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ZENworks and the Art of Desktop Management

Articles and Tips: article

01 Apr 1998

ZENworks is a product that stands for Zero Effort Networking and reduces the cost of owning networked PCs. This article describes the user and network administrator benefits of ZENworks, summarizes the product's features, offers a typical scenario of how the product can be used, lists system requirements, and answers frequently asked questions.


ZENworks isn't about answering questions like, How do you hold empty space? Or, What is the sound of one hand clapping? It's about providing directory-enabled, cross-platform networking solutions for Windows-based computers. ZENworks takes software management and distribution, desktop management and desktop maintenance to higher levels. It reduces the complexity of workstation management and lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO). And, more importantly, it increases the total value of your networked computers.

ZENworks stands for and delivers Zero Effort Networking for users. By keeping the power of the PC with the user, ZENworks removes barriers to user productivity and allows the experts-network administrators-to leverage Novell Directory Services (NDS) to ensure the user is focused on business, not technology.

The End User and the Desktop Become One

People are mobile, and notebook computers are too. But since the dawn of computer networks, people have been tied to their own PCs because desktops and all of their customization have been confined to specific workstations. Until NDS and ZENworks. NDS maintains and distributes a location-independent "digital persona" for each end user-that is, a unique configuration of desktop policies, profiles, printers and applications, based on who the user is and his or her specific needs. Right down to the wallpaper on the desktop. ZENworks extends the power of NDS so that a user's digital persona can be tapped from any computer anywhere on the network. ZENworks delivers the same unique desktop whether the user logs in from Ohio or Oslo.

The Network Administrator Ponders Existence From a Single Location

While users gain greater mobility and freedom, administrators obtain the ability to stay right where they are. Now software upgrades, repairs and inventories can be accomplished from a single location-there's no need to visit workstations. With ZENworks, network administrators don't need to travel. They can be everywhere in spirit.

Companies See Workstations in a Whole New Light

According to Gartner Group analysts, 78% of network costs are associated with desktop maintenance. According to Forrester Research, the cost of desktop management averages nearly $4,000 per year in the U.S. What's worse, these statistics are probably an understatement. Lost productivity is hard to quantify. In response to what has become a universal problem, information technology companies are generally going down three paths to improve desktop management and reduce costs: intelligent hardware, Network Computers and software. Novell is in favor of whatever works for our customers, and all three solutions have their place.

Leading companies such as Intel and Compaq are developing hardware-based solutions that ZENworks complements. NCs are likely to augment PC investments in organizations for many years to come, and they will need a strong directory presence. NDS and ZENworks provide the directory and the glue that enable NC and PC coexistence. Microsoft is going the software route, and Novell will embrace and extend the manageability improvements Microsoft makes in its operating systems to make them even more manageable. ZENworks bridges the gaps between all three industry approaches-complementing all three.

User Benefits

Application management/software distribution

  • Applications appear on desktops as needed. The icon simply shows up on the user's desktop and quickly installs itself and configures individual parameters (E-mail address, etc.) automatically.

  • Applications are self healing so that they work every time, even if necessary files have been deleted from the desktop. Incredible as it may seem, problems simply fix themselves.

Desktop management/custom profiles

  • Use any computer in the company and retain unique customized desktop configuration, access rights, etc. ("digital persona"). Roaming users always have access to printers that are automatically configured for them. All printer drivers are immediately accessible and install themselves.

  • Users can use any Windows desktop. Supports Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT.

Desktop maintenance/remote troubleshooting

  • Faster response from the Help Desk.

  • Remote software diagnosis and repair across the network-no waiting for an IS visit.

  • Contact the Help Desk and enter a trouble ticket easily.

  • E-mail all PC and network configuration information to the Help Desk automatically, replacing lengthy phone interrogations.

Network Administrator Benefits

Application management/software distribution

  • Application and OS upgrades can be implemented automatically from any location.

  • Network software fixes and patches can be implemented remotely at any and all workstations-greatly reducing downtime, as well as IS staff workload and expenses.

  • Easily install print drivers and configure printer connections on a workstation. For example, when a user needs access to a new printer, the Help Desk staff simply associates the new printer with the user's object in NDS. After the user logs out and then logs back in, the printer and driver are automatically installed and configured. Again, it's all done remotely.

  • With the application-management capabilities of ZENworks, any application can become NDS-aware. So, in essence, ZENworks supports all Windows applications, including those of third-party vendors.

Desktop management/custom profiles

  • Variable substitution capabilities enable information to be pulled from NDS to customize desktop configurations. So, for example, in an automated browser installation, the POP3 server, E-mail addresses and bookmarks can be customized for each user remotely as part of the deployment, without having to visit a single node.

  • Efficiently implement policies throughout the network without separate utilities. NWAdmin provides the interface; the policy file is stored in NDS and automatically replicated throughout the network. So it is no longer necessary to manually copy policy files to all the servers throughout a network-saving time and providing fault tolerance.

  • Automatically inventory all PCs on the network, generating reports on processors and amounts of RAM per workstation by querying NDS through the ODBC interface. Through ZENworks, NDS contains a workstation object for every PC on the network.

Desktop maintenance/remote troubleshooting

  • Centralized control and administration reduces trips to user workstations.

  • Remote control solution enables Help Desk employees to control machines remotely if they have been authorized through NDS, but prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information.

  • A single mouse click enables users to verify the existence of all files, registry modifications, and INI modifications. Problems can thus be resolved remotely in minutes.


  • Supports Windows applications and operating systems- ZENworks supports applications and operating systems (Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT) from Microsoft; it also supports Windows applications from third-party vendors.

  • Launches closest application- ZENworks determines the closest application, as configured by the administrator, and launches it. So, let's say you travel to a branch office in a distant city and you need WordPerfect on your notebook PC. All you do is click on the application icon and NDS transparently directs the workstation to download the application from the local server instead of pulling it from across the WAN. Thus bandwidth is preserved and your location-independence is assured.

  • Supports multi-level folders- Multi-level folders allow administrators to specify where to display applications in ZENworks independent of any tree (directory) organization. As a result, administrators have free reign to organize applications on user desktops. For example, if a company uses multiple word-processing applications, the administrator can create a folder that appears in ZENworks labeled "Word Processing." Two subfolders inside can then contain WordPerfect and MS Word.

  • Terminates applications- When an application running through ZENworks is no longer valid for a user because of an expired schedule, the application can be terminated according to administrator configuration. The administrator can choose to have the application terminate immediately or warn the user that the application is about to terminate, and give appropriate time to save data and exit gracefully.

  • Updates NT secure portion of registry- ZENworks incorporates Windows NT system user privileges as well as current NDS user and workstation access to NDS. Distributions through ZENworks are able to modify secure portions of the registry as well as secure files in NTFS. Using ZENworks, an administrator can now successfully distribute applications that require access to the secure portion of the NT registry.

  • Automates granting of file system rights- File system rights are granted when the application object is associated with the group, user or container. For ZENworks to successfully distribute applications, the logged-in user must have Read and File Scan rights to the file system where the application files reside. This feature automatically grants file rights to users when their container, group or user object is associated with an application object.

  • Application launch/display priority- Provides a priority number on application objects. Force-run applications are launched in order of priority. Applications that are displayed are sorted according to priority, then alphabetically. For example, in some cases, when administrators want to push an install of multiple applications to clients, the install of the first application will finish and prompt for a reboot while the second application is still installing. This feature addresses this issue by ensuring each installation goes to completion.

  • Auto-verify- If an application fails to launch due to missing files, ZENworks automatically offers the Verify option to the user to re-copy missing files. This Verify option compares files, registry entries, etc. on the local hard drive to those stored in the application object and only pushes the missing files or registry changes to the local workstation; it doesn't push all the files or registry entries to the workstation.

  • Copies files by version- When an application is distributed using ZENworks, this feature allows files to be distributed to the workstation conditionally if the file is a newer version as opposed to date or time.

  • Prompts before distribution- The administrator can flag the application as "Prompt Before Distribution." This prompts the user before any distribution is made, allowing the user to know ahead of time how long it may take and what will be done. The user can then accept or decline the distribution. If the user declines the distribution, the launch is canceled.

  • High-speed application loading- Application objects load into memory quickly. Specifically, the "Application Files" and "Registry Settings" pages load extremely fast.

  • High-speed distribution- Applications distribute with surprising speed. Caching reduces the number of calls to NDS and to the file system during the application distribution process.

  • Supports macros- ZENworks includes macro support for many of the well-known Windows directory locations, including "Startup Folder," "Desktop Folder," "Start Menu Folder," etc. Macros now support many of the well-known login script macros such as file_server, login_name, p_station, etc.

  • Includes SnAppShot- The application launcher utility that creates easy-to-use templates for building application objects, snAppShot has a new interface with Custom and Express options,as well as many more options to improve its speed and accuracy.

NoseRing Productions on A Roll: A Typical ZENworks Scenario

NoseRing Productions is a real Nineties kind of company, growing faster than anyone in his or her right mind would have dreamed. Employees were stressed out. Up to their eyeballs not only in work, but in technology-related hassles. Until ZENworks came along. Now things are a lot more serene.

Here's just one example why: A NoseRing employee was working on a presentation that was supposed to be delivered in 10 minutes-a presentation that could make or break the company. When he tried to save it, he discovered that the PC was out of disk space and wouldn't allow it. So, aside from panicking, what could he do? Well, since the presentation had to go on no matter what, the user simply started deleting files from a directory named "Navigator," including the navigator.exe. Once that was done, he finished the presentation, saved the company and moved on to the next project.

That next project required researching some facts via the Internet. The user launched Netscape Navigator, and ZENworks sensed that the application wasn't in working order and automatically redistributed the files that would allow the product to run. The user never had to be interrogated about what he did or how the system was changed. It simply worked. Without ZENworks, the user would have probably waited until someone could either visit his desktop or redistribute the application. If not for ZENworks, valuable business time would have been lost. The user would have ended up pondering existence instead of getting his job done.

System Requirements

The following table lists recommended requirements for ZENworks:


Windows 3.1, 95 or NT


486/33 or higher


16MB (for Windows 95)24MB (for NT)

Hard Disk Space:

Workstation 4MBFull install 24MB

ZENworks is in Good Company

Fully directory-enabled and designed with real end users and administrators in mind, ZENworks is a network services suite of the highest order. But it's just one of many innovative products from Novell that include ManageWise, the integrated set of management services that works on its own or with ZENworks to reduce downtime and cut management expense; GroupWise, which expands E-mail to make collaboration simple and information as accessible as it can be; Novell BorderManager, providing the ultimate security and control at every network border; Border Manager FastCache, the industry's fastest, most scalable Internet object-caching solution for Web-enabled companies and ISPs; NDS for NT, the only way to take the pain out of Windows NT domains and integrate NT Server into an enterprise-class network; and, of course, Novell's flagship product, intraNetWare, the Total Value Network platform that provides unmatched management and control for complex networks, corporate intranets and the Internet.

Each is designed to reduce your TCO. And all enable you to build the open, best-of-breed network that's right for your organization. And you can read more about them at

For More Information

A great Zen master once remarked that the infinite is simply a collection of finite instants. Therefore, you have all the time in the world to take advantage of the benefits of ZENworks. Then again, you don't have a moment to lose. So contact your local Novell Authorized Reseller or system house. And visit our Web site at

ZENworks Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is ZENworks?

A. ZENworks is a product that reduces the cost of owning networked PCs. ZENworks allows users to concentrate on their business productivity, without the need to become PC experts. It does this by giving administrators tools that leverage NDS to greatly reduce the amount of necessary PC support.

Q. When will ZENworks be in beta?

A. ZENworks is currently in a closed beta and will be in open beta by March 16. A CD-ROM of the open beta can be ordered from the World Wide Web at for US $25. The open beta will also soon be available for download from that same web site. Pricing for ordering the beta from outside the United States can be determined by calling a local Novell sales office.

Q. When will ZENworks be officially released?

A. Current schedules have ZENworks being officially released in Q2 1998.

Q. How much will ZENworks cost?

A. MSRP is US $39.00 per node.

Q. Is ZENworks Year 2000 compliant?

A. Yes. In fact ZENworks is an excellent tool to help stabilize and make networks Year2000 ready.

Q. When will ZENworks be localized? - In what languages?

A. Yes. Portuguese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish versions are to be available in approximately the third quarter of 1998. Japanese, Korean and Chinese versions are also forthcoming but no dates are yet available.

Q. Does this replace NAL and Workstation Manager? What happens to those products?

A. NAL and Workstation Manager features will be offered free of charge as a subset of the ZENworks called the ZENworks Starter Pack.

Q. What is the ZENworks Starter Pack?

A. The ZENworks Starter Pack is basic ZENworks functionality that is free of charge to any NDS user. The ZENworks Starter Pack includes the products formerly known as Novell Application Launcher 2.5 (NAL) and Workstation Manager 1.1.

Q. What is included in the full ZENworks package that isn't in the ZENworks Starter Pack?

A. The full ZENworks product includes hardware inventory, help desk request policies, and secure remote control in addition to the contents of the Starter Pack. An update for software licensing and metering will also be available for the full product shortly after it's release. This update will be free only to those who purchase the product, and will not be a part of the ZENworks Starter Pack.

Q. Is this a stand-alone product or is it part of NetWare 5?

A. ZENworks is a stand-alone product. The ZENworks Starter Pack will be available by the time NetWare 5 ships either for download from the web or within the NetWare 5 box.

Q. What are the components of ZENworks?

A. ZENworks has three main areas of capabilities: Application Management/Software Distribution, Desktop Management and Desktop Maintenance.

Q. What desktop operating systems are supported?

A. Windows 3.x, Windows95 and Windows NT are supported as will future versions of the Windows OS.

Q. Does ZENworks contain a solution for software inventory?

A. ZENworks currently maintains an asset or hardware inventory within NDS. A complete inventory of the software installed on a workstation will be included in a future release of ZENworks as well as software licensing and metering.

Q. What revenue impact does Novell expect from ZENworks?

A. The same impact as any of our other recent new products: Novell intends to become a pure Internet/intranet leader and is in the midst of bringing a new generation of directory-enabled products to market by the end of 1998. Novell does not make financial projections, or disclose revenue targets for individual product lines.

Q. How do ZENworks and ManageWise interact?

A Z.E.N. works will become the desktop management component of the next version of ManageWise. ManageWise provides network traffic management, server and other back-end network peripheral management, network virus protection and desktop management. The ZENworks desktop management capabilities are different and complementary to those of ManageWise in that they are focused on user/desktop-specific dependencies for running applications and for network access.

* Originally published in Novell AppNotes


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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