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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Solving IT Management and Patch Update Headaches with VMware Go Pro

By: Matt Sarrel

Managing virtual and physical machines requires a number of tasks to be accomplished on an almost daily basis.  One of the most time consuming of these tasks is patch management, which consists of scanning machines for missing patches and deploying those patches in a timely manner.  This is critical because patches fix vulnerabilities in operating systems and applications that can potentially be exploited by hackers and virus writers.  Once a vulnerability is discovered, the race is on to apply the patch before systems can be exploited.  And since vulnerabilities are discovered every day, IT managers can fall into the trap of scrambling to catch up on a daily basis.

Patching was hard enough when we only had to worry about physical machines, but the dramatic rise in the number of virtual machines, and the ability to create and destroy them on the fly, means that now we have to worry about many more overall systems to maintain.  And it’s not just patch management – at this point it has become so easy to install hypervisors and virtual machines that the first step is really simply cataloging all of the systems that need to be patched.  This process is often time consuming and sometimes further complicated by lack of comprehensive support for multiple operating systems and a multitude of third party applications.

VMware Go is a free cloud based product that helps IT managers assess current physical and virtual infrastructure and roll out new VM’s quickly and easily.  VMware Go includes IT Advisor, a guided assessment of your physical and virtual IT infrastructure.  This is a great place to start getting a handle on your infrastructure.

Diving deeper, VMware Go Pro adds patch management for Microsoft OS, Microsoft applications, and third party applications from vendors such as Adobe.  There is extensive third party application support – I was impressed that on my small test network IT Advisor found 231 applications that needed patching.  Scans can be scheduled to run automatically or be launched manually.  After the scan is completed, you get a report that tells you which patches are missing on which machine.  Patches can be sorted by importance or by machine so you know you’re not missing anything important, plus reports can be exported, viewed and filtered in Excel.  Patch deployment can take place automatically or simply by clicking a button.

 

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IT Confessional Series: Virtualize Your SMB IT Environment and Never Miss Another Star Trek Marathon Again!

By: Andy the Angry IT Guy

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts we’ll be running from “Andy,” an anonymous IT administrator working for a mid-sized organization located somewhere in the American Midwest. In his previous post, Andy explored the features of VMware Go’s IT Advisor and why he doesn’t like going to bars, among other topics.

Today, Andy has chosen to share a recent instant message exchange he had with his friend and former colleague Pratik the Petulant IT Guy, who runs IT for a separate mid-sized organization located somewhere in the American Midwest, about the merits of virtualization for small- and mid-sized businesses.

Andy_from_Alderaan: hey pratik

HaxerPrat1k: hey andy

Andy_from_Alderaan: how goes the battle?

HaxerPrat1k: let’s see – ive had to troubleshoot for an outlook error message that has popped up on no less than 8 separate machines so far this morning. and its not even 10am yet.

HaxerPrat1k: oh, and get this… i  also had to help someone from finance get a piece of bread out of his hard drive. no joke, he thought it was a toaster…

Andy_from_Alderaan: lol, i don’t doubt that for a second.

Andy_from_Alderaan: last week, our vp of marketing screamed at me for 10 minutes over the fact that his computer had suddenly, mysteriously crashed

Andy_from_Alderaan: only to eventually realize that he’d dimmed the screen to its lowest resolution, and it had in fact been on the entire time… people sometimes.

Andy_from_Alderaan: anyway, are u still coming over later?? there’s a deep space 9 marathon on starting at 5, and starz is airing the unrated version of swordfish at 10. its like christmas came early this year!

HaxerPrat1k: you know id love to, but i cant. i’m going to be at the office really late tonight – in the middle of a big software update here.

HaxerPrat1k: on that note, i was actually going to ask if you would be able to swing by my house to feed my 6 cats on your way home from work.

HaxerPrat1k: i figure i’ll be here until at least 10 or 11pm tonight, manually checking whether each and every employee has downloaded the new outlook patch.

Andy_from_Alderaan: that sounds brutal pratik, im sorry. of course i can feed your cats though.

HaxerPrat1k: appreciate it. have fun without me tonight 🙁

Andy_from_Alderaan: not to rub it in here, but my office downloaded the same patch last week – and i was home before 6 that day.

HaxerPrat1k: how’d u pull that off??

Andy_from_Alderaan: easy – the entire process was automated!

HaxerPrat1k: o rly?

Andy_from_Alderaan: i know you’ve been skeptical of virtualization in the past, but you’ve really gotta get with the times here!

HaxerPrat1k: this coming from the guy who still wears his ratty “the truth is out there” tshirt like it’s 1997…

Andy_from_Alderaan: that’s an incredibly durable tshirt! i resent your insinuations to the contrary.

HaxerPrat1k: whatever.

HaxerPrat1k: point is, i have a hard justifying an expensive new IT purchase + the associated training necessary to run it properly.

HaxerPrat1k: virtualization is an interesting tech for sure, but i don’t exactly have an army of IT drones to help ensure things run smoothly.

HaxerPrat1k: plus, i have a hard enough time meeting standard SLAs as it is.

Andy_from_Alderaan: have you looked into vmware go pro?

HaxerPrat1k: no

Andy_from_Alderaan: well you should.

Andy_from_Alderaan: it comes in an as-a-service model, but offers the same benefits as virtualization. it automates a TON of deployment, management, and optimization for virtual, physical, and hybrid environments.

Andy_from_Alderaan: including patch updates 🙂

HaxerPrat1k: interesting… automation does sound good, especially as im about to miss ANOTHER deep space 9 marathon because of tedious manual labor.

HaxerPrat1k: what about SLAs though?

Andy_from_Alderaan: it offers proactive recommendations that help reduce downtoime. it’s totally customized to your IT environment, too!

Andy_from_Alderaan: it helps with network scanning, missing patches, and asset management, among other areas.

HaxerPrat1k: that does sound like a good setup – maybe enough to finally convince the boss that virtualization isn’t some evil, Orwellian device of the future.

Andy_from_Alderaan: honestly, i was just as skeptical as you were at first. there’s definitely a difference in considering virtualization for SMBs vs. large enterprises.

Andy_from_Alderaan: but vmware go has an intuitive layout that can be customized to fit the specs of a given (smaller) IT environment. it’s made my life a lot easier, and i’ve barely scratched the surface yet.

Andy_from_Alderaan: it’s just too bad you don’t have it for tonight. i’ll be in trekkie heaven while you’re in IT hell.

HaxerPrat1k: 🙁

HaxerPrat1k: say hello to my 6 cats for me. and enjoy deep space 9 / swordfish marathon.

Andy_from_Alderaan: will do, sorry to miss you tonight! fyi, there’s a star trek next generation marathon next week –  so you should have more than enough time to deploy vmware go in the meantime 🙂

Meet the VMware Go IT Advisor, Your New Best Friend (or Wingman)

By: Andy the Angry IT Guy

Editor’s note: This is the second post from “Andy,” an anonymous IT administrator working for a mid-sized organization located somewhere in the American Midwest. When we last left Andy, he had just deployed VMware Go Pro and was describing its main features – as well as bemoaning his inability to make eye contact with Liz from accounts receivable.

Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have once said, “In this world, nothing can be certain but death and taxes.”

I’d like to add an addendum to that quote: nothing can be certain but death, taxes, and IT admins wearily facing a thankless mob of employees with an endless list of demands on a daily basis—most of which could be nullified if they had simply listened to you the first 30 times you reminded them to install that new software patch!

It’s the constant lament of the IT admin; there are simply not enough hours in the day to keep track of – let alone meet – the list of issues that employees in a given organization face. Like most folks in charge of IT shops for smaller organizations that lack the resources to employ an army of IT admins (I’m looking at you, Fortune 500 companies…), I feel like I’m largely on my own most of the time.

Enter IT Advisor from VMware Go Pro, the closest thing I’ve had to a friend, or better yet, wingman – I’ll elaborate on that shortly – in running my IT infrastructure. IT Advisor is a central feature of VMware Go Pro: it’s an intelligent central management console that proactively provides recommendations that are tailored specifically to my IT environment.

When I deployed VMware Go Pro, IT Advisor ran a comprehensive assessment of both my physical and virtual environments to ensure it fully understood the realities, tendencies, and trends of my IT infrastructure. From there, it’s been able to feed me an extremely useful stream of information that’s suited to my exact situation.

IT Advisor does this by providing tips and tricks to better manage my physical and virtual environments – which is particularly useful for me, as I’m just getting into virtualization in the first place. It also offers recommendations on managing hardware, software devices, patch and security management, and implementing an easy help desk – as well as updates on new product information and patch coverage for Microsoft and other third party software.

What’s more, it can view the average number of missing patches per machine, so that I don’t have to. It’s definitely providing me some serious relief in some of the most tedious tasks I have to handle on a daily basis.

Are you following me here? No?

OK, picture this:

It’s been a long week and you’re out at a bar with your best friend to unwind. Let’s say you catch the eye of a stranger from across the bar, and they motion for you to come over and talk to them. You, fueled by excitement at the prospect of chatting up an attractive stranger, begin to walk towards her when your trusted best friend, who magically seems to know the situation better than you do, puts their hand on your shoulder and offers a few pearls of wisdom before you depart:

“Do you have any idea what you’re going to say to her – or are you just planning to blindly charge into this with no real plan of attack? Did you notice she’s got a Longchamp bag? Of course you didn’t! Maybe she likes shopping. Maybe she got that bag at their flagship store in Paris – which means she must like traveling too! You should tell her about the summer you spent backpacking around Southern Europe…”

Unfortunately, I don’t have that friend. And I’ve never been to Southern Europe – which a real best friend would know in the first place. There’s a reason I don’t go out to bars.

But, as I said, I do have IT Advisor from VMware Go Pro. It’s like the friend in the aforementioned scenario—it understands the situation I’m in, usually better than I do, and it provides proactive recommendations to ensure that I’m doing everything I need to do to thrive in a given environment – virtual or physical.

Before I troubleshoot for a given employee, for instance, it can remind me that they’ve yet to install a needed security patch that I flagged over two weeks ago – which likely would have prevented that malicious Trojan file in the first place.

I won’t go so far as to call IT Advisor a magic bullet – until it’s able to tell Kathy from finance why her laptop won’t turn on (answer: it lacks a hard drive), my headaches will continue. But, it’s an incredibly effective tool for keeping me up to speed on the latest virtualization tips and tricks and automates critical (and tedious) functions like patch management. It really is the ultimate IT wingman.

IT Confessional Series: My Boss Thinks I’m an IT Genius — and I’m Not Complaining

By: Andy the Angry IT Guy

Editor’s note: This will be the first in a series of posts from “Andy” – an anonymous, angry IT administrator from a mid-sized organization located somewhere in the American Midwest. Andy recently deployed VMware Go Pro, and he’ll be using this space to rant and rave about his dealings with the product, as well as the trials and travails he faces working with his less-than-IT-savvy colleagues on a daily basis.

Kermit the Frog once famously uttered, “It ain’t easy being green.”

Kermit, if you think “green” is bad, try being an IT admin for a day. I’m responsible for the continued computing welfare of my entire company – which is almost 300 people strong. There’s never a dull moment: when one scan ends, another begins; when one patch is finally downloaded by the stragglers who couldn’t care less about patches (every company has these), the next version becomes available; and so on. And that’s not to mention the hours spent dealing with people like this.

To say that running the IT shop for several hundred employees is a bit stressful is an understatement of the grandest proportions. People are always demanding more, always asking me why this doesn’t turn on (“did you plug it in?”), why that is flashing (“did you restart it?”) — it never ends.

Generally speaking, any day that doesn’t end in tears goes down as a good day for me. Until recently, that is. Several weeks ago, everything changed: down became up, left became right, all thanks to a click of the mouse. I deployed VMware Go Pro, and life hasn’t been the same since. My boss thinks I’m a “genius” and Liz, the cute girl from accounts receivable who had previously begrudged me because her hard drive crashed three years ago, even smiled at me the other day!

You wouldn’t believe how simple VMware Go Pro is. I’m able to automate tedious, time-sucking tasks like patch and license management and actually spend time troubleshooting IT issues with employees. Here are just a couple of features you can get from VMware Go Pro:

  • IT Advisor – It’s a simplified management console that works in physical and virtual environments alike. It allows you to run comprehensive assessments of any environment and provides recommendations on virtualization, managing hardware, and software devices – as well as implementing an easy help desk. IT Advisor is delivered as a service, which means I can access it anywhere, anytime – at the office, on a plane, even at my girlfriend’s (OK…mom’s) house!
  • vSphere Hypervisor – Virtualization is more than just a fad – larger IT shops have embraced it fully, and it’s starting to pop up in smaller organizations as well. It’s easy to install – VMware Go Pro support includes a straightforward, step-by-step guide – and it allows you to reduce server costs by a factor of 10. What’s more, once you’re up and running, creating more VMs is a snap, as is migrating physical machines (and saving your boss even more money on server costs!). Why not be the genius that suggests that cost savings mechanism to your boss by deploying vSphere? Trust me, it works. VMware Go Pro includes useful tutorials on how to remotely install, maintain, and manage virtual machines in your infrastructure.
  • Automated Patch Management – This tool is specifically designed for SMBs and allows you to automatically scan both physical and virtual machines for missing patches for Microsoft OS and applications – as well as other vendors, like Adobe. You can easily view and sort missing patches, which drastically streamlines one of the most tedious processes for most IT folks today. On top of that, you can schedule patching for specific times – even if it’s a third party patch.
  • Automated Software License Management – Similar to the automated patch management feature, this allows you to automate the process of scanning individual machines to ensure all software is up to date. As if that’s not enough, it’s also caused me to stop pulling my hair out quite so aggressively.
  • Hardware Asset Management – This allows you to track what machines exist as well as their configuration, cost, and service history for much deeper, on-demand visibility into your IT infrastructure. You can scan for details like CPU info, memory, and hardware description, among other features. It also allows you to track asset modifications using change history to ensure accurate representation of the asset and its service history.
  • Trouble Ticket Management – Ah, troubleshooting. I referenced it above, but it’s worth underscoring how VMware Go Pro has changed this process. It enables me to manage tickets by due date, priority level, or workflow status – ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. It also provides automatic email notifications that alert users when their ticket has been modified – which has done wonders for my email inbox!

I feel like I should tell them the truth about this apparent spike in IT productivity. I’m pretty sure my boss thinks I’ve been discretely sub-contracting my work out to get so much done in such a small window. Either way, he’s not complaining. And neither is Liz from accounts receivable.

Do yourself a favor and try VMware Go Pro – you won’t be disappointed. What’s more, you can try it for free! What’s the risk? Register here.