Caught in The Web
Tracking and metering software usage is one thing – but what about tracking web applications? This article will serve as an introduction to the world of Snow Web/Cloud App Metering. We will take a look at the two methods Snow provides – and their limitations, pros and cons.
Web App Metering Method
The “traditional” method of web app metering is fairly basic and still fully supported by Snow – set a web pattern in SLM:
A web.config file is then created in the Snow Agent install folder on the client machine. This method works by referencing the client machine’s DNS cache. You can view this on your own machine from a command prompt using the command ipconfig /displaydns.
Unfortunately, whilst this technique is largely robust enough to show who had accessed what, this method will not show the where and the how long. For example, it will show that a user had accessed the site, but not what features and not the length of time.
Furthermore, the DNS cache is not readable in all corporate environments – proxies can block this, for example.
Cloud App Metering With Inventory 6
Cloud App Metering incorporates DIS (Data Intelligence Service) rules. Within the DIS, patterns and rules are stored which can recognise which features, pages, tools, etc of a particular web app was used.
This is useful as many web apps offer different subscriptions levels which make certain parts available. With Cloud App Metering, it is possible to view which features are actually being used and which aren’t.
The task of adding web patterns into Snow License Manager is not necessary here, as the DIS rules are uploaded to the Software Recognition Service. Each web app is then assigned a unique ID and the rules are stored within the Snow Inventory database.
The Cloud App Metering rules are then downloaded by the Snow Inventory Agent and stored on the local machine.
The above is facilitated by the use of a browser extension – currently we support Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 11. Browser extensions are installed via the agent, once Cloud App Metering has been activated within the Snow Inventory admin console.
The browser extension will capture all URLs accessed by the browser and stores the information in a \cloudmetering\extension-output directory within the %ProgramData% hidden folder in Windows – this data is obfuscated, meaning it cannot be read and interpreted in plain text. The agent will compare the contents of these results with the web app patterns received by the DIS rules and, when a match is found, will store them and delete all results from the extension.
This data is then sent with the .SNOWPACK file when the scheduled scan and send occurs. Once the Data Update Job runs, it is visible in Snow License Manager.
Cloud App Metering does not store data centrally for all web traffic – only websites that have DIS rules attached!
Setting It Up
Here’s how to setup the Snow Inventory to start using Cloud App Metering:
- Agent .config file – the snowagent.config file must contain the following lines within the <SystemSettings> section:
<Setting key="saas.firefox.enabled" value="true" />
<Setting key="saas.ie11.enabled" value="true" />
<Setting key="saas.chrome.enabled" value="true" />
- Activate Cloud App Metering within Snow Inventory console:
- Select the configuration you are rolling the change out to:
- Once the agents receive the instruction, the browser extension will appear on the client machines: