Remote Administration

by Marjo Martinez, in Tech Talk, posted 4/24/07

Remote Administration provides the capability to directly manage an AutoMate client from any machine on a TCP/IP network where the AutoMate Task Administrator is running. Once connected to a remote AutoMate, a user can add, remove, modify and debug managed tasks and enable / disable task triggering on the remote machine.

A user can execute tasks on a remote machine where an AutoMate task service resides as well. This article will provide comprehensive information regarding AutoMate's Remote Administration function. It will cover such topics as configuring and starting Remote Administration, working with managed tasks, deploying tasks, managing and executing remote tasks.

Overview
AutoMate is a collection of applications, all working together to act like one integrated component. Two of these applications are the AutoMate Task Administrator (AMTA.exe) and the AutoMate Task Service (AMTS.exe). The Task Service is responsible for maintaining the task database file (AM6Taskfile.atl) and global application preferences, as well as monitoring for conditions that would cause a task to trigger. It also initiates, maintains and monitors running tasks. It has no GUI (Graphic User Interface) and is meant to operate silently in the background until needed. Communication with the Task Service is achieved using an AutoMate client application that connects via TCP/IP on a dedicated port (default port is 7677, although this can be modified). The Task Administrator is one such client application, and provides a "front-end" to the Task Service. The Task Administrator includes a Graphic User Interface that provides the user an easy method of adding, removing and organizing managed tasks, setting Task Service preferences, deploying tasks and much more. In essence, the Task Administrator is the essential tool used to administer AutoMate.

Generally, when a user starts the Task Administrator, it attempts to contact the Task Service on the same machine. Once the Task Administrator window is opened, the user can click the 'Connect' option ('File' -> 'Connect') and another Task Service located on a remote machine can be specified to connect to. In this manner, the Task Administrator isn't concerned what Task Service it is connected to, whether it is the local or remote machine, it makes no difference. All the functionality a user has for the local machine is available on any machine once AutoMate connects to it.

Configuring Remote Administration
The 'Remote Access' feature is located in the AutoMate Task Administrator under System' -> 'Options' -> 'Remote Access' tab. This feature allows 'Remote Administration' between the Enterprise Edition and Agent or between two compatible Full versions (i.e. between AutoMate Professional and a remote AutoMate Professional) which will allow for bi-directional connections, task management and deployment. Additionally, there is no limit to the amount of remote connections available. Additionally, Remote Administration can be disabled at any time (even from a remote machine) by un-checking the "Enable Remote Administration" option. An AutoMate Agent also includes this option and can be accessed remotely via the Enterprise Task Administrator.

Since an Agent does not include a GUI, Remote Administration is automatically enabled during the installation process. However, for added security, the Remote Administration feature is disabled by default on AutoMate Professional or Enterprise Editions. To use Remote Administration, it must first be enabled on the remote machine to be administered and a password must be defined. To do this, open the AutoMate Task Administrator on the machine you wish to connect to using Remote Administration and select 'System' -> 'Options' -> 'Remote Access.' Check the "Enable Remote Administration" option, enter a password to be authenticated when connecting and Click the "Ok" button. Remote Administration should now be enabled. A remote Task Administrator will be authorized to connect to this AutoMate Server if the correct password is supplied.

Version Compatibilities
The AutoMate Enterprise Edition can connect to remote AutoMate Agent installations, remote AutoMate Professional installations or other remote AutoMate Enterprise installation. However, AutoMate Professional installations can only connect to other remote AutoMate Professional installations. It cannot connect to a remote Agent or Enterprise installation.

AutoMate 6 Task Administrators are guaranteed to be compatible with a remote AutoMate 6 Task Service as long as the remote AutoMate installation is running the same or a lower version. However, a lower version cannot connect to a higher version. For example, a local Task Administrator which is version 6.1.1.0 is guaranteed to connect to a remote AutoMate service which is version 6.0.3.0. On the other hand, a connection failure will occur if the opposite scenario is to be accomplished.

Starting Remote Administration
Remote Administration requires at least two separate machines connected on a network using the TCP/IP protocol. One machine must have the AutoMate Task Service running (the remote machine) and another machine must have the AutoMate Task Administrator running (the local machine). The Task Administrator (AMTA.exe) and the Task Service (AMTS.exe) does not necessarily have to be running on the same machine.

To start Remote Administration from the Task Administrator on the local machine, follow the instructions below:

1. Make certain the Task Folder view is visible in the Task Administrator. You can do this by navigating to 'View' -> 'Windows' and checking the 'Task Folders' option. While the Task Folder view is not required for Remote Administration to properly function, it will certainly assist in simple navigation from one machine to another.

2. Select 'File' -> 'Connect' or click the connect toolbar button. A window titled 'Connect' will appear.

3. In the "Host" field, the user has the option to enter one of the following:

- Computer Name (e.g. MAINSERVER)
- Hostname (e.g. mainserver@mainnetwork.com)
- IP address (e.g. 209.223.157.99)

4. In the "Password" field, enter the password defined to authenticate the remote connection. Check the option "Remember and Reconnect" in order for AutoMate to remember the Hostname and Password of this machine during future connections.

5. After entering all required information, click "Ok".

The Task Administrator will attempt to connect and authenticate the remote machine. Once connected, a new computer icon will appear in the 'Task Folders' window (left window pane). When selecting this new computer, all the folders and tasks that reside on the remote machine will be present on the local Task Administrator. Primarily, the user is viewing tasks that reside on the remote machine via a "virtual" Task Administrator. When connected to a remote AutoMate Task Service, you can also view, configure and edit its System Options (similar to viewing / editing your local Task Administrator's System Options) by going to the 'System' menu and selecting the proper remote host (specified by hostname, computer name or IP address). For each connected computer, a new 'System' -> 'Options' item will appear, allowing the ability to view and/or modify the preferences of the remote machine, as well as enable/disable task triggering.


Working with Managed Tasks
When you are working with managed tasks and task files on a remote AutoMate installation, keep in mind that what you are viewing is relative to the remote machine. For example, when you view the properties of Managed Task A, the task file may be indicated as "C:\MyTaskA.aml". This is actually on the remote machine's C:\ drive, and not your local drive. Likewise, when adding a new managed task, the task file is placed in the default AutoMate task directory of the remote machine (as set in the remote machine's preferences).

When creating a task or modifying steps of an existing managed task, the Task Builder that appears on the screen is located on the local machine. Because of this, the user only has access to the local hard disk. It is important to understand that certain actions or triggers may not function properly unless the settings are modified to reflect the system properties relative to the remote machine that the task will eventually be running on. For example, a 'Start Service' action is used to start a service that is located on the remote machine but not locally. When the user clicks the drop-down arrow on the 'General' tab of this action, the service will not.

Deploying Tasks
AutoMate makes building tasks quick and easy and its network deployment features allows sending these tasks to one or more machines possible with just a few mouse clicks. From the Task Administrator, highlight the task(s) you want to deploy (numerous tasks can be selected by holding down the CTRL key). Afterward, click the 'Deploy' button or select 'File' -> 'Task' -> 'Deploy.' A window will appear showing all connected machines. Highlight the machine(s) you wish to deploy the tasks to. If you wish to run the task on the target machine immediately after it is deployed, check the option "Run Immediately." Then click "Ok." If done correctly, the task(s) will appear on the Task Administrator of the remote machine(s).

Tasks can be deployed to a number of connected machines by holding down the CTRL key. As well as deploying tasks located in the local Task Administrator, they can also be deployed from one remote Agent to another. If the task already exists on the target machine, you will be prompted for what to do.

Since Enterprise and Agent installs are mutually exclusive, an Agent does not rely on the Enterprise installation or other Agents to run a task. When connected to a remote AutoMate Agent, a user can add, remove or modify managed tasks, modify the associated steps of the managed task, enable/disable triggering and run tasks on a remote machine. However, once a task is sent to an Agent, there is no interaction that takes place between the Agent and the Enterprise edition when the task launches. Because of this, Network bandwidth utilization is kept to a minimum.

Running Tasks Remotely
When connected to a remote machine, you are working directly with that machine's AutoMate installation. Therefore, if you select a managed task and click the Run button, the task will run on the remote machine, not on the local machine. You will, however, still receive failure and error notifications locally if your Task Administrator is set to do so in its local options.

Running Remote Tasks Locally
To run a remote task (task located on a remote machine) locally, you first need to deploy the task from the remote Task Administrator to your local Task Administrator. Another option is to copy or move the task from the remote machine to your local machine, and then run it from your "Local Tasks". This can be done by selecting the remote managed task, selecting Copy or Cut, then highlighting or navigating to your Local Tasks (using the Task Folder is easiest) and Pasting. Then, run the task. This method also works for moving a managed task and its associated task file to your local machine.