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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Creating and Modifying Configurations (part 5) - External Authoring, Authoring with CP Studio

8/7/2013 9:45:32 AM

External Authoring

Configuration items and baselines are stored in the SML XML format. SML is an industry-standard language specification that provides a rich method for modeling complex IT systems and services—see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/manageability/bb738088.aspx for in-depth coverage of SML, including the SML schema. Not all criteria modeled in SML can actually be displayed or edited with the built-in DCM toolset. However, because SML is the native language of DCM, these criteria are still evaluated and reported on properly.

DCM Digest is another XML format that DCM can use to define configuration items and baselines. DCM Digest is a Microsoft-proprietary modeling language that is dedicated to DCM; complete details of DCM Digest, including the schema, are available in the “DesiredConfigurationManagement_DigestAuthoring.doc” Microsoft Word document in the ConfigMgr SDK (downloadable from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=064A995F-EF13-4200-81AD-E3AF6218EDCC&displaylang=en%20; you can also find the SDK by searching for ConfigMgr 2007 SDK at www.microsoft.com/downloads). ConfigMgr takes configuration data imported from DCM Digest, converts it, and stores it in the site database.

Note: Configuration Manager Toolkit

The Configuration Manager Toolkit, which is available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=948e477e-fd3b-4a09-9015-141683c7ad5f&DisplayLang=en (or search for Configuration Manager 2007 Toolkit at www.microsoft.com/downloads), includes three tools to help author outside of ConfigMgr:

  • DCM Model Verification— Used to validate and test configuration items and baselines authored externally from the ConfigMgr console.

  • DCM Digest Conversion— Used to convert existing SMS 2003 Desired Configuration Management Solution templates to Desired Configuration Management 2007 configuration items.

  • DCM Substitution Variables— Used to author configuration items that use chained setting and object discovery. Substitution variables cannot be created or used by the ConfigMgr built-in toolset but are part of DCM Digest specification.

Why would anyone want to use SML or DCM Digest rather than the built-in editor? Here are several reasons:

  • The ConfigMgr toolset cannot model every conceivable evaluation criteria. You may have to resort to one of these languages to implement the checks you want to implement.

  • You may be comfortable working with XML. Working with XML gives you fine-grain control over the implementation of criteria and eliminates any abstraction present in the ConfigMgr console.

  • Using an XML format provides the ability to create and edit configuration data outside of the console.

    The responsibility for creating the configuration data may not lie with a user who has access or should have access to the ConfigMgr console. Although using an XML format is a bit more cumbersome, these types of users can author without being granted privileges within ConfigMgr.

3. Authoring with CP Studio

Working directly with XML is fraught with issues and not an attractive option to most administrators or to individuals responsible for creating the baselines who may not even be technically inclined.

CP Studio offers all the advantages of authoring configuration data outside the console without the requirement of needing to know XML. CP Studio also gives you the ability to create configuration data from an existing system using a profiling process that converts the current state of the system into a baseline. This profiling process enables you to configure a system to your organization’s exact standards and use CP Studio to create a baseline matching that configuration. After importing the created baseline into DCM, you can now verify that all your systems are identically configured with little effort.

CP Studio has three major features:

  • Golden Master Creation Wizard— This wizard creates a configuration item from the current configuration of a specified system. The wizard prompts you to select which parts of the system to consider in creating the new baseline. The wizard cannot review every setting on a system because there are countless possibilities, but it does a very good job nonetheless. Figure 20 shows this wizard and the possible settings it can use to build the configuration item.

    Figure 20. Validation example in CP Studio
  • Criteria Builder— Perhaps the lengthiest part of actually developing a configuration item using the ConfigMgr built-in toolset is jumping around to other tools to build and verify criteria. As an example, to create Registry key object or settings checks, you need to use regedit (or some other Registry editor); for WMI queries you need to use WBEMTest, the Microsoft WMI tools, WMIC (or another tool); and the same goes for each other type of possible criteria.

    CP Studio includes built-in criteria builders and browsers for each type of criteria listed in Tables 2 and 3. Therefore, you do not have to use an external tool to browse for values or create criteria. The built-in criteria builders connect to the local system or remote systems and greatly speed the process. Figure 21 displays the WMI query builder.

    Figure 21. The CP Studio WMI query builder
  • Baseline Testing— CP Studio has a built-in testing module that applies a selected baseline, on demand to the local or remote systems, which gives you instant results. This also greatly speeds the development life cycle of a baseline, because using the ConfigMgr toolset you first have to assign the baseline to a test collection, wait for the policy to be downloaded, and then manually log in to the system.

CP Studio does not enable you to build criteria that you cannot build with the ConfigMgr toolset. What it does, however, is offer a layer of abstraction that makes building the criteria easier and much quicker. With the addition of the testing module and Golden Master Creation Wizard, CP Studio can significantly reduce your development cycle for baselines and configuration items.

Building baselines and configuration items—using the built-in toolset, raw XML, or CP Studio—are technical tasks in DCM. Deciding how to use the baseline and configuration items best in your organization is more of a conceptual task that requires planning and forethought. The next section covers some strategies for doing so.

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