Latest posts by Paul Schnackenburg (see all)
- Burstable VMs (B-series) in Azure - Tue, Dec 12 2017
- Project Honolulu - A new way to manage Windows Server - Wed, Nov 22 2017
- Use Azure Managed Service Identity (MSI) to store passwords in your code securely - Thu, Nov 9 2017
The coolest thing is that the Community Edition is free for up to 100 users and 100 devices, making it an excellent tool for SMBs that often have no management tools at all. If you move to the Professional version, it’s very attractively priced at $ 0.50 per device / $ 0.25 per user per month.
GridVision runs as a service in Azure and you can sign up on their website, using your Microsoft account for convenient login.
The agent and the cloud ^
It all starts with the agent, a small MSI file that needs to be installed on every system you need to manage. It can be installed manually, using Group Policy-based Software distribution, with a script from a file share or any other software distribution mechanism. Note that the MSI is tied to a particular tenant in the service so, if you’re an MSP managing multiple clients, make sure you pick the right MSI to install. If you are managing multiple tenants, you can do so on the same console and simply switch between clients with a single click.
The service backend is running on Azure, giving GridVision global reach, cloud scalability and reliability.
GridVision’s home screen.
Discovery and Operations ^
The agent collects information about the OS, configuration, installed applications, users and groups and services. This is then forwarded to the GridVision service and consolidated to be displayed in the built-in dashboards for software metering, hardware inventory and alerts.
Once all this data is stored in the cloud, it’s used for monitoring so you can have a centralized view of the health of your servers, desktops and applications such as AD, Exchange, IIS, SQL etc. You can also build your own monitoring for specific thresholds or events. The data can be used with the built-in reports or custom reports (created with drag and drop) to gain insight. You could, for example, have reports that track the changes in installed software licenses over time.
Express setup of standard maintenance tasks.
Reports can be exported (in the Professional version) for further data massaging and there are also Analysis and Insights reports for data correlation. There’s a built-in Role Based Access system so you can delegate tasks to administrators or give an end user controlled access to some tasks.
It’s clear that the makers of GridVision have experience of working in the IT trenches; there’s an area for Help Desk automation where tasks such as resetting passwords, unlocking accounts, adding users to groups, running disk diagnostics and backing up can be targeted at a single object or multiple objects. If there isn’t a built-in action for what you’d like to do, you can create your own using the built-in visual automation section.
The alerts view.
To me, the most attractive feature of GridVision is the focus on codeless automation. In fact, the core strength of GridVision is Automation as a Service. The days of doing manual maintenance on your IT infrastructure are rapidly coming to an end and you might have heard of Microsoft’s answer in this arena: PowerShell (and SMA and Orchestrator and Azure Automation and…..). Most of those tools have a steep learning curve, which is entirely appropriate for enterprises that need broad and deep functionality and can afford experts in specific methodologies and languages. In the SMB space, on the other hand, IT people often wear all the hats and the ability to automate without having to write code is very welcome.
GridVision’s policies are built using a visual wizard and they’re described in plain English, making them easy to understand; currently, there are over 400 objects to work with. These range from AD, Office 365, IIS, SharePoint, SQL Server, Registry, Processes and Services to Hyper-V and SSH, to name a few. If necessary, you can extend the built-in functionality with your own scripts and there are also more automation objects coming in the next release. There’s extensive logging so you can see the results of your automation tasks across designated targets.
There are community forums where others share their runbooks. These can be searched to see if someone else has already “invented the wheel” for what you need to do.
GridVision tracks the patching levels across your machines and identifies missing patches, and you can apply them simply by submitting an automation job. The patches can come from Windows Update or your internal WSUS servers.
The closest competitor I can think of is Spiceworks and, while that product has been around for a long time and has a big community, it’s definitely “old” style on-premises software that requires more work to maintain. Microsoft’s Intune also has some overlap with GridVision, but it’s more geared towards Mobile Device Management and it’s costlier. On the monitoring side, it doesn’t have the depth or reach of System Center Operations Manager but, conversely, it doesn’t have the overhead of the infrastructure required for OM, nor the time involved to customize it to gain useful data from alerts.
The bits missing today are Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): the ability to see or control the screen of the device of a user. Grid Vision does integrate with LogMeIn and TeamViewer so that’s not necessarily an issue.
Also coming is more comprehensive non-Windows device management (including mobile devices), self-service tasks for end users and built-in help desk ticketing. All of these are on the roadmap for future releases (first quarter 2015) as is an API for interfacing with the service programmatically. I’d also like to see built-in anti-malware rather than just the ability to check that it’s installed and working.
Overall, the GridVision take on systems management is fresh, the cloud service approach is certainly attractive, and the power of the visual automation tools are very strong. The free edition is a good way to get your feet wet and the pricing is also very affordable but, given that this is the first release, there’s some functionality still to be added.
I think the key to the success of GridVision will lie in their ability to build a strong community that’ll guide the delivery of crucial new features as well as building automation objects and runbooks to be shared with other users.