AppNote: System Update of ZCM Zone with Content Distribution Points / Satellite Servers

By Vijay Kumar Kunchakuri and Rajesh Lingam

System Update is a mechanism to download ZENworks Configuration Management (ZCM) updates from a Novell Customer Center (NCC) Server. It allows the Administrator to push the relevant updates to all of the Primary Servers and Managed Devices in the ZCM Zone. In one line, it helps keep the ZCM zone up-to-date. It also provides an option to download the latest Product Recognition Update (PRU), which helps ZCM in identifying newer inventory on the Managed Devices.

This document also talks about some of the options that the Administrators can choose when they have Content Distribution Points (CDP) or Satellite Server(s) configured in the ZCM zone. It provides some basic recommendations that can be made use of, in order to make the System Update hassle-free. Also mentioned are some of the troubleshooting aspects that one may face during the System Update process.

Why System Update

  1. Allows Novell to provide customers with critical and timely bug fixes (if any) and other important feature updates.

  • Provides the Administrators with an easy and GUI-driven procedure.

  • Provides the ability to review the updates before choosing to apply.

  • Updates can be downloaded manually or scheduled to suit the needs of Administrators.

  • Updates can be applied to:
    • All Servers and Workstations in a zone, at once

  • Stages, consisting of customized groups of Servers / Workstations

  • Success or Failure of the update on a per device basis, can be reviewed using ZCC.

How System Update Works

  1. A Novell SU server stores a set of all the Files needed to be downloaded.

  • One of the Primary Servers in the ZCM zone posts a request to the Novell SU Server for updates.

  • If updates are available, SU Server responds back with a list of the files required to be downloaded along with the update details.

  • There are three important stages that are defined for the System Update process:
    1. The relevant files are downloaded and stored in a temporary directory on one of the Primary ZCM Servers (Downloading).

  • These files are then bundled appropriately so that they can later be distributed to all the Primary Servers and Managed Devices (Bundling).

  • They are placed in Content Management System and then copied to all Content Servers (Syncing)

Various Phases in the System Update Process

  1. Navigation: Login to the ZCC and navigate to the System Update Tab under the Configuration Page.


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  2. Creating SU Staging Groups (Optional): Create System Update Staging Groups for all the Primary Server(s) and the Managed Device(s). This is optional but is good to do, since it would allow Administrators to perform System Update in various stages, say, Primary Server(s) first and then the relevant Managed Device(s). This would also decrease network traffic considerably since the updates would be pushed to various devices in different timed stages. Refer to the following screenshots.


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  • Manually Downloading System Update: Administrators can then manually trigger the downloading process for the System Update.


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  • Scheduling Download of System Update: The downloading of System Update can alternatively be scheduled to occur at a specific time period as chosen by the Administrators.


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  • Downloading Phase: System Updates are then downloaded to one of the Primary Servers in the ZCM zone.


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  • Bundling Phase: System Updates that are downloaded in the above phase get bundled by the ZCM. These System Bundles are created (though hidden from users) to enable easy distribution to various servers and workstations when the Update process is triggered in the zone.


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  • Syncing Phase: All the System Update bundles are then copied into the Content Management System. They are finally replicated to all the Content Servers and the Content Distribution Points / Satellite Servers existing in the zone. After the Syncing is complete, the SU shows a “Downloaded” status in ZCC which marks the end of SU download process.


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  • Preview / Review System Update Details: The downloaded System Updates can be Previewed and Reviewed by the Administrators before choosing to apply them to the devices in the ZCM zone. Click on the Update ID link to navigate to the Update Status page and further drill down to the Release Details page. The same details can be viewed using the Action Menu (Preview / Review Content of New/All Updates) in the System Update Tab.


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  • Authorizing System Update: After having reviewed the System Update details, Administrators need to authorize the same for proceeding further. Only after authorizing will the ZCC allow users to apply the updates to the devices in the zone.


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  • Apply Update to Devices: After authorizing the update, the same can be applied to the devices in the zone using one of these options:
    • Apply Update to All Devices (Bypassing Staging) – This option can be used to update all the devices in the zone at once and without any interruption. This can be only used when the number of devices in the zone is very low. If the devices are great in number, there can be a significant increase in the network utilization and hence it is not recommended for best use.

  • Advance Through Stages Automatically – This option helps in applying the update in a stage-wise manner (as created in the Staging Groups) without any manual intervention.

  • Advance Through Stages Automatically With Notification – The only difference here is that there would be a notification sent as soon as the stage’s update is complete.

  • Advance To Next Stage And Notify When Complete – As soon as the update for a stage is complete, a notification is sent and the process waits for the Administrator to trigger the Update for the next stage.

  • Clear Update – Alternatively, the Administrators can choose to clear the update if they feel that it is not required or corrupt.


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  • What’s NEXT: After choosing one of the above options to apply the update, manually Refresh all the devices (Windows and SLES) using ZCC.

  • Update Complete: Once the device gets updated, a Reboot notification will be displayed.


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  • Viewing System Update Status using ZCC: The Administrators can choose to view the status of System Update on each of the devices at a zone level using ZCC.


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  • Downloading PRU: Administrators can then download PRU (optional) by clicking Action menu -> Download and Install PRU Now from the System Update page.


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Troubleshooting ZCM System Update

There can be various types of issues faced by administrators while trying to run the System Update process. The following section would help troubleshoot some of the commonly faced issues and complete the System Update.

General Information

  • MSI files are stored under the directory (on Server):
    • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\temp\sutmp.x\<su_files> (while downloading)

  • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\work\content-repo\<files> (after bundling & syncing)

  • Once the SU begins to apply the updates, the MSI’s will be copied to the following directory on the device and then installed (On Server/WS):
    • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\work\system-update\<msi_files>

  • Log files are very handy and helpful:
    • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\logs\SystemUpdate.log

      (Success/Failure of SU)

  • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\work\system-update\<CommandNN.log>

    (Success/Failure of individual MSI installations)

  • <Install_Dir>\Novell\ZENworks\work\system-update\<SystemUpdate.ini.timestamp>

    (If Update is successful)

Device Level Troubleshooting

  • If System Update fails to start the Download process:
    1. Check that the NCC server is reachable from the primary server(s) in the zone

  • Check that the path of the systemupdate.xml returned by SU server is correct

  • If System Update is struck in Downloading State:
    1. Check for loader-messages.log. There might be errors in systemupdate.xml

  • Check Disk Space so that download can succeed

  • If System Update is struck in Bundling State:
    1. Check there are no other Bundling activities carried out by server

  • Check the Disk Space so that bundling can succeed

  • If System Update is struck in Syncing State:
    1. Check that all the Primary Servers can resolve each other using DNS

  • Check that there is enough disk space in all the servers

Making System Update Effective

System Update process can be quite slow and cumbersome when there are some Content Distribution Points or Satellite Servers in the zone. To improve the performance of System Update in such an environment, one of the two options mentioned below can be used as a best practice.

Option 1: Assuming that the hardware and network connectivity between CDPs is not great enough, the recommendation would be that: Without having any CDPs or Satellite Servers in the ZCM zone, trigger the System Update download (Downloading, Bundling & Syncing) and allow it to complete first. After having ensured that the SU download is complete, proceed further to configure any number of required CDPs or Satellite Servers.

This would allow the Administrators to first get an assurance that the SU is properly downloaded. The syncing of the content to various CDPs can then happen in the background.

But the Administrators need to ensure that the System Bundles (of SU) are completely synced up to all the Primary Servers and CDPs / Satellite Servers before proceeding to apply the update to all devices in the zone.

Option 2: Assuming that the hardware and network connectivity is of high quality in the ZCM zone, the Administrators can alternatively choose to configure all the required CDPs / Satellite servers before starting the System Update process. In this case, there would be minimal time taken for the syncing to happen across various servers and CDPs. Otherwise, the syncing process can take a huge amount of time (due to lack of sufficient network bandwidth, etc.).

System Update, being one of the most important aspects of ZCM, needs the utmost attention. By following the prescribed troubleshooting mechanisms and the best practices, the entire process can be made seamless and a joy to work with.


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