The Pillars of PCaaS: Part 1 “Self-Healing”

5-pillars-65431331-ss-1920As organizations pivot towards an end-to-end workplace transformation–specifically enabling a predictable, precise, and repeatable PC lifecycle –they are finding that a PC as a service model is supported by 2 mission-critical pillars–Zero Touch and Self-Healing.

The one ingredient that forms the connective tissue throughout both pillars– and therefore the key to successful transformation–is automation.

In terms of self-healing we are addressing automations that support the continuous integrity of the PC as it travels through the lifecycle.– incident management and support , optimization, and authorized and controlled evolution of the compute environment.

And from a strategic vision perspective-automations enabled by our pillars have a direct and positive affect on the Total Economic impact– a measurable ROI combined with a reduced TCO. We’ll show you this through a blend of best practice automation processes, better maintained infrastructure and more focused IT resources and work force.

Now, of the many business and technological benefits Utopic’s Persystent Suite offers, none seem as impactful as the ability to self-heal an affected PC and return it to a productive state in about 45 seconds–the time it takes to reboot the machine.

Our live demos prove that this can be done–especially when we infect a healthy machine with ransomware and self-heal it as if the issue never occurred. But how? Is this solution different than a reimaging or a rollback to a Day Zero state? And how is this tied in to a larger automation initiative of the PC lifecycle.

Let’s start with why a PC needs to self-heal. Even though our demo illustrates the most catastrophic issues, the need to self-heal is not always a four-alarm emergency… sometimes it’s simply an issue of poor performance or mis-configuration. The PC is inexplicably running slow or an application or the OS didn’t update or load in the expected way. There are dozens of seemingly routine issues that would typically require the time to diagnose, replicate and repair. Persystent Suite simply flips this concept around: get the user back up and running immediately; resolve the support ticket in minutes and then, when time allows, review the change logs and identify root causes in order to prevent future occurrences.

And it’s all about automation. From an enterprise perspective there’s  lot to unpack here, so let’s start with the basics. Self-healing starts with the ideal state. As covered in Part 1, zero touch automation helps define and configure the policies and compliances that make up this approved template of the operating landscape. This is the image each PC must maintain and that IT can easily replicate and control across the enterprise

Simply, Self-healing automatically reverts a PC back to its last known ideal state. This is not a rollback. With rollbacks you lose all the prior updates and often times the applications and data. Self-healing, conversely, returns you to the last updated and approved state…with all the latest sanctioned changes, updates and patches still in place. This means no re-imaging. This means no starting from scratch.

We can validate the speed of the self-healing automations since it is only the changed files that are affected. In the case of corrective action, files that don’t exactly match the approved state are repaired and restored. The same concept is true when applying authorized updates…except in reverse. It is only the targeted approved changes supplant the previous iteration to the snapshot.

So what happens is when self-healing is necessary, IT can remotely reboot the device on demand. The PC will shut down as it typically does, and during the pre-boot process, right after BIOS loads and before the OS executes, Persystent Suite applies the last known approved state. This takes roughly 45 seconds or the time it takes the device to reboot.  In this scenario the user returns to productivity in near real time without losing their data, their applications or their profiles. To the user, it’s if the issue never occurred.

And that objective underscores a key strategy for practically every company: Keep users working towards company goals without having to lose time or data.  No waiting hours to get a PC diagnosed and repaired; no sending the device off to IT and waiting to get a replacement; no ambiguity on whether the issue has been satisfactorily resolved. And this works no matter how corrupted or damaged the hard drive is.

This prompts several questions.

How does the image stay updated? One of the proprietary automations within Persystent is the capability to schedule routine updates to the state with a new snapshot that is maintained on the device itself.

Periodically IT needs to make changes to the image. Whether we are talking “Patch Tuesday” or semi-regular application updates or any other authorized change blessed by IT , you need an easy way to ensure each PC gets the update…therefore when a PC is self-healed, the last image is the most up to date approved version.  The problem with a non-automated approach is oftentimes the patches and updates fail, applied inconsistently and/or take way too long to apply.

Because of Persystent’s proprietary file-based automations, the administrator only need to update the golden image.  Our process works in that the image is refreshed back to the ideal state, then the new changes are applied and tested before distribution. As the new ideal image proliferates across the enterprise, it only applies the changes to the a new highly compressed snapshot that exists on each device. That’s why it is fast, efficient and highly successful on the first attempt. And the changes can be applied on or off the network. Utilizing this process, IT can schedule regular updates so that the images are current and authorized. And applying this same self-healing automation process, the user gets the updates the next time they boot up their device. Now the next time a user calls with a break/fix issue, it is the latest version that gets reapplied without the symptoms that caused their concern to begin with.

And, If IT wishes to regress back to an earlier image, Persystent maintains up to 20 previous images. There’s simply never a need to reimage a box.

Getting a user back up and running quickly is great, but I still  need to know what happened?

After the self-healing cycle completes, Persystent automatically provides a change report that details all the changes made to the desired state so IT can analyze and pinpoint the root causes that created the situation. You can easily compare the ideal state against the corrupted state and see down to the file level what changed or what was affected. With major breaches such as viruses or malware up to up to 2-3000 individual files including registry having been changed, this approach is comprehensive enough to not only help identify root causes, but to provide the necessary documentation to facilitate compliance.  We don’t say that Persystent is a security solution, as it does not prevent issues from happening, but it does remove the causes or unsanctioned changes that allow them to proliferate and create headaches. By applying an ideal state,  you demonstrate a control over the change management landscape as dictated by multiple compliance agencies.

Does self-healing only occur during an IT-initiated reboot? No. Persystent promotes either on demand or automatic self-healing based on the individual companies need and policies. It offers multiple levels of repair that can be applied based on the situation. For example, organizations that deploy multi-user PCs such as in colleges, labs, libraries or kiosks, having the PC self-heal  every time the PC reboots is the applied best practice… simply because you can’t predict what any individual user has done and IT must maintain a fresh baseline.  Yet, for most companies we suggest that IT retain the ability to self-heal only when needed–a break/fix support call, patching optimizations –this remote, on-demand application allows for the necessary support tickets be created, but also document when corrective action for compliance reporting.

I use SCCM or WSUS. The good news is that Persystent integrates with these solutions. And because this is an important consideration, we will dedicate a video to this subject that shows that Persystent is  complimentary with SCCM and WSUS…and it can be integrated into any ITSM/ITIL solution such as LanDesk (Ivanti) Tivoli, Dell Kase, etc…

Overall, Utopic recognizes the desire is to keep the technology current, but reduce infrastructure complexity and meet the unique needs of the enterprise. However, many IT organizations are struggling to find the right balance between maintaining mission-critical systems and implementing new innovation for the business.  To keep pace with evolving workspace transformation goals, companies face challenges to adjust strategic processes and manage infrastructure changes which directly impact the ability to increase profitability and gain a competitive advantage by reducing time to market, minimizing the complexity of change management and limiting support costs.

And that’s where the automations provided by Persystent Suite make a huge difference. In the end self-healing not only simplifies repair and recovery but creates a undeniable combination of ROI and TCO into a net effect or Total Economic Impact. In terms of TCO, your cost per device goes down;  your year over year cost to manage the fleet is reduced. This is demonstrable in that automations and self-healing remove hurdles to compute availability, remove inefficiencies and irregularities, reduce the time and resources necessary to maintain and optimize,  and expand the operational lifespan of devices. In the ROI chart we’re showing, you can see from a labor perspective the reduction in incidents, lack of repeat occurrences and the resolution speed significantly reduces IT resources.

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