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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Available Reports and Use Cases (part 4) - Asset Intelligence, Reporting on Application Compatibility

4/29/2013 4:02:37 PM

5. Asset Intelligence

Microsoft acquired AssetMetrix, an asset management software company, in 2006. They have used the technology from this acquisition to greatly enhance ConfigMgr asset recognition and reporting capabilities.

Microsoft introduced Asset Intelligence (AI) 1.0 functionality in SMS 2003 SP 3. The ConfigMgr 2007 RTM and SP 1 releases have included enhanced functionality with AI 1.1 and 1.5, respectively. This discussion focuses on support for Asset Intelligence 1.5 in ConfigMgr 2007 SP 1. 

ConfigMgr hardware and software inventory gather raw data about the components and files present on client computer systems. AI matches hardware and software elements to its extensive catalog of known devices and applications to convert inventory data into usable information about the assets in your environment. AI also integrates usage and license data to provide reporting capabilities on how information technology (IT) assets are used in your environment and compliance with licensing requirements. Here are some questions Asset Intelligence reports can help you answer:

  • What IT hardware and software assets are deployed in the environment?

  • Who is using IT assets, and what are the usage patterns and trends?

  • What changes have occurred in the IT asset base?

  • How are software licenses and Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs) used?

  • What hardware is compatible with operating system and application software in use or proposed for deployment?

Configuring Asset Intelligence

Asset Intelligence information collection is not enabled by default in ConfigMgr 2007. AI uses specific hardware inventory classes and software metering data to identify and report on various assets. Before enabling AI, you need to enable the hardware inventory agent and software metering agent at each site where you plan to gather AI data. 

Expand the Configuration Manager console tree to System Center Configuration Manager -> Site Database -> Computer Management -> Asset Intelligence.

Right-click the Asset Intelligence node and choose Edit Asset Intelligence Reporting Class Settings from the context menu.

On the Asset Intelligence Reporting Class Settings page, select the reporting classes you want to enable, and then click OK. Figure 16 displays this dialog box with the Enable all Asset Intelligence reporting classes option selected. Before making your selection, click the Help button and review the information about which reporting classes are required for each AI report. You can also view the list of reports using data from each class by hovering your mouse pointer over the class name. Enable only the AI reporting classes you need, to avoid increasing computer and network resource usage during the hardware inventory cycle.

Figure 16. Enabling all AI reporting classes through the Asset Intelligence Reporting Class Settings page

Asset Intelligence uses logon events from the local Windows security event log to monitor Client Access License usage. If you plan to use AI to monitor CALs, complete the following tasks:

Enable auditing of success logon events on client computers. Generally, you can accomplish this through Active Directory Domain Security Policy. For clients in workgroups or downlevel domains, you need to configure this setting in the local group policy on each system. The help files for your version of Windows describe how to accomplish these tasks.

Edit the Configuration.mof file for each ConfigMgr site at which you collect CAL data to add appropriate settings to the CCM_CALTrackConfig WMI data class. The article at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc161947.aspx describes the CCM_CALTrackConfig WMI data class.

One of the most exciting new features in AI 1.5 is the ability to synchronize your Asset Intelligence catalog with System Center Online. This feature is available only to Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) customers who carry SA on ConfigMgr. For more information about the Microsoft Software Assurance program, see http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/sa/default.mspx. Previous versions of AI provide only a static catalog, which quickly becomes out of date. In addition to synchronizing with the latest online catalog, SA customers may submit data about unrecognized software to Microsoft for analysis, upload custom applications to share with the System Center community, and maintain local customizations of their own catalog.

To configure AI to synchronize with System Center Online, you must first install and configure an asset intelligence synchronization point in your ConfigMgr central site. Prior to installing your AI synchronization point, obtain a System Center Online authentication certificate file (.pfx) from your Microsoft representative and confirm that the site system on which you install the synch point can communicate with the Internet on port 443. Perform the following steps to configure the Synchronization Point site role:

Add the asset intelligence synchronization point as a new server role for the appropriate site system.

Enter the path to the certificate file (.pfx) on the New Site Role Wizard Asset Intelligence Synchronization Point Connection Settings page, and click Next.

Configure the synchronization schedule on the Asset Intelligence Synchronization Point Schedule page.

ConfigMgr 2007 SP 1 allows you to import license information from a Microsoft Volume Licensing Software (MVLS) spreadsheet or custom spreadsheet in the appropriate format. MVLS customers can obtain this spreadsheet from their software reseller. For information about creating a custom spreadsheet for non-MVLS license information, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc431362.aspx. To import license information, perform the following steps:

Open the spreadsheet in the same version of Excel used to create it and save the spreadsheet as an .xml file. (You must use Microsoft Office Excel 2003 to convert spreadsheets with the .xls file extension and Microsoft Office Excel 2007 for spreadsheets with the .xlsx extension.)

Expand the Configuration Manager console tree to System Center Configuration Manager -> Site Database -> Computer Management -> Asset Intelligence.

Right-click the Asset Intelligence node and choose Import Software Licenses from the context menu.

Browse to the location of your .xml license file, select the file, and click Finish to complete the License Import Wizard.

Microsoft provides a white paper on Configuration Manager 2007 Asset Intelligence at http://download.microsoft.com/download/d/0/f/d0f027ac-501c-415a-ba28-85c051d57da4/ConfigMgr%20Asset%20Intelligence%20Whitepaper%20FINAL%20v4.pdf

Viewing Asset Intelligence Reports

When you configure Asset Intelligence and allow time for the inventory collection process to populate AI data in the site database, you can view AI reports from the Reporting node of the ConfigMgr console similar to viewing any other reports. You can also view AI reports in the console, under System Center Configuration Manager -> Site Database -> Computer Management -> Asset Intelligence -> Asset Intelligence Reports. Within the Asset Intelligence report category, there are three subcategories, each of which provides extensive reporting capabilities:

  • Hardware— Asset Intelligence reports in the Hardware category include reports on upgrade readiness of computers and reports that identify USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices attached to client systems. By recognizing specific hardware devices, AI gives you the capability to report on readiness for OS and application upgrades. Several reports in this category use logon information from the Security event log to report on the users who have logged on to the machine, and attempt to identify the primary user of each computer.

    Identifying the primary user of a computer has been an ongoing challenge for SMS and ConfigMgr administrators. While the AI method is not perfect, it is another tool to help meet this challenge. The AI Hardware category also includes reports that detail changes made on client systems.

  • Licensing— By leveraging licensing data along with software inventory data, AI provides extensive reporting capabilities on the licenses you own, license usage, and license expiration. AI licensing reports can help you solve some of the more difficult challenges in license compliance reporting, such as Client Access License (CAL) tracking and identifying Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) software. You can use reports on per-user and per-device CAL usage to help determine how many client access licenses are in use.

    AI can distinguish between different licensing SKUs (stock keeping units) such as retail or MSDN. The terms and conditions specified in MSDN license agreements differ from those in retail licenses, and the ability to recognize MSDN software is essential for determining whether your organization is appropriately and fully utilizing software used under this program. For more information about MSDN, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/.

    Another license compliance challenge is distinguishing between different editions of software such as Microsoft SQL Server. The executable names are the same, for example, for SQL Server Standard Edition and SQL Server Enterprise Edition. AI matches file details with its asset catalog, presenting accurate information on SQL Server editions in your environment.

  • Software— Reports in the AI Software category provide a far more detailed and meaningful picture of the software deployed in your enterprise than reporting on raw software inventory data. AI uses its catalog of more than 300,000 software products and versions to accurately identify applications and provide details about those applications.

    AI categorizes software by family, such as application development software, industry-specific software, and software used by system components and peripherals. AI further distinguishes software titles by specific categories such as software for the mining industry or software for educational services. You can also add custom labels to software titles to provide additional information relevant to your business.

    All this information is available though AI software reports. AI also provides reports on software configured as auto-start and browser helper applications. AI uses software metering data to report on software usage patterns such as recently used or infrequently used programs.

There is an active TechNet forum on Asset Intelligence at http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/configmgrai/threads/.

6. Reporting on Application Compatibility

One of the major challenges of deploying operating system upgrades, service packs, and patches is identifying potential application and hardware compatibility issues and device driver upgrade requirements. To help system administrators address these issues, Microsoft provides the Application Compatibility Toolkit (AppCompat or ACT). The Microsoft ACT connector for Configuration Manager uses AppCompat data to help you plan for Vista and Windows Server 2008 upgrades or service pack deployments for Windows XP and higher versions of Windows. To use the ACT connector, you must complete the following tasks:

Download and install the Application Compatibility Toolkit. The ACT toolkit is available from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc507847.aspx.

Install the ACT connector by running setup from the ConfigMgr 2007 installation media and selecting System Center Configuration Manager Application Compatibility Toolkit Connector from the installation options.

Create and deploy the appropriate ACT data collection packages (DCPs). The ACT documentation describes how to create the DCPs. You can use ConfigMgr software deployment to deploy the DCPs.

You should deploy the Inventory Collector DCP to collections of up to 5,000 systems at one time to identify the applications on your target systems. After developing an application inventory, deploy a Windows Vista Compatibility Evaluator DCP to a representative collection of machines to evaluate possible compatibility issues such as User Account Control (UAC) compatibility issues, applications using deprecated application programming interfaces (APIs), systems with a non-Microsoft Graphical Identification and Authentication (GINA) and applications requiring access to session 0.

Expand the Configuration Manager console tree to System Center Configuration Manager -> Site Database -> Computer Management -> Application Compatibility Toolkit Connector. Click Run Device Driver Synchronization from the Actions pane. This task retrieves the latest driver compatibility information from the Microsoft online database.

Note: Processing Time for Data Collection Packages

It can take up to 7 days for the ACT toolkit to retrieve and analyze application compatibility data from 5,000 machines.

After completing the steps in this section, you can use reports in the following categories to analyze your systems for issues related to Vista or Windows 2008 Server upgrades:

  • Upgrade Assessment – Windows Server 2008

  • Upgrade Assessment – Windows Vista

  • Upgrade Assessment – Windows XP

Each report category includes reports that can help you determine which of your systems meet minimum and recommended hardware requirements for the relevant upgrades, and identify systems needing additional free disk space or hardware upgrades. Additional reports in the Windows Vista category display application and driver-compatibility information and availability status for driver upgrades.

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