Who uses this application? How often are they using it? Are we getting business value out of the licensing we purchased? Is our licensing right-sized for our usage or environment? How do we effectively track application usage in the era of non-persistent virtual desktops with per-user application layers?
These are common questions that the business asks when planning for an end-user computing environment, when planning to add licenses, or when maintenance and support are up for renewal. They aren’t easy questions to answer either, and while IT can usually see where applications are installed, it’s not always easy to see who is using them and how often they are being used.
The non-persistent virtual desktop world also has it’s own challenges. The information required to effectively troubleshoot problems and issues is lost the minute the user logs out of the desktop.
Most tools that cover the application licensing compliance and monitoring space are difficult to set up and use.
I ran into StacksWare in the emerging vendors section at last year’s VMworld, and their goal is to address these challenges. Their goal is to provide an easy-to-use tool that provides real-time insight into the The company was started as a research project at Stanford University that was sponsored by Sanjay Poonen of VMware, and it has received $2 million in venture capital funding from Greylock and Lightspeed.
StacksWare is a cloud-based application that uses an on-premises virtual appliance to track endpoints, users, and applications. The on-premises portion integrates with vSphere and Active Directory to retrieve information about the environment, and data is presented in a cloud-based web interface.
It offers an HTML5 interface with graphs that update in real-time. The interface is both fast and attractive, and it does not offer a lot of clutter or distraction. It’s very well organized as well, and the layout makes it easy to find the information that you’re looking for quickly.
Caption: The StacksWare main menu located on the left side of the interface.
Caption: Application statistics for a user account in my lab.
Caption: Application list and usage statistics.
StacksWare can track both individual application usage and application suite usage. So rather than having to compile the list of users who are using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint individually, you can track usage by the version of the Microsoft Office Suite that you have installed. You can also assign license counts, licensing type, and costs associated with licensing. StacksWare can track this information and generate licensing reports that can be used for compliance or budgetary planning.
Caption: The license management screen
One thing I like about StacksWare’s on-premises appliance is that it is built on Docker. Upgrading the code on the local appliance is as simple as rebooting it, and it will download and install any updated containers as part of the bootup process. This simplifies the updating process and ensures that customers get access to the latest code without any major hassles.
One other nice feature of StacksWare is the ability to track sessions and activity within sessions. StacksWare can show me what applications I’m launching and when I am launching them in my VDI session.
Caption: Application details for a user session.
For more information on StacksWare, you can check out their website at www.stacksware.com. You can also see some of their newer features in action over at this YouTube video. StacksWare will also be at BriForum and VMworld this year, and you can check them out in the vendor solutions area.