Login Consultants releases a massive framework that can automate pretty much everything. Oh, and it's free. - Brian Madden - BrianMadden.com
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Login Consultants releases a massive framework that can automate pretty much everything. Oh, and it's free.

Written on Aug 05 2007
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20,063 views, 15 comments


by Brian Madden

Today is the day that Jeroen van de Kamp's new baby is being shown to the world. Many of you know Jeroen as the guy behind the "Flex Profile Kit." When I was visiting Amsterdam last November, Jeroen spent a few hours with me (and Emily.. poor poor Emily) explaining this automation framework they created at Login Consultants.

It's called the Solution4 Framework (or "S4 Framework" for short), and it's basically a huge set of scripts, scripts, tools, and more scripts that you can use to completely manage your Terminal Server or Citrix Presentation Server farm.

The whole S4 Framework concept is massive (and massively confusing). Let me try to explain it like this: Those of you who are familiar with Flex Profiles know how they work. Flex Profiles are more-or-less scripts that specify what user registry keys get saved centrally when a user logs off. Another script runs at logon that puts those keys back. The Flex Profile "Kit" is just a ZIP file with some sample scripts and some utilities to make it all work.

Now imagine the Flex Profile Kit concept, except applied to EVERYTHING instead of just profiles. This is what the S4 Framework is. You can use it to manage user profiles, application and EXE security, application publishing, the user desktop, the installation and configuration of Presentation Server, application installation and configuration, CMC settings, group policies, server maintenance, etc.

Oh, and by the way, S4 logs everything to a massive change log.

And oh, by the way again, there is a documentation script that will create a Word document that shows exactly how your entire environment is configured.

Seriously, in my nine years as a Citrix consultant, this is the single coolest free thing that I've ever seen. (It's also the most complex, scariest, and daunting thing I've ever seen.)

The S4 Framework is really meant for gearhead-type super-geeky Citrix admins who like to script everything. Essentially it's a massive collection of scripts that not only handle login and logoff, but that also handle server configuration. The idea is that if you bring a new server into your environment, you just change a few INI files in your central repository, run a configuration script on that new server, and stand back as the server is configured and brought into the environment. (And of course this is all written to the change log and the Word documentation is updated so that you can be fired and easily replaced by an intern making half your salary.) If you want to make a change to your environment, again you change some INI files in the central repository and stand back.

There are also scripts that run periodically on the servers and startup and shutdown scripts that ensure all of your servers are consistent.

This thing is completely modular. You can choose to use little bits of it or to use the whole thing. There's a library of about 70 "resource" scripts that you can call to easily and almost instantly create your own scripts to do whatever you want. (They even have a script "factory" you can use to create your own template scripts that will fall into the S4 management framework in terms of logging and documentation.)

It's hard to describe everything that this Framework can do and how it works. I can leave you with a few thoughts though:

First of all, this is not something that you can just download and click, click, click. Plan on spending a few solid days with it to understand it, and probably several more days or weeks wiring it up in your environment.

Second, you have to be a good admin in order to use this. It's going to require scripting and reading and patience and testing and generally time spent figuring it out.

If you're interesting and want to move forward, I suggest this plan of action:

  1. Jeroen and Dennis Damen recorded a 37-minute video that explains more about the S4 Framework. The first nine minutes are a PPT overview of the whole concept, and the final 30 minutes or so are a hands-on walkthrough of how it all works. Watch this video first.
  2. If you still like this concept after the video, then download the ZIP file that makes up the toolkit. Read through the documentation and look at the sample files.
  3. Take a look at the S4 Framework forum at Login Consultants website to talk to other people crazy/brave/cool enough to go down this path.
  4. Share your feedback and thoughts in the comments of this article.

The bottom line is that this framework is not for everyone. If you don't like to script, or if you want a fast solution, then look somewhere else. But if you're looking for a way to truly and automatically manage and maintain your environment, and if you want many "best practices" built right in, then it's worth considering.

I'll reiterate that I'm simultaneously scared and excited about this framework. I'm not sure that I want to blindly recommend it to everyone, but I really think this can can be a major game-changer for a lot of environments.

 
 




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Comments

Jeroen van de Kamp wrote Just a couple of comments
on Mon, Aug 6 2007 4:39 AM Link To This Comment

This is not my baby, it is our baby. :-) Dennis Damen has put a lot of effort in this and is the primary drive behind Solution4. Basically everyone within Login Consultants has contributed.

To make life easier, we have compiled instruction videos: these can be directly downloaded from http://loginfiles.com/S4FCE/S4FCE-instruction-videos.zip

Expect addictional videos to be released in the future.

Guest wrote Wow.
on Mon, Aug 6 2007 5:00 AM Link To This Comment
Thank you very much for this.  You guys always give out great tools.
David Caddick wrote Awesome
on Mon, Aug 6 2007 8:06 AM Link To This Comment
It's always fantastic to see this kind of functionality becoming available - great job and massive kudos to all at Login Consultants
Rick Dehlinger wrote Bringing up the bar once again...
on Tue, Aug 7 2007 12:55 AM Link To This Comment

I'm very happy to see you guys launch this project!  I'd congratulate you, but we're the ones who are winning. With the freeware release of S4, you’re introducing the application delivery community to the power of an automation framework behind the entire system, not just the task. S4 is as Brian says – MASSIVE – but any organization who’s able to use even 10% of it will realize that adaptability to change is a very reachable goal.

My hat is off to Jeroen, Dennis, and the gang for stepping up and sharing. Much appreciated!

RickD

Kjetil Ermesjo wrote Re: Just a couple of comments
on Tue, Aug 7 2007 1:46 AM Link To This Comment

Hi Jeroen, Dennis and the rest of the Login Team !

Congratulations on this massive release to the world !! Just wondering if you have seen any issues regarding performance when applying the full framework of S4 ? Will the log or any other part of the solution demand additionl resources such as memory, cpu og network bandwith ?

Satch wrote Right on time
on Tue, Aug 7 2007 5:35 AM Link To This Comment
This is awesome! I was about to deploy a large farm and automation was a must. I'll spend this afternoon watching your instructional videos (such a cool idea too!). Thanks everyone for such interesting technology!
Jeroen van de Kamp wrote Re: Re: Just a couple of comments
on Tue, Aug 7 2007 6:28 AM Link To This Comment

Logon/Logoff is a somewhat heavy process (it includes Flex), which will typically take 5 - 15 seconds, depending on the amount of applications a user is authenticated for. If you want to speed up the Logon process, have a look at AppSense Environment Manager or RES PowerFuse.

Logging in The S4 Framework is focussed on configuration. It does monitor application usage like RM/EdgeSight or other monitoring tooling.

Basically, during normal operation there is no additional demand on the servers by Solution4 at all.

Jeroen van de Kamp wrote Re: Re: Re: Just a couple of comments
on Tue, Aug 7 2007 7:13 AM Link To This Comment
I made a typo: "It does monitor application usage like RM/EdgeSight or other monitoring tooling." should be "It does not monitor application usage like RM/EdgeSight or other monitoring tooling."
Guest wrote Many thanks
on Wed, Aug 8 2007 2:43 PM Link To This Comment

Hi Brian,

Many thanks for this topic, i have been thinking about the implementation of flexprofilekit and i read some topics on this great tool it really seem to be perfect for automate many things ! :D

 I will try to use this framework soon in the pre-production environnement to test it.

 Thanks very mutch for your work, your site is realy a great world-reference. And thanks to the great Login Consultant work to !!!

 Jorge Jullien

http://www.net2sys.net 

Guest wrote Great product!
on Thu, Aug 9 2007 3:37 AM Link To This Comment

I've been working with an older version of the S4 framework for a while now and followed a workshop for the latest version. As Brian mentioned this is not an easy to use next, next, next finish product.

When S4 is fully implemented in large environments managing the environment is quite simple. Want a new Terminal server just add it to some ini files click smile and you can go back to doing nothing/work.

Login Consultants thanks for releasing the community edition will use it for sure!

Regards,

 Barry Schiffer

Hans Minnee wrote Great!
on Thu, Aug 9 2007 6:13 PM Link To This Comment
Thank you guys at Login Consultants for releasing S4 to the community. I've seen S4 at a customer's site before and used at least a couple of tricks of it in my own implementations. I didn't find the time to figure it all out yet, but I'm planning to do so in the future.
Michel Hesse wrote a must have
on Sat, Aug 11 2007 2:15 PM Link To This Comment

we have both running, S4 and Flex Profile Kit, it is a massive time reduction for all administrative tasks I have to do.

It's a bit tricky to understand the S4, but if you finally got it, it's a great script framework.

A perfect tool to reinstall Servers or whole farms without any manual tasks within hours !

A must have for all Citrix Admins. 

 

BillyD wrote re: Login Consultants releases a massive framework that can automate pretty much everything. Oh, and it's free.
on Sat, Jan 21 2012 9:08 PM Link To This Comment

I am very intesrested in this topic as I am looking for an AUTO login Script for Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise.

INTRO:

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate then installed VMWare Workstation 8 and later installed Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

as the operating system. I now need an AUTO LOGIN SCRIPT that will do the following:

a). Using a batch file or autoexec.bat, launch a Windows 7 Auto Logon script that will auto logon JohnsonA (Administrator)

     with a password (12345xyz)

b). upon successful login, then launch VMware workstation 8 and then

c). Auto Power on Virtual Machine Server dcs2008r2.local then

d). run another script that will auo login member JohnsonA@dcs2008r2.local with a password (12345xyz) -- this member exist both

    on Windows 7 and VM Server as an Administrator.

I am new on this thread and also an amateur with Windows Server 2008 R2. AnySTEP - BY- STEP  in implementing the aboce procedure will be appreciated.

Billy

BillyD wrote re: Login Consultants releases a massive framework that can automate pretty much everything. Oh, and it's free.
on Sat, Jan 21 2012 9:08 PM Link To This Comment

I am very intesrested in this topic as I am looking for an AUTO login Script for Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise.

INTRO:

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate then installed VMWare Workstation 8 and later installed Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

as the operating system. I now need an AUTO LOGIN SCRIPT that will do the following:

a). Using a batch file or autoexec.bat, launch a Windows 7 Auto Logon script that will auto logon JohnsonA (Administrator)

     with a password (12345xyz)

b). upon successful login, then launch VMware workstation 8 and then

c). Auto Power on Virtual Machine Server dcs2008r2.local then

d). run another script that will auo login member JohnsonA@dcs2008r2.local with a password (12345xyz) -- this member exist both

    on Windows 7 and VM Server as an Administrator.

I am new on this thread and also an amateur with Windows Server 2008 R2. AnySTEP - BY- STEP  in implementing the aboce procedure will be appreciated.

Billy

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