Tagged: Cireson

Cireson Software Asset Management – Tracking Operating Systems

The question of tracking Operating Systems within the Cireson Asset Management solution came up the other day and I thought I’d put together a quick blog post to cover off why we would do this and more importantly how.

Why Track OS Versions in Asset Management?

First off, I think it is important to ask yourself why you would want to track Operating Systems within your organisation as it might not give you any useful metrics or data that would be useful in any way to us.

For example: If your organisation has an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft that covers Windows for all of your PC’s then why do we need to report on it? If we know for sure that we are covered regardless of what version of the OS is used, then there is no useful reports that we can gain about licensing of OS’s.

However, we could get some reports about how our upgrades are going or if a particular threat is seen for a specific OS we could quickly report on what our exposure would be.

So the first thing that you really need to do is determine if it is worth tracking Operating Systems before investing time and effort in to setting these up.

How to Track OS Versions in Asset Management

If we have decided to track OS versions then we need to make sure we cover all OS’s that we want to track by creating Software Assets for each of the branches that we want to track.

For Example: If you are wanting to track just major versions (Windows 7, 8, 10) then it is possible to create a Software Asset for each of these without needing to go any lower level.

However, if you are trying to ensure workstations are up-to-date, then you will have to create a software asset for each SKU of Windows OS (e.g. Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Enterprise)

Once all individual OS’s are tracked then I would also suggest creating two Software asset called “All Windows Desktop OS’s” and “All Windows Server OS’s”. These will have bundle rules for all of the OS’s so you can track licensing if you have a limited number of OS Licenses.

Below is a list of OS’s that could be tracked, but it would be up to the individual as to which ones to use.

Server OS’s

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition R2
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition R2
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Web Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Standard
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Standard
Windows Server 2016 Datacenter
Windows Server 2016 Standard

Desktop OS’s

Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate
Windows 7 Enterprise
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 7 Ultimate
Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 8 Professional
Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional
Microsoft Windows Vista
Windows XP Professional

How to Enter OS Versions in Asset Management

Now all you have to do is enter these in the Cireson Asset Management and we are done right?

Not so fast.

We have a few options to play with here including an option that is “This is an OS”. Seems fairly obvious that we would select this right?

Not so much.

This option looks in a separate location of the ConfigMgr data instead of the Add or Remove Programs list, But the Windows OS is also recorded in the Add or Remove Programs list and can often have more detail, so it is better not to use this option.

Entering Software Assets one at a time can be a challenge and take a lot of time, so to make it easier, here is an Excel file filled with all the information you need to make this happen by importing via Cireson Asset Import, or Cireson Asset Excel.

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Happy reporting.

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A New Way to Look at System Center Configuration Manager

If you are like me and have spent many years (even decades) looking at the Configuration Manager console you probably can’t think that there could possibly be any other way to do you work on a day-to-day basis. Navigating the Configuration Manager console becomes second nature after a while and we don’t really think about it.

However, what if there was a new way to look at the Configuration Manager console that was easy to teach new staff members to learn and use, gives staff members access to just the features they need (and no more) and is available everywhere we need it without needing an app installed?

Well now there is!

Cireson, Your System Center Experts, have announced the Cireson Portal for Configuration Manager. It is a web-based experience to help manage and standardise daily tasks outside of the native Configuration Manager Console. This new approach to the ConfigMgr console empowers everyone on your IT team with anywhere, anytime access to inventory data, collection membership, software management and deployment, OSD management and deployment, and more.

Full Disclaimer: At this point I want to make the disclaimer that I work for Cireson. I also want to point out that I have worked with ConfigMgr since SMS v2.0 and that I will try my utmost to not let my involvement with Cireson colour my judgement of this tool and what it means for the SysAdmin’s daily workload.

With that out of the way….. This product is the best thing since ADR’s!

Any admin who uses ConfigMgr on a daily basis knows what a HUGE relief it was when we got ADR’s in the 2012 release of ConfigMgr. It saved us hours of packaging and testing and mucking about. In my opinion, the Cireson Portal for Configuration Manager is the most important innovation to the administration of  ConfigMgr since ADR’s were introduced.

Why am I so confident about this portal and it’s claims? The answer is that it is build is being directed and overseen by Wally Mead himself. For anyone involved ins the Configuration Manager world for more than 5 minutes knows who Wally is, but in case you don’t Wally was involved with the ConfigMgr product within Microsoft for 22 years and literally wrote the book on all things ConfigMgr. So when I say this solution has pedigree, you know I mean it.

Enough talk, let’s take a look at some of the ways the Configuration Manager Portal changes the way people will use and interact with ConfigMgr on a daily basis.

If you are a ConfigMgr admin in Australia, no doubt you know, and often tell stories at dinner parties, about the incident where “SCCM Task Sequence blew up Australia’s CommBank” also reported as “Disastrous patch cripples CommBank“. Many ConfigMgr admins shudder at the thought of how easy this mistake was and often bring this up when explaining to their managers why they don’t want to give Service Desk or other IT teams access to the ConfigMgr console.

The Configuration Manager Portal is designed to give Configuration Manager Admins what they have always dreamed of… a way to easily give others access to the parts of Configuration Manager they require and nothing else! With the Configuration Manager Portal, Admins can easily configure targeted access for different Analyst Groups using Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) so that these Analysts can add Configuration Manager to their tool belt and maximise the value they bring to the business without the keys to the kingdom….   and potential disaster.

At the core of why the Configuration Manager Portal is it is a localized web-based portal and therefore there is no Configuration Manager Console deployment that needs to be created and maintained. Also it is a simplified interface that makes it easy to use and intuitive, thereby reducing the time that is required to spend on training Analysts.

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Easy to scope security for all support teams

Don’t get me wrong, the Configuration Manager Portal is not designed to replace the OOB Configuration Manager Console for actual Configuration Manager Administrators. The traditional console has everything and admin needs to not only operate day-to-day, but also upgrade, plan, expand, migrate etc. But for non-admins, or non-admin tasks, the Configuration Manager Portal is perfect to get in and get the job done.

What about a specific example?

For many organisations, the Service Desk (Level 1 Support) is a volume business.  Time management and efficiency are the keys to success for incident and request triage, first-call resolution, and escalation. Correctly gathering and analysing required information about an incident or service request in an expedient manner allows for a faster resolutions or fulfillment of service.

Leveraging the Cireson Portal for Service Manager with the Configuration Manager Portal gives Service Desk Analysts the tools they need to gather and analyze the info they need to do their jobs more efficiently. Upon receiving an Incident Request, they can quickly use the Configuration Manager Portal to gain information on affected resources such as:

  • User Device Affinity lookup and edit
  • Current Inventory
  • Software Deployment Status

The Service Desk Analyst can also use the Configuration Manager Portal to initiate a Software Deployment on demand if you as the admin allows it via RBAC right.

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Simple console interface from any browser

What about Desktop Support or the Server team?

Desktop Support staff spend much of their time away from their assigned workstations resolving issues and providing services at the end user’s location. Having to access a locally installed Configuration Manager Console can add unnecessary time when needing to get the end user back to being productive. Server Support teams put a premium on time, especially when dealing with server outages. Therefore, Server Analysts need quick access to information and remediation tools for servers either from their desk or in the Data Center, and sometimes from remote locations.

Having a web based ConfigMgr console allows Desktop and Server teams to:

  • Get software update status and apply patches when necessary
  • Deploy or upgrade software, if required
  • Deploy a new OS Image to a computer or server
  • Migrate a computer to an new OS (such as Windows 10 + Office 365) using MDT
  • View reporting for all of the above
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Easily deploy software, even when not at your desk.

Finally, Managers can easily report and track the overall health of the organisation using simple to access dashboards to get a high level view of the entire IT operation.

Watch a sneak peek of the solution featuring Cireson Co-Founder, Shaun Ericson, and Microsoft MVP, Wally Mead. View now.

The Cireson Portal for Configuration Manager will be generally available in early 2017. Learn more and sign-up for first-priority access here.

How to use the Cireson Asset Import Connector

A little while ago on the Cireson Community Forum a member asked for more details on how the Cireson Asset Import Connector works. So I decided to write a blog post about it to clear up exactly what the connector is and how it works. I also recorded a short video for those of you who do not like long winded blog posts. You can find the video here.

The Cireson Asset Import Connector is one of the solutions contained within the Cireson Asset Management Stream of products and allows for Asset Administrators to take the guesswork out of importing external data into System Center Service Manager. This app allows any out-of-the-box CMDB data, or any information in the Cireson Asset Management app, to be imported from external CSV, SQL, ODBC or LDAP sources of truth, exposing an intuitive interface that provides the ability to map columns and schedule imports when required.

All little know pub quiz fact is that the Cireson Asset Import App grew from the CSV import app which was the very first Cireson app to hit the market. Next time this question comes up in a pub quiz, rest easy knowing that you now have the answer and are in a pub that is so cool it asks question like that one! 🙂

When you add the Cireson Asset Import app to a Service Manager environment, importing data becomes seamless. One-time imports and configuring XML files become a thing of the past. The straightforward app provides the organization with the ability to build an asset repository of information that is relevant and accurate when working with requests in Service Manager.

So lets get in to it… throughout the following post, I will call out important things to note and also what is generally regarded as “Best Practice” but always consider the requirements and impact these settings may have.

1. Creating a new Asset Import Connector

  1. Within the SCSM console, select the Administration workspace.
  2. Right click the Connectors Node.
  3. Select Create Connector from the drop down menu.
  4. Select Asset Management Import Connector from the sub menu.
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 ami02 NOTE:

The sub menu option for Asset Management Import Connector (Import) is for creating pre-created or backed up Import Connectors.

Enter a name for the connector that will make sense to other administrators for future maintenance tasks.

Select a Management Pack (or create a new one) that will be used to contain the workflow information required for the workflow of the connector.

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 ami04 Cireson Best Practice:

Best practice for creation of Management Packs is to create these Management Packs via the SCSM authoring tool and giving it an internal and full name in the format of “ – Asset management Import Connectors”.

This then assists to identify the Management Pack when exported or backed up at a later date.

The next step will be different depending on the input data source. Select and use one of the following sections below before continuing.

2. Using a CSV Source

After completing the steps in the section below, browse to the location of the .CSV file that contains the asset data to import and select the Encoding Format of the file.

The selected path can be either a local path (on the SCSM workflow server) or a network share that has read permissions by the Workflow account.

The first line of the CSV file must contain the header row information for the data contained within.

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 ami04 Cireson Best Practice:

It is Cireson best practice to create a single folder that contains all the CSV import files for any connector that is being used. It is also best to configure the connectors to use a UNC path as the location path of the file selected as this allows the connector to be edited successfully from other computers.

 Continue the connector settings.

 3. Using a SQL Source

For Microsoft SQL Server data source:

Enter the SQL Connection string by clicking the ellipse button and entering the required connection information.

 ami02 NOTE:

If Windows Authentication is to be used, the SCSM Workflow account must have read access to the source database.

Enter the SQL query that will be used to extract the data required for this connector.

Click Execute Query to test the query and gather field name requirements for class property mapping.

The SQL Query Results field will show the number of row returned if the query was successful.

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Continue the connector settings.

4. Using a ODBC Source

For ODBC Server data source:

Create a File Data Source Name (DSN) that contains the Server, Database and username for the data source.

Browse the file system and select the File DSN.

 ami02 NOTE:

The SCSM Workflow account must have read access to the File DSN.

Enter the File DSN Password for the username within the File DSN.

Enter the SQL query that will be used to extract the data required for this connector.

Click Execute Query to test the query and gather field name requirements for class property mapping.

The SQL Query Results field will show the number of row returned if the query was successful.

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Continue the connector settings.

 5. Using an LDAP Source

For an LDAP data source:

Enter the LDAP Server or Namespace and the LDAP Port (If required).

If the SCSM Workflow account does not have read access to the LDAP source, enter alternative credentials with the required rights.

Enter the LDAP Attributes that are required to be returned separated by commas.

Enter an LDAP search starting path to reduce the search scope as required.

Enter any LDAP Filter needed to refine the results to the specific required data.

Click Execute Query to test the query and gather field name requirements for class property mapping.

The LDAP Query Result field will show the number of row returned if the query was successful.

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Continue the connector settings.

6. Connector Settings

Select the target class that the records will be imported in to. This might be one of the base classes (Such as Hardware Asset) or, if other relationships are required, selecting a combination class (Type Projection) that contains the relationships required for the import.

Enter a Workflow log path to track import results and reporting on success\failure.

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Set the required options for the instance of the Asset Import connector. See below for more details on these options.

Once all options are selected, click Next.

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Asset Import Connector Options:

Test Mode The connector will run and create log file for inspection without commiting any changes to the SCSM database.
This connector can create new items When enabled, this option will allow the connector to create new records within the database.

This is used to allow the import of new records.

This connector can update existing items When enabled, this option will allow the connector to update existing records that match the key fields the selected class.
This connector will DELETE ALL matching items only This option changes the behaviour from creation to deleting of records. Any record matched from the import data to an instance of the class will be removed from the SCSM database.

WARNING! If data is deleted it can not be recovered.

This connector will update multiple existing items matching specific custom keys
Do not replace \n with a linefeed By default, the improt connector will interperate any \n text as representing a new line and therefore will replcae it with a linefeed character within SQL.

7. Mapping Fields

Data Mappings allow the mapping of the specified input data to the properties of the selected target class within SCSM.

On the Data Mapping screen, if the option for “This connector will update multiple existing items matching apecific custom keys” is selected on the previous screen the first option that will show is for Custom Keys. Custom Keys are used to fins all existing matching items and update them as normal via the mappings below. At least one custom key is required.

The Custom Key can be any of the properties for the class that was selected for this connector.

Add the custom keys as required and map these to the data from the import source.

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 ami02 NOTE:

All Key Properties for the selected class as well as any Custom Keys are required fields and must be mapped to continue.

The property displayed in the left column will show all properties of the selected class, along with any extended properties that have been added for the class.

The Data Type in the middle column will show what input data type the property will expect. String (Key) identifies the primary key for the selected class.

The Mapped To value displayed in the right column will show drop-down values for each available column header from the specified source

The Hardware Asset ID should be mapped to the primary key selection you chose in the Asset Management Settings. (Serial Number, Asset Tag, GUID, etc.)

Map all additional properties to the input data that is defined from the Input source.

Any properties that are mapped will be updated or entered as defined.

Any properties that are not mapped will not be updated.

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If a Combination Class is selected for the connector there will be additional mapping fields under the Relationship heading.

These can be used to map data from multiple classes together as relationships as required.

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Once all mappings are complete, click Next.

8. Connector Workflow Schedule

Some connectors will be run as a once off to import bulk data in to the SCSM database, whereas others might be run on a schedule to keep other data sources up-to-date within the database.

An example of a scheduled data source might be a connector in to a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution or an accounting or purchase system (for invoices and Purchase Orders).

For connectors that will be only run once, select the option marked This connector will be run manually.

When using this option, a warning message will be displayed to remind administrators that the connector will only run when using the Synchronize Now task within the console.

For a reoccurring schedule, enter the frequency as either daily or as a regular reoccurrence with a set frequency.

Ensure the Connector Enabled option is enabled to all ow the connector to run. This option may help with the administration of the connector at a later date if it needs to be turned off for a period of time for maintenance or fault finding.

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When the scheduling information has been entered, click Create.  ami17

9. Manually Running a Connector

Once a connector has been created it will show within the Connectors node in the Administration workspace of the SCSM console. Within this node, administrators are able to see the current status of all connectors, when they were last started and finished and their percentage complete.

Administrators are also able to manually run a connector to either force the synchronization regardless of workflow schedule or to trigger a non-repeating connector.

To manually run a connector:

Within the SCSM console, select the Administration workspace.

Select the Connectors node.

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Select the Connector to be run and click the Synchronize Now task within the tasks pane.  ami19
If the connector does not have a schedule set (is disabled) then a message will appear informing that the connector is disabled and asking if it should still be run.

Click Yes to run the Synchronization.

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The connector workflow will then be scheduled to start at the next opportunity for the workflow engine.

10. Exporting and Importing a Connector

Once a connector has been configured the settings can be exported to allow administrators to copy the connector to a different environment (dev to prod).

To export and import a connector:

Within the environment to export from:

Within the SCSM console, select the Administration workspace.

Select the Connectors node.

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Select the Connector to be run and click the Export task within the tasks pane.

Save the connector XML file to a path and click Save.

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Within the environment to import in to:

On the Connectors node, select Create Connector from the drop down menu.

Select Asset Management Import Connector (Import) from the sub menu.

Browse to the folder containing the exported XML file, select the xml file to import and click OK.

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A window will appear to rename the Connector from its original name if required and change the Management Pack that holds the information.

If the connector is importing from a CSV file, an additional field will appear that is used to provide the source location of the CSV file required.

Enter the values needed and click OK.

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The connector will be imported and will now appear in the connectors node.

11. Deleting a Connector

If a connector is no longer needed, then it can be removed from the SCSM environment by deleting the connector from the console.

To delete a connector:

Within the environment to export from:

Within the SCSM console, select the Administration workspace.

Select the Connectors node.

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Click the Delete task from the tasks pane on the right of the screen.

Click OK on the message that appears to confirm the connector to be deleted.

The connector has previously imported data a second message will appear asking if the data that was imported from the connector should be deleted.

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Hope this gives you a clear idea of how this app comes together and works for your organization.

Leave a comment if you have any additional questions.