Manage software over the Web

Managing software and information on remote systems is a tedious task, but SessionXpress, from XcelleNet, can help. SessionXpress is a Web-browser-based push/pull delivery and systems management utility. It is the first product in the company's ESSENTIALS product line, a family of intranet system and application management utilities for remote access. Using SessionXpress and your existing intranet Web infrastructure, you can easily download new software and data to entire categories of client computer systems.

Setting up SessionXpress is simple. You install a server component and client components (browser add-ins). The server component creates a directory tree, which includes a clientbin directory that contains the client-side software. You install the client component by mounting the client-side software as a share from your clients or copying it in any other way in your environment. You can begin using the software immediately after installation.

Managing Information
SessionXpress has three categories of objects: Sendlists, Worklists, and Groups. Sendlists contain events to automatically distribute software or files residing on your server. Worklists are collections of events that execute during communication between a client and server system. Worklists are similar to Sendlists, except Worklists let you program a much broader set of events. Groups let you organize collections of Worklists and Sendlists for execution on a remote system.

Working with Objects
The software includes the Work Object Editor (shown in Screen 1) for managing your SessionXpress server. This program uses a Windows NT Explorer-like interface; the left pane of the program window contains a tree-hierarchy listing of your objects, and the right pane contains property pages for the object you select on the left.

To create a new object, you click an icon on the toolbar at the top of the Work Object Editor window. At the prompt, provide a name and click OK, and the object will appear in your list. To assign events or perform other maintenance tasks on an object, click the object you want to edit, and the property pages for that object will appear in the right pane of the program window.

To activate an object for remote user access, you have to copy some HTML code to a Web page on your Web server. The HTML code contains a reference to an ActiveX control or a plug-in. You usually perform this function at the Group level, but you can activate objects for remote access at other object levels, too. You click on the Group object you want to distribute and then select the HTML property page within the Work Object Editor. On this page, you can set several options. After you set all your options, click Copy to Clipboard at the bottom of the screen to copy the HTML source code needed to activate the SessionXpress code. You can then paste the HTML code into your Web documents.

Good but Pricey
I created a simple test environment: one Sendlist, one Worklist, and a Group to house both. In the Sendlist, I selected a series of test database files to copy to the client machine; and in the Worklist, I created a message to send to the client computer. I used the Work Object Editor to set up these objects.

I copied the necessary HTML code onto one of my Internet Information Server (IIS)-managed Web pages. Then I went to my NT Workstation client and launched Internet Explorer (IE) to connect to my IIS site. When I accessed the appropriate page, voila! I saw a new command button that said, "Click Me!" (the label I had assigned to it.) When I clicked the command button, an XcelleNet SessionXpress window appeared, and I watched as the SessionXpress client component correctly executed the commands I had entered on my Worklists and Sendlists. When the commands finished executing, I inspected the destination directory, and everything was there.

The only drawback I see is the price, which XcelleNet clearly targeted at the enterprise market. The cost is high for a file transfer utility. Although the software functions well, I would seek a less-expensive solution.

SessionXpress 1.0
Contact: XcelleNet * 770-804-8100
Web: http://www.xcellenet.com
Email: marketing@xcellenet.com
Price: $5000 for a 10-user license
System Requirements: Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 95 or NT clients, Less than 10MB of RAM, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 2.02 or 3.03