Wednesday 27 August 2008

Microsoft Terminal Services Compatibility Analyser (MS TSCA)

OK, my previous blog was a little light... A few quick references to another posting, a link to a Microsoft release and a quick surmise of a potentially helpful tool. Not the great insightful depth that you would expect. But hey, we are only human... And so with this latest post, I bring you another tool from Microsoft. Ohhh nooo...

On the Microsoft BETA site ( there has been a new "addition" to the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT, Version 5); the Terminal Services Compatibility toolkit. I use the "quotes" as I am not quite sure if this tool is now part of ACT or if this tool will be included in future versions of the collection of compatibility and analysis tools that are shipped as ACT.

The Microsoft BETA Connect site describes the Terminal Services Compatibility Analyser (TSCA) as;

"TS Application Analyzer is a runtime program analysis tool to enable administrators/users to determine if they can deploy an application on TS with a degree of confidence. It provides a summary of TS incompatible behaviour of an application and provides recommendation indicating the confidence level for deploying the application on TS".

Reading from the user manual it appears that the TCSA can identify the following issues;

• Shared resources – Files/registries
• Access/Privilege issues
• Windows API calls with special cases for TS

For TS Compatibility Analyser installation notes and the user guide look here; (you need to sign in first with your Microsoft Live ID - of course)

For a deeper dive into the technical requirements and developer information, consult the MSDN Terminal Services documentation located here;

I will review the TSCA over the next week, but am delighted with some of the points raised by the developers of this tool. Noting that Microsoft Terminal Services (TS) may cause application compatibility issues due to the shared nature of application resources (as opposed to the single user nature of desktop environments) the TSCA also investigates registry and file-system security issues as well as Application Programming Interface (API) issues. In addition, the tool offers a remote view of the results and allows for a centralized "administrator" view of several machines under analysis. I am little concerned about some of the filtering of the TSCA output required to get the "right" level of results.

And I think this is where the real utility of the tool will be questioned; a skilled administrator will be still be required to determine if the results are relevant to the application and if any issues raised really will cause an issue for the application under is intended use scenario.

I have some questions here;

1) What kind of volume of results are we going to get from this application?
2) How well can we filter out "noise" from the API and registry access requests?
3) How do we determine a SERIOUS issue from a less potentially serious compatibility issue?
4) Does the TCSA take into account other platform issues? (i.e. 64-bit or Windows 2008 vs. 2003SP1?)
5) Will global/shared memory issues be identified (i.e. Shared RPC ports are a hassle)

Clearly from the product description of the TCSA, the focus will be on Terminal Services compatibility issues.

So, we are going to be missing stuff like;

1) Application conflict analysis: Does this application break another when installed on the same machine?
2) Dependency analysis: Does the application have everything it needs to function correctly?
3) OS level platform analysis: Will my drivers and services work on the TS server platform (i.e. Windows Server 2008)?

It looks like the guys from Microsoft are taking the application compatibility issue seriously now and including some additional coverage for the TS platform - so KUDOS to the AppCompat boys..

Will keep you posted on the results of my findings... Ohhh so much fun... So many ways to break an app...

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