Altiris Task Server Best Practices - Part 4: Creating and Managing Tasks
If you've been following along, you've planned for, installed, and configured your task server. Now it's time to create some tasks! This will be where the bulk of your time is spent.
Creating a Task
To create a Client or Server Task, open the Notification Server Console and go to the Task Management page. In the right-hand pane tree view, open Tasks and Jobs, and right-click Client Tasks and select New > Task/Job. The Create a New Task dialog appears and provides several task options that you can create. We are going to create an Altiris Agent Control Task. Select "Altiris Agent Control Task", and then mark "Send Basic Inventory". Click "OK"
This creates the task, and places it in the Client Tasks folder. Our next options are:
- Create a schedule that this Task can run on or,
- Run it immediately using the "Run Now" option or,
- Edit the Task. (We won't do this since we just created it)
Creating a Schedule for the Task
If you want this task to run on a schedule, select the "Create Schedule" button. It will bring up the Schedule a Task dialog box, shown in Figure 1 below, which provides the following configuration options for putting your new task on a schedule. The options are:
- Name - Name the Schedule
- Description - Provide a useful description for this scheduled task
- Task to run: This is provided for you and is the name of the Task you just created.
Figure 1 - Creating a Schedule for the Task
- Schedule time: The dropdown and configuration options here allow you to use either a shared schedule from the notification server, or it allows you to configure a custom schedule to meet your requirements.
- Task Input: Computers: Lastly you will want to provide the machines you want this scheduled task to operate on. By selecting the "Select computers" option you see the screen in Figure 2. There are 3 different ways to get the computers selected that you want to apply the policy to:
- You can click the "+" to select a highlighted collection
- Build a new collection using the "New Collection" button
- Highlight a collection and, using the Computers column, select a specific machine
The machines and/or selected computers will appear in the Selected items: column.
- Click OK to complete machine selection
Figure 2 - Task Schedule Collection Picker
- When the scheduled time arrives, the task will run.
Using "Run Now"
Using the "Run Now" option is a way for you to start a task immediately. This allows a task of your choice to start immediately.
Figure 3 - The "Run Now" Option
When you select the "Run Now" option, under the "Run Information" heading, in the "Task to run:" it displays the name of the task to be run, in our case the "Altiris Agent Control Task". You then have the following steps:
- Choose and enter a choice for "Run name:" Here you can enter a familiar name that will allow you to identify the use of this task for this particular session or run. Figure 4 shows this location. Enter something distinct here to identify this run of the task.
Figure 4 - Run Name and Task Input
- The next section of the Run Task screen is the Task Input section. This is where you select the collection of computers, or the specific computer that you would like this task to be applied to. This choice becomes the data for the task to operate on, or the "Task Input"
- When you pick the "Select Computers" option, a new window is opened, providing you the same choices as used in the scheduled task option. By selecting the "Select computers" option you see the screen in Figure 5. There are 3 different ways to get the computers selected that you want to apply the policy to:
- a. You can click the "+" to select a highlighted collection
- b. Build a new collection using the "New Collection" button
- c. Highlight a collection and, using the Computers column, select a specific machine
The machines and/or selected computers will appear in the Selected items: column.
Figure 5 - Selecting Collections and Computers
- Click OK to complete collection or machine selection.
- You are then returned to the main "Run Now" screen, where you can select the "Run Now" button at the bottom of the page.
- This returns you back to the main Task page, where you should now note that the "Task Status" has now changed. See Figure 6.
Figure 6-Task Status Change
Monitoring Your Tasks
Now that we have a task running, we would like to know how the task is doing. Task Server provides information about the various runs of the task. We can track when the task run started, who started it, a summary of the number of resources (computers) targeted, and percentages that have completed successful and failed, respectively.
To monitor the task, you first should concentrate on the Task Status portion of the Task. This is found in the lower half of the right window, as shown in Figure 7. Let's look at the toolbar options and information provided here.
Figure 7 - Task Status Options
- Refresh - Selecting this button refreshes all of the Task Status information for each run of the task.
- Details - When a task run name is selected, choosing this button brings up the Client Task Instances dialog window, as shown in Figure 8. This window gives a variety of details on the run of that particular task:
- How many computers have successfully received the task
- How many are running it
- Start time
- Identifies the user who started the task
- Percentage of computers completing the task
- Number not starting the task
- Number and percentage of computers successfully having running the task
- Number and percentage of computers that have failed to run the task
Note that you have similar toolbar options as shown on the previous screen. You can select Refresh Summary, in the upper left to update this view as time passes. Below the summary section, the toolbar has some familiar buttons. You can use the button, Refresh All, to refresh status, or highlight a particular computer, if there are more than one listed, or use the Details button to check the individual status for each machine. The Delete key here can be used to remove a particular computer from this run of this task. Lastly, you can change the view to show a particular number of computers in this list, or use the Search option to find a particular computer.
- Delete - If you have a particular Run Name for a task highlighted and do not want it to complete, you can select this option and it will delete that running entry.
- Run Filter - If you have a particular Run Name for a task highlighted and do not want it to complete, you can select this option and it will delete that running entry.
Figure 8 - Client Task Instances Information
These options allow you to monitor your task, and provide some editing of the task, in terms of deleting specific runs, or even deleting resources (computers) from a particular run. We will now look at the generic editing of a task.
Editing the Task
Figure 9 shows us the screen to edit a task. By highlighting the client task we wish to edit in the left tree view, and then selecting the edit icon, we can change the configuration of the task, with similar options available as when creating the task.
As this changes from task to task, no specific details will be provided here.
Figure 9 - The Edit Task Icon
Sample Tasks Provided by Altiris Task Server
The following are the sample tasks that are provided by Altiris Task Server. Other tasks are added and become available when you install other Altiris Solutions that have tasks. Figure 10 shows the Client Sample Tasks.
Client Sample Tasks
Each of the sample client tasks fall into the following categories:
- Power Control - Allows power control options for client computers. - Restart
- Service Control - Starts, stops, restarts, pauses, resumes, and gets status on Windows services. For example: You can stop and start the Altiris Agent service on one or more client computers. -Restart Altiris Agent
Figure 10 - Client Task Samples
Server Task Samples
There are a few server task samples that let display how you run SQL scripts directly thru Task Server. They are displayed in Figure 11
- Purge Tasks Older Than 1 Week
- Sample SQL Query that Creates a Computer List - Very simple - "Select ResourceGuid from ClientTaskResources"
- Select Primary Machine for User - This collects user information and outputs a computer list.
Figure 11 - Server Task Samples
Best Practices: Creating and Managing Tasks
Best practices for creating and managing tasks are highly dependent on your application of Task Server in your environment, and will vary with time.
- Create tasks that can be used as tools in jobs.
- Create tasks that solve simple problems. Jobs will address the complex ones.
- Have a plan for what you want the tasks to do, prior to creation
- Have a test environment, where you can evaluate the impacts of the tasks
When using Task Server Tasks, it is recommended to NOT use Task Server Tasks to upgrade, or reinstall the root Altiris Agent itself. Understanding the technology should help you to understand that the Altiris Agent is the transport for Task Server Tasks. Therefore, in any upgrade or reinstall procedure, the Client Task Agent will need to stop and restart the Altiris Agent Service in order to accommodate loading the Altiris Agent. Since the service stop and restart cannot be tracked by the Altiris Agent, or the Task Server agent, the service ends up in a continual loop, until you go the Task Server that sent the Task, and delete the Task. The agent re-installation or upgrade usually has been successful, but the agent keeps restarting and no additional agent functions can take place.