Hi everyone, we start our first in the series on ‘Client Deployment with System Center’, and logically we begin with one of the biggest challenges every customer in the world faces.  Applications.

Organizations are becoming more and more engaged in what is running on client systems , using new tools, adding levels of management control and trying to manage new working styles and locations.  At the same time end users are placing heavier demands on the IT department to support what they need to do their jobs.  From hardware preference, to devices, to the applications that they run.  It might be as thin as a Twitter app, or as robust as a collaboration or productivity tool. 

Applications are a broad space.  There are already over 10,000 Android apps.  There are already over 25,000 Windows mobile apps and over 180,000 iPhone apps.  The Windows division has over 7000 applications in their compatibility database that are actively tracked (and referred to in the local sysmain.sdb) , with an awareness of over 1,000,000 through avenues such as Watson reporting and Online Crash Analysis.  According to market researcher DataMonitor (and linked from Wikipedia), the size of the worldwide software industry in 2008 was US$ 303.8 billion, an increase of 6.5% compared to 2007.   The Americas account for 42.6% of the global software market's value. DataMonitor forecasts that in 2013, the global software market will have a value of US$ 457 billion, an increase of 50.5% since 2008.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Operating System Market Share

One of the biggest challenges in the application management space is ‘what are you running’?  A memorable customer visit with a large bank still sticks to mind.  We worked closely for 6 months to define what an application was for their 180,000 users.  Their first list was 16,000 applications. When the exercise was complete, the number was closer to 2,500.  Not bad for their size, but it was all about defining what an application was. Many organizations have applications through ISVs, like Microsoft.  In addition though, there are local apps, internally written or built by contractors or vendors.  In a nutshell, ‘unclassified’ apps (we are not trying to oversimplify this).  In order to really define what an application is, its also important to consider the delivery mechanism.  All of these numbers grow exponentially when we consider the format of the app.  Full install, virtual, presentation, device or other. 

In order to understand what an application is and where it is installed, it’s important to be aware of what tools are available (eg. here) .  There are several areas of Application Management that we will detail here and in some following posts, and highlight System Center and partner solutions for you to investigate wherever we can.  Here is the topic lineup for Applications, our first part on the series:

  • Inventory/Discovery – Application and Hardware/OS inventory are critical to understand before any Client deployment.  What applications are installed, what apps are actually being used, how many versions of applications are in use and where can standards and consolidation help reduce costs – are key areas for focus.  Often over the life of a client, apps get versioned, updated etc.  The OS as well goes through patch cycles, updates and Service Packs .  All of this adds up to potential variations in the landscape of clients.  To get accurate data, the right tools need to be used.  MAP, SW/HW Inventory, ACT (and it’s connector), SAM and more need to be considered.
  • Compatibility  - Once your organization has the knowledge of what is out there, its time to think about what is actually moved forward (migrated).  Application consolidation, compatibility and standards with the newer OS are important to consider.  Without the right data, or tools, this becomes a massive task to get accomplished. 
  • Packaging – Passing through data of inventory and compatibility takes us to the next step of making packaging decisions.  At this point decisions about what apps will be used, managed, added to SLA and help desk support lists takes us to choices about packaging, shims, formats etc.  Physical, Virtual, Presentation, Device are all formats that can be chosen – there are also others like browser based, hosted (VDI etc).  Again, tools visibility is important, so we will try here to highlight some we integrate with. 
  • Deployment – Its time to deploy the client, and that means apps streamlined into the process. Chaining applications into the deployment of the OS is a strength of System Center, long known as a Software Distribution tool and from ConfigMgr an industry leader in OS Deployment.  By including applications into the OS deployment process, time and cost can be compressed significantly.  In addition, it is important to consider how to get applications distributed in production, outside of the OS deployment, for example from the help desk.  At that stage it is also important to consider Help Desk Tools integration, workflow and approvals management.  Centrally automating some of those activities from a in workflow tool is critical to retaining insight and control to the managed systems.  System Center has significant integration to this production workflow management space, and we will highlight that.
  • Patch – Production management of systems must include a strategy for patch management.  Both the OS and Applications go through a lifecycle of updating, and that requires centralized strategies, tools and workflow for release.   Patching Microsoft products is only a portion of the landscape, so it is also important to highlight 3rd party support.
  • Asset Management – Managing software assets through a lifecycle is equally important.  To centrally provide control and visibility to the assets installed from the perspective of installation, usage and licenses can gain an organization agility, help enforce standards, and reduce costs.  Again, the right tools, the right workflow and the right reporting are key to success.
  • Reporting – By no means is this the last on the list.  Organizations today more than ever need to be dialed in on status, success, compliancy, and SLA management.  Reporting usage, workflows and compliancy are all key areas to helping IT demonstrate their abilities to be agile, responsive and a strategic asset to the organization.  System Center has made significant investments to the area of reporting through dashboards, workflow and status management.  We will highlight these for you. 

Next we will go into these with Tools analysis, interviews and recommendations for you. 

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bio picJeff Wettlaufer 
Sr. Technical Product Manager
System Center

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