Mike Schumacher, who founded Lakeside Software back in 1997, has a lively and informative conversation with us in episode 17 of the Virtualization EUC Podcast. Mike’s goal when he started was simple: figure out how a Citrix terminal server would scale before the users logged into it. Anything would be better than the “screaming users” test.
That’s the traditional virtualization test: let users log into one server only, and measure how quickly the help desk lines light up. Once the initial tests have been run, performance enhancements are further tested by turning on the rest of the servers and load balancing. Everyone who’s worked in enterprise IT has seen the “screaming users” test run, even if they won’t admit to having done it themselves.
Variations on this test are also used to identify the owner of a server without a clear use case or significant utilization: shut it down and wait for someone to complain or scream.
Why do those “tests” get used, especially in small and medium-sized business environments? It’s not just for the joy of causing frustration in others. Often, it’s because better testing options just aren’t part of the budget.
In 1998, Lakeside’s SysTrack 1.0 won best in show at Citrix iForm (now Citrix Synergy) and other conferences, and Citrix soon came calling. Mike created Resource Manager as his first product in this space, and Citrix purchased it from him and rebranded it as “RMS.” At the time, it had a database separate from the data store. IT professionals thought this would help with tracking and managing performance and maintenance data. And it did—except for real-time data. It was great for historical data gathering, but it didn’t quite get us where were told we’d be going.
Lakeside has gone through several product iterations of EUC precision and analytics support software since then. After Citrix acquired and renamed his original core product, Mike created and patented Support Aid, which enables management and troubleshooting of physical and virtual end devices at massive scale. Some of the core code created for Support Aid is used in SysTrack 2.x and in every iteration through the current version.
Things have changed a lot for Mike Schumacher. He gave up his lakeside view for an office building, and he has taken Lakeside Software global. However, not everything has changed. SysTrack still works on any end point: any physical, virtual, or terminal server. SysTrack doesn’t care where it runs. It runs uniformly across all environments, no matter what they’re using as a user desktop. It delivers and manages applications and desktops the same way. About the only things it doesn’t support as clients are smartphones and tablets.
Lakeside Software leverages its channel partners and their consultants who use SysTrack 7.2 as an integral part of their discovery process while guiding implementations and migrations or performing environment audits. Some implement SysTrack for managing and troubleshooting EUC environments.
Customers live in a mix-and-match world. Lakeside rightly believes you have to figure out what you’ve got, where you need to be, and how you need to get there. It wants to be an essential component of that process, and to take that journey with its customers, both existing and future.
Companies spend millions on end user computing, but you don’t see them spending that much on predictive or proactive maintenance, save for in large enterprise operations. In the SMB space, it’s far from pervasive; the mentality is often one of oiling the squeaky wheels and reactively plugging the latest holes. Making predictive or proactive maintenance part of the budget from the beginning, and keeping it as an annual budget item, would save millions to billions in lost productivity around the planet in IT management overhead and end user productivity. Outages and their associated costs are hard to measure accurately, and they’re rarely measured at all in the SMB space. This is not the case in large enterprises, which calculate a cost for all outages, even of only a few minutes. Mike pointed out a couple of times that Lakeside helps find the sources of outages much more quickly than historical methods can.
When I asked Mike how we could get smaller organizations to focus on predictive or proactive maintenance, he said one of the best ways is for channel partner consultants to use SysTrack as part of their on-site methodology. It’s pretty easy to see its value in that context.
Another important feature of SysTrack is “Audit.” Despite the scary name, SysTrack’s audit features track changes in a world that is no longer persistent and never will be again. When Mike thinks of auditing, it’s not a blame-assignment process. Auditing is employed to find the root cause of a problem and get it fixed correctly. Unfortunately, no one likes an audit, whatever the context. Nevertheless, current IT trends, coupled with the disruption currently underway in the security space and regulatory requirements like HIPPA and Sarbanes-Oxley, mean that auditing is a reality that people must embrace, rather than duck.
Mike gives some great examples of unusual customer use cases that SysTrack has solved. Quite a few seem off the wall, but make sense when you look at them in retrospect.
Pretty much the best way to meet Mike is to stop by the Lakeside Software booth at a major conference. Unlike most company presidents, he still pulls booth duty. It’s how I met him back in 2007 or 2008. Many people on the Lakeside team have social media accounts and keep them current. Mike is more into the personal interaction aspect of business. Even though I practically live online, the fact that I accidentally discovered Mike staffing a booth has always been one of my favorite things about him.
Have a listen.