Application Metering - Part 1
Recently I have been flooded with frustrated calls from my users. They are all complaining that their computers are running really slow. Before I checked their computers I developed a plan. I decided to remove the "extra" software that seems to creep on to their computers, run a virus scan, and defrag the hard drive. I noticed that on many computers that "extra" software seemed to creep its way in. This software caused the computer to slow down, caused annoying popups, and were security problems. I also found that some people had software that I was unaware of. I decided that I need to have a little better feel of what was going on in my environment. Application Metering has helped me keep better tabs on the computers I manage. In this article I will talk about the benefits of Application Metering and how to configure this great solution.
Here are some incredible Application Metering resources I found:
- Video: Altiris Application Metering Basics (thanks Screenbert)
- Application Metering Documentation
- Application Metering Release Notes
Application Metering does several different important things for the weary system admins. Here are the tools that Application Metering add to the table:
- Software Discovery: When it comes right down to it, we only really know what software we install on the computer. End users have the knack for installing random software. When Application Metering is configured correctly, every new piece of software that ends up on the computer is reported back. This feature has given me a much better feel of what is going on in my environment. Think about it, every piece of software that is installed is reported back to my Notification Server. That means that I can help avoid problems, or give people software that they actually need.
- Software Usage Tracking: With this solution you can actually track how much software is being used. You can track it by CPU utilization, memory usage, usage by computer, etc. This packs a big punch when budget time comes around. I am pretty sure that your boss will be impressed that you can back your purchase requests with solid numbers. Now that you can track how much software is used, you can get Photoshop away from the user that uses it once every three months. Or, if your users are complaining about not having enough copies of Quickbooks Pro,
you can verify their complaints.
- Software Blocking: With Application Metering you can block applications from running. Using information that is specific to each piece of software, you can create a policy to prevent the software from running. Other solutions are easy to bypass, all you have to do is change the EXE name (for example: if run.exe is blocked the user could change it to r.exe and the software would run). This is not the case with Application Metering. The user can change the name all they want, and it will not run. You can also block a program (let's say solitaire) during the day - from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but allow it to be run after 5:00 PM. Let me tell you, it is real nice to know that malicious software cannot be run.
- Software Reporting: Like any Notification Server plug-in product, there is some really nice reporting built right in to Application Metering. The reports allow you to see what software is installed, how much that software is used, software trends, and more. With all of these useful reports at your fingertips you will impress your boss and save yourself a ton of time.
Software is the reason that we all use computers. Having the right software on a computer saves time and money. But, software is a two edged sword. There is good software, bad software, and software that is used to waste time. Application Metering helps you keep track of the good software, blocks the bad and time wasting software, and generates tons of reports to make managing computers a snap.
The first thing that we need to is get Application Metering installed. Here is how you do it:
- Open your Altiris Console 6.5
- Go to Configure >> Solution Center
- Under the "Available Solutions" tab you will be able to see a "Solutions" button, click on that button
- Look at the list and find the link titled "Altiris Application Metering Solution", and click on it
- A new window will appear with all of the components that you need to install will appear. Review the updates/new installs and click the "Start" button to proceed
It may take a few minutes for everything to install. And, you might want to give your server a reboot just for good measure.
Now the solution is installed, you can find it by doing the following:
- Open the Altiris Console 6.5
- Go to: View >> Solutions >> Application Metering
The first thing that we need to: Application Metering >> Config >> Application
Before I go into how I configure Application Metering, I should probably explain a little bit about my environment. Most of the computers that I manage are in classrooms. They also have security software that protects the computer. Every time the computer is rebooted it returns the computer back to a previous state. Because of this security software, I configure Application Metering slightly different than you may.
With that out of the way, let's get started. Here are the few things I like to configure:
- Purge events older than - I make sure that this is checked and that it purges events older than 30 days. If you have a large environment, you may want to purge more often.
- Purge reports older than - I make sure that this is checked and that it purges reports older than 30 days. I have a custom report generated every day. Those really add up (especially with all of the random software that people install on computers).
- Purge when older than - I set this to 1 month.
- Clients send summary data every - I set this to 1 day. If you have a larger environment you may want this to set this to send less often.
Inventory Solution Integration:
- I select "Client based Inventory Solution". There is no sense in duplicating information, so I let inventory solution keep track of everything.\
When you are all done, make sure you press the "Apply" button.
Here is a picture of my configured screen:
Now we need to turn on a few policies. Here is how you do it:
Application Monitor Configuration:
- Go to Application Metering >> Policies >> All Applications
- Click the check box next to "Enable"
- Click the "Apply" button
- Now, click on the link next to "Applies to collections" and select what collections you want to monitor
Newly Discovered Applications Policy:
- Go to Application Metering >> Policies >> Notification Policies
- Right click on the "Notification Policies" folder and go to New >> Notification Policy
- A new policy will appear, it will be titled "New Notification Policy". Click on that policy
- In the right pane you will see the policy
- Click on the check box next to "Enable"
- Name the policy something like "New Software"
- Now we need to choose a report to run (so this policy is actually useful). Click on the "Select a report" link
- A new window will appear, do the following: Go to Reports >> Software Management >> Application Metering >> Application Discovery >> Newly Discovered Applications
- Click the "Apply" button to continue
- Now, in the drop down next to "Enable Schedule" I selected "Custom Schedule"
- A link titled "Custom Schedule" will appear under that drop down menu, if you click this you can choose a custom schedule
- I decided that I wanted this report to run every day at 4:00 PM (because of the security software I mentioned earlier)
Click the "OK" button once you have configured your custom schedule
- Now, choose "Report Automated Action" in the drop down menu next to "Add action type" and click the "Add" button
- A new window will appear. Give this report a name, description, select a report (like we did above), and check the "enable e-mail sending"
- Fill out your email information
And click the "OK" button
- Now, click the "Apply" button to enable this policy. Here is what it looks like:
We now have Application Metering up and running. There are still a few more things that we need to do before it will actually start collection useful data for us. I will talk about those things in the next article.