use to describe Configuration Manager! Enough of the drivel; lets get on with the real reason for this post.
Configuration Manager is used by many customers as a software delivery tool to deploy and install applications across their organisation. These applications can be targeted at devices or users and installed when required, i.e. when the user requests them or in a mandatory fashion; say when a new version of Microsoft Office is rolled out. Now this is all fine and dandy but there is no context awareness behind these deployment mechanisms. By context I mean Who they are, What type of device they are using, Where they are located and When they initiated the installation. Configuration Manager does now try and address this short coming by introducing the new “Applications” feature and “Rules”, but its limited in what it can do.
Those of you reading this blog post will hopefully already understand that RES Workspace Manager has been built around this ethos from before the dinosaurs (not quite, but you get my point). With that in mind you’d be correct in asking, “wouldn’t it be a great idea if RES Workspace Manager could integrate with Configuration Manager?” This would bring context awareness to application installs as well as delivering these applications “Just-In-Time,” i.e. when the user attempts to launch an application shortcut (if the application wasn’t already present). Well you might have guessed it by now, you can, and I’m going to show you how and what kind of things to look out for. I’m assuming you already know how to install and configure Configuration Manager (and its running ever so sweetly on your site servers consuming resources like there going out of fashion) so I’m not going to cover that bit!!
Configuration Manager “Applications”
One important point I’d like to mention here is that Workspace Manager does not yet support the new “Applications” feature in Configuration Manager 2012. When I say “support” I mean it will not work at all in Workspace Manager 2012 SR2. Whether that’s something RES will add at a later date I’m not entirely sure, but for the sake of this blog it doesn’t. That means you have to continue to create and use the old style “Packages” and “Programs” that everyone knew and loved in previous versions of Configuration Manager.
Configuration Manager “Advertisements”
Another important point that might be worth mentioning at this time, from my testing, it doesn’t seem you actually have to create the “Deployment” (aka “Advertisement” in older versions) for the Programs that will be integrated with RES Workspace Manager. From the testing I’ve been doing, what actually seems to happen is RES Workspace Manager creates a temporary collection and advertisement/deployment on the fly, and deletes these once the application has been deployed and installed. The collection is named after the device where you initiated the installation from and if you’re quick enough you can see these objects being created in Configuration Manager console.
Configuration Manager “Administrative User”
You need to supply RES Workspace Manager, with a user that’s been defined in Configuration Manage and has sufficient privileges to carry out certain tasks; namely manage collections and create deployments. Configuration Manager 2012 has various security roles predefined but from my testing the minimum role that can be used is the “Application Administrator”. So I’d create a new user in Active Directory, could be a service account, add them as an administrative user in Configuration Manager i.e. RESWM and assign them that role – if you not bothered about security, you can grant them the “Full Administrator” role .
The first thing we need to do is enable the integration in RES Workspace Manager; which is relatively straight forward and is split into two phases.
- Start the RES Workspace Manager console, under the Setup menu select Microsoft System Center…
- Select the check box Enable Microsoft System Center ConfigMgr Integration.
- You will need to enter the the Configuration Manager server that has the Management Point role installed, i.e. Primary Site server and check the Autodetect management server on client. This can be useful if you have a large Configuration Manager implementation and multiple Site Servers etc.
- The credentials you supply will need to have sufficient privileges to the Configuration Manager environment – as I’ve pointed out previously.
- When you click the Test Now… button for the first time, the version will automatically be enumerated for you and set accordingly.
- The next step in the process is to click the Test Now… button again. If successful you should be presented with a list of your defined Packages. As you can see from the screen shot below my list is not particularly exhaustive. This test also gives you the first indication that RES Workspace Management does not work with the new Applications feature as they aren’t listed.
- At this stage remember to click the Save Settings from the menu bar to commit your changes.
This concludes the first phase. We’re now in a position to use these Packages to install applications with the RES Workspace Manager integration; either at a global level or behind the configuration of an application – which is where I’d see it as most useful and what I’ve described below.
- Within the RES Workspace Manager console edit the managed application where you’re going to add the Configuration Manager integration; in my example I’m going to use WinRAR.
- From the Configuration tab add the Microsoft ConfigMgr action (shown below).
- You’ll see the Edit software distribution dialogue displayed.
- The first thing you probably want to do here is select the Program you’re going to deploy/install when this application is launched. You do this by clicking (…) in the Program field. What’s actually occurring here is: the Management Server that was defined in Phase 1 is being contacted to retrieve a list of Packages and Programs. The result should look something like this; hopefully your list contains more than my paltry set of programs.
- Simply select the program you want to deploy and click OK. In my example I’m using WinRAR Archiver.
- You’ll need to fill in the rest of the fields as shown below (obviously changing WinRAR to something that matches you application!).
- I probably need to explain some of my choices I’ve made here to avoid any confusion.
- The Package name is automatically completed upon selecting the program;
- I’ve checked the Skip if application executable was found ‘cos why would you want to try and deploy/install an application again if its already present? Makes sense I hope?!;
- Now I’ve left the The Run Once as No ; using this setting in conjunction with the previous setting means should anyone uninstall the application is will instruct Configuration Manager to redeploy and reinstall the application again (because the executable will be missing);
- For the Custom status message I’d certainly recommend mentioning its being installed by Configuration Manager. It’s not like we live in a “no blame culture” and someone would never, ever blame RES Workspace Manager if the installation was taking a long time, is it!? Anyway, there’s nothing more a user likes than a bit of feedback as to what’s happening.
- Wait for task to finish before continuing is pretty obvious along with Run before other actions; you can’t launch the application if its not installed right?
Now that you have finished with the RES Workspace Manager setup give yourself a good pat on the back and keep your fingers crossed that Configuration Manager continues to play ball! In theory we’re now in a good position to login and launch our application from the shortcut, RES Workspace Manager will determine if the application executable is present and if not it will instruct the Configuration Manager client (CcmExec.exe) to contact the Management Point too deploy and install the application from the Distribution Point. When this magic occurs (as you can see from the screen shot) you’re presented with a very informative message box from RES Workspace Manager, just above the system tray, letting you know that something is happening.
At this point you’re at the mercy of Configuration Manager which can potentially take a while to deploy and install the application. It goes without saying that should this part be successful, the application will launch. You might have noticed from the screenshot above that there weren’t any Configuration Manager notifications and that’s simply because I supressed the notifications. Within the program definition in Configuration Manager (as you can see below) simply check the Suppress program notifications checkbox. In your environment you might want these turned on, I just don’t like too many system tray notifications popping out at the users.
There are a couple of places in RES Workspace Manager that you can look to see when a Configuration Manager task was invoked and the outcome for troubleshooting purposes or just because you’re nosey! The first place too take a look at is the Log tab under the Setup menu select Microsoft System Center…
This gives a good overview of each task invoked. You can also use the Diagnostics > Event Logs to view the outcome per user session as seen here:
Now if for any reason the installation fails you’ll probably need to go and have a chat with the Configuration Manager “guru” (maybe that lucky person is you?) and look at the myriad of Configuration Manager logs to see why it failed.
Some Takeaways (Indian Please :D)
- Using RES Workspace Manager with Configuration Manager allows you to bring Context Awareness to your application deployments and install them Just-in-Time;
- Have a friendly word with your Configuration Manager “guru” before you begin, so he understands why you’re doing this and how it can benefit them too;
- You’ll need the Configuration Manager server details that have the Management Point role installed;
- Make sure you have the details or created an account that has correct Security Role defined in Configuration Manager;
- RES Workspace Manager 2012 SR2 can’t presently integrate with the new Applications feature in Configuration Manager 2012;
- You don’t need to create Deployments/Advertisements or Collections beforehand in Configuration Manager for the integration to work with RES Workspace Manager;
I’ve tried to be as factually correct as possible but I confess that I’m no Configuration Manager “guru.” Please do leave a comment if I’ve got something horribly wrong and I hope you’ve found this blog post useful.