This is part two in a series of blog articles on providing asset management from a Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager basis. In this series, we have already introduced the asset management capabilities of Configuration Manager, the limitations of those native capabilities, and then discussed how Cireson’s Asset Management products can provide a fully capable asset management solution that your company can use and rely on. Cireson Asset Management can take the great basis that Configuration Manager provides, expand upon it to give you a more functional set of assets that you can truly manage. This blog correspond to the webinars that are being presented in a series of webinars that began in June. Each webinar is recorded and available on the Vimeo site if you happen to miss them or want to watch again.

Part 1 webinar recording (https://vimeo.com/130468107).

Part 2 webinar recording (https://vimeo.com/132363640).

Given that part 1 in the blog series, as well as in the webinar series covers the Configuration Manager basics, I’ll jump directly into the Cireson Asset Management app in this blog.

Overview of Cireson Asset Management

Cireson’s Asset Management stream of products consists of the following apps that can assist you in your asset management processes:

  • Asset Management app – this app provides the core set of functionality for Cireson Asset Management. It adds the additional data classes that allow you to associate financial, contractual, business and technical data to your hardware and software assets
  • Asset Import app – this app allows you to import hardware and software assets, as well as the financial, contractual, business and technical data that you can associate with your hardware and software assets to provide the full asset management data you need
  • Asset Excel – this add-on to Microsoft Excel allows the asset manager to use an interface that they are already familiar with to interact with the asset data
  • Asset Barcode – this is the newest app in the stream that allow you to view and manage your asset data from a smartphone, including receiving assets

You can find more information about the Asset Management stream, as part of the Cireson Platform, at https://cireson.com/cireson-platform.

Installation of Cireson Asset Management

Once you have acquired the license for Cireson’s Asset Management app, and have downloaded it, the installation process is pretty simple. It involves the importing of a handful of management packs into Service Manager, and the copying of a file. This process only takes a couple of minutes to complete. To install, within the Service Manager Console from the Administration workspace’s Management Packs node, import these management packs:

  • CiresonAssetManagement.mpb
  • CiresonAssetManagementPreviewForms.mpb
  • Cireson.AssetManagement.Workflows.xml
  • Cireson.AssetManagement.SoftwareMetering.mpb

Note that the last management pack is only required if you want to use software metering data from Configuration Manager to associate users and computers that have used specific software assets within your asset management processes.

Once you have imported these management packs, you also need to copy the Cireson.AssetManagement.Workflows.dll file from your download folder to the Service Manager installation folder. This would default to ProgramFilesMicrosoft System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager, however you should use your own installation folder.

After you’ve installed the Cireson Asset Management app, you would want to license it immediately. You can do that by importing the appropriate license key into the Cireson – Asset Management Settings (in the Administration workspace, Settings node). The license key is the first attribute you would configured in the Miscellaneous section of settings.

For more detailed reference on installation of the Cireson Asset Management app, refer to the following knowledge base article: https://support.cireson.wpengine.com/KnowledgeBase/View/75/?selectedtab=enduser

Installation of Cireson Asset Import

The next app you will want to install is the Cireson Asset Import app. The installation process is also very simple and quick. It involves the importing of one management pack into Service Manager, and the copying of three files. Prior to importing the Asset Import app management pack, you need to copy two files from the Service Manager Authoring installation to your Service Manager installation folder. The two files to be copied are:

  • Microsoft.ServiceManager.WorkflowAuthoring.ActivityLibrary.dll
  • Microsoft.ServiceManager.WorkflowAuthoring.Common.dll

The default installation path of the Service Manager Authoring feature is: Program Files (x86)Microsoft System Center 2012 R2Service Manager AuthoringPackagesToLoad. And as already mentioned above, use the appropriate location for the Service Manager installation folder as the destination of the two files.

To install the Asset Import app, within the Service Manager Console from the Administration workspace’s Management Packs node, import the Cireson.AssetManagement.Import.mpb management pack. Finally, you would copy the Cireson.AssetManagement.Import.Workflows.dll file from your downloaded location to the Service Manager installation folder.

And just like the Cireson Asset Management app, after installation, you will need to provide your license key to the Cireson – Asset Management Import Settings to finish the installation and licensing process.

For more detailed reference on installation of the Cireson Asset Management app, refer to the following knowledge base article: https://support.cireson.wpengine.com/KnowledgeBase/View/53/?selectedtab=enduser

 Configuration of Cireson Asset Management Settings

Both the Cireson Asset Management app as well as the Cireson Asset Import app have settings that can be used to control the behavior of the respective apps. This section will provide a brief introduction to the common settings that are often implemented. Each of the respective knowledge base articles referenced earlier for installation of the apps includes a section on the settings that cover in more detail the settings values. This section will just provide an overview of recommended configuration for some of the high priority items. As the Asset Import app has many fewer settings to discuss, we’ll start there, then move onto the longer discussion of the Asset Management app settings. You will configure the appropriate settings using the same process you did to license the respective apps – the Service Manager Console’s Administration workspace, and the Settings node.

For Cireson – Asset Management Import Settings, the commonly implemented settings are:

Asset Import Settings

Of course, you’d have your License Key value in the top attribute.  Other settings of note are:

  • Default workflow log path when creating connectors – you want to set a UNC path here that is shared with your Service Manager workflow account, as well as your administrators who will need to access the logs to check on import connector processes
  • Test Mode is default when creating connectors – this value will set the default run mode of an import connect (which we’ll discuss creating in the next webinar and accompanying blog) to only test, however not implement, the import connector data import process. This allows you to verify that you have no import errors that may cause an issue during live import
  • Maximum workflow running time in seconds – this defaults to 7200, which is two hours of run time. Unless your import source is extremely large, this should be sufficient for the vast majority of scenarios
  • Remove mapped properties if they are blank in the import data (except Guids) – this setting will set values to either empty or NULL if the imported data source is blank for that value
  • Enable connectors and workflows to process to-many relationships (CSV only) – certain data classes may have more than one type of value for the data class itself (referred to as “one-to-many” relationships

For Cireson – Asset Management Settings, there are seven unique sections of settings that can be configured. This next section will discuss the commonly implemented settings for each of those seven sections. This blog will not cover all the settings available, only those commonly implemented.

Miscellaneous settings:

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous 2

  • License Key – of course, you need it, and would have imported it earlier in the process J
  • Maximum attachment size (KB) and Maximum number of attachments – these two values control how many, and how large each attachment can be. These could be scans of contracts, purchase order, invoices, and so on to be included with either the hardware or software asset
  • Workflow Log Path (accessible from Workflow Server) – just as you configured for the Asset Import Settings log path, you’d want a UNC share available to the workflow account and your administrators
  • Restrict create buttons on Asset Management forms to members of the Administrators role – this setting would remove the Create or New button ( ) from all forms related to the asset management classes. With this set, only Server Manager Administrators could create new items
  • Restrict visibility of Key property on License forms to member of this AD group – designating an Active Directory group here will allow only those AD group members from viewing the License key for software assets
  • Remove requirements for Serial Number or Asset Tag from Hardware Asset form – this setting would remove the default requirement to have either a Serial Number or an Asset Tag value for hardware assets. Usually this checkbox is not selected
  • Do not automatically load unauthorized computers when opening the Software Asset form – by default, when you view a software asset, all authorized as well any all unauthorized computers are displayed. This can take a period of time to display all the unauthorized computers, assuming that normally more computers are unauthorized for a software asset than are authorized. Setting this value can reduce the time necessary to view the properties. Even if this checkbox is selected, you can still click a button to view the list of unauthorized computers
  • On the Hardware Asset form, use the Catalog Item Model and Manufacturer list – leave unchecked, unless you have fully configured all the catalog items for your environment. When checked, the attributes change from free text fields to drop down lists to select from the Catalog Items (if populated)

Hardware Asset Sync Workflow settings:

Hardware Asset

Hardware Asset 2

Hardware Asset 3

  • Scheduling options – each of the remaining six settings for the workflows have the same scheduling configuration. You can set either a daily schedule, to run at a specific time each day, or an interval frequency. The recommendation is to have each workflow run daily at a designated time that would allow previous workflows to complete. The Hardware Asset Sync Workflow would be the first one, and should be scheduled to start after the connectors have completed to import data from Active Directory, Configuration Manager, and Operations Manager
  • Workflow Enabled – you do want this enabled so that the workflow will run automatically according to the defined schedule
  • Associate new computers to existing Hardware Assets if Serial Numbers match – this option would normally be selected to automatically merge any new hardware assets coming from your import source to existing hardware assets when the serial number of the computers match
  • If a match is found, rename Hardware Asset to match computer name – this option would normally be selected to automatically rename any existing hardware asset with the name of the new computer being imported
  • Create a Hardware Asset for new devices if one is not already related – this option also would be selected always to allow the Hardware Asset Sync Workflow to create a new hardware asset when there is no match with an existing hardware asset
  • Before creating, check for existing renamed Windows Computer – again, this option is recommended to be selected. This option would check to see if an existing Windows Computer that has been renamed would match (based on the computer SID) the imported object before creating a new hardware asset
  • Use the following selected property value for the unique key (Hardware Asset ID) – this drop down list provides the following options that can be used as the primary key for association – Asset Tag, Serial Number, Principal Name, Id (Guid) and SID. It is usually recommended to use Serial Number if available, however you can use whatever attribute works best for your specific environment
  • If the above property does not exist, create the Hardware Asset and use the associated Device Guid for the Hardware Asset ID – in the event the property you select as the unique key does not exist for an asset, automatically use the device GUID for the ID
  • Don’t remove existing Hardware Asset SCCM properties if they don’t exist from SCCM – when updating a record, don’t remove any properties from Configuration Manager if the updated record doesn’t contain that value
  • Update Hardware Assets with the following properties from SCCM – select the attributes that you want to have updated in your hardware assets from Configuration Manager data – Model, Manufacturer, Asset Tag, and Serial Number
  • Automatically relate Hardware Assets to a Location based on Subnet – use the Configuration Manager IP Subnet value to determine a hardware asset’s location
  • Ignore all items with a name starting with ‘\’ (for example, shared printers) – if selected, any configuration items imported from a connector, such as the Active Directory Connector, that begin with a ‘\’ would be ignored

Software Asset Sync Workflow settings:

Software Asset

  • Scheduling options – select the time of day, and days of the work to have this workflow process software asset information. Be careful to take into other workflows, such as the Hardware Asset Update Sync Workflow, and schedule after that runs
  • Workflow Enabled – this you would normally want enabled to enable software assets to be updated on a schedule
  • Remove authorized computers related to retired, disposed or in-stock Hardware Assets – selecting this option would not count any retired, disposed or in-stock hardware assets as authorized computers as these would normally not be in an ‘in use’ scenario
  • Use Usage Count instead of Install Count to calculate Available Count (unless excluded from metering – only enable this option if you are using Configuration Manager’s software metering feature, and want to use its data to determine licensing availability

Hardware Asset Catalog Item Workflow:

Catalog Item

Catalog Item 2

  • Scheduling options – select the time of day, and days of the work to have this workflow process Catalog Item information. Be careful to take into other workflows, such as the Hardware Asset Update Sync Workflow and Software Asset Workflow that were previously covered, and schedule after those run
  • Workflow Enabled – this you would normally want enabled to enable hardware assets to be updated with current catalog item information
  • When associating a Catalog Item, via a console task or updating via this workflow, update these Hardware Asset properties from related Catalog Items – select any of the attributes that are appropriate for your scenario. Often, Cost and Vendor are not selected, unless you always purchase your specific hardware assets from the same vendor, and for the same price, which is not usually the case
  • Don’t remove existing Hardware Asset properties and relationships if null or empty on Catalog Item – recommended to always select this in order to prevent existing data from being removed in the event that the same attribute is empty/null in the associated Catalog Item
  • Automatically associate Hardware Assets to Catalog Items – select this, however only after you have created all your desired Catalog Items. You can go back and enable this option after you have done so, and the hardware assets will get associated with the appropriate catalog items

License Status Update Workflow:

License

  • Scheduling options – select the time of day, and days of the work to have this workflow process license information. Be careful to take into other workflows, such as the previously covered workflows, and schedule after those run
  • Workflow Enabled – this you would normally want enabled to enable license status to be updated for your hardware and software assets
  • Run Update License Workflow after clicking OK – not normally selected for a production environment due to performance impact. However for a lab/test environment, you can enable it. For production, let the workflow update the license status instead of it updating whenever the “OK” button is used
  • Number of days left on a License to set Expiring status – set the number of days before your license status on the asset is changed to ‘Expiring’. This defaults to seven days, which often to too short of a time to take action. Set this value to your desired status update, such as 30

Contract Status Update Workflow:

Contract

  • Scheduling options – select the time of day, and days of the work to have this workflow process contract information. Be careful to take into other workflows, such as the previously covered workflows, and schedule after those run
  • Workflow Enabled – this you would normally want enabled to enable contract status to be updated for your hardware and software assets
  • Run Update Contract Workflow after clicking OK – not normally selected for a production environment due to performance impact. However for a lab/test environment, you can enable it. For production, let the workflow update the contract status instead of it updating whenever the “OK” button is used
  • Contract Status Warning Threshold – set the percentage of the remaining contract before your contract status on the asset is changed to ‘Warning’. This defaults to 10%, which often to too short of a time to take action. Set this value to your desired status update, such as 50%

 Notice Event Workflow:

Notice Event

  • Scheduling options – select the time of day, and days of the work to have this workflow process notice events. Be careful to take into other workflows, such as the previously covered workflows, and schedule after those run
  • Workflow Enabled – this you would normally want enabled to enable notice events to be updated for your hardware and software assets

There you have it, all the commonly implemented settings for Cireson Asset Management. In the next blog in this series, we’ll look at the process of building out more of our asset management solution by importing custom data that can then be associated with our hardware and software assets. This association can be done manually, as we’ll see next time, or automatically by the appropriate workflows that we just reviewed and configured above.