Hands on with Scense 8 preview


Scense 8 is the upcoming next version of the Workspace Management system. It brings interesting new functionality but the Scense development team has made some drastic changes under the hood as well.

 

New back-end architecture

Probably the biggest change is killing the COM+ back-end. Scense has been using COM+ ever since version 2, and now with Scense 8 they’re switching to the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) which is part of the .NET Framework. WCF was also used for the Live Profiles product that shipped earlier this year with the Scense 7.6 update. The Scense Engines now run within IIS which means the scalability will now rely on IIS rather than Network Load Balancing. With the switch to WCF also comes a change of communication protocols. Scense always used the DCOM protocol which did the job well, but came with restrictions. DCOM requires domain authentication and routing it over the internet is a headache. Now with WCF Scense uses HTTP by default which, of course, is very accessible over the internet and does not force authentication. The HTTP protocol opens up some new application scenarios, including full Scense service over the internet including application distribution.

Context awareness

The next big change is the introduction of ‘scopes’. Scopes are collections of ‘criteria’, and these criteria can be used to specify a group of users or computers. In Scense 8 the scopes are everywhere. They’re used for application- and other assignments and they even replace the old conditions. This leaves a huge responsibility for the upgrade process because there’s a lot that needs to be converted to these new scopes and criteria. In previous Scense versions the condition types were fairly limited and you would have to switch to the more advanced functions to create your own custom conditions. Scense 8 comes with over 20 criteria types that cover all old conditions and add some new ones like an IP subnet check, Operating System- and Hardware attributes and ‘Computer Location’. That’s right; Scense 8 includes ‘Location services’ that allow contextual behavior that also depends on the computer’s location. As with most location detection systems there is administration involved and there’s no difference here. Before you can start you need to build a ‘Location tree’ which is a hierarchical structure that represents your company’s locations, like buildings, floors etc. But it seems Scense tried to limit the administration to a minimum and concentrate most of it at the beginning. Once the proper administration is in place the location services seem to work more or less unattended.

Scense Explorer

As of version 5 Scense Explorer showed the HTML view as the default user interface. While this UI was more informative and simple it also lacked the ability to do the advanced stuff, which caused administrators to switch back and forth between the enhanced and classic user interfaces. Scense 8 puts a halt on this by merging the two user interfaces to one ‘best of both worlds’ user interface where the user decides how it looks and how it’s used without ever having to switch. The status bar at the bottom gets a more prominent role in displaying information about the selected item and might even be a substitute for the HTML view and thus saving screen space.

Printing

For the end user nothing really changes. The Scense Client still looks more or less the same and everything works and performs the way we expect. There is, however, one new feature in the Scense client and that’s a brand new printer page. In this page the end-user is able to browse for printers by location and search for printers by feature. So the user can see which printers are available on a specific location and connect to one. Another option is to search for printers. If the user is looking for a printer capable of printing in color or a fast printer capable of stapling, then the user can use the search option. Scense 8 introduces the printer object which resembles the application object because it also has an embedded taskset. This printer object completely defines the printer with network share data, feature data and location data. The embedded taskset takes care of the runtime aspects of printer connection, disconnection and possibly driver installation.

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