This is part four in a series of articles providing information on asset management from a Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager basis when integrated with Cireson. 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 of asset data that Configuration Manager provides, expand upon it to give you a more functional set of assets that you can truly manage. These articles roughly 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).

Part 3 webinar recording (https://vimeo.com/133777506).

Part 4 webinar recording (https://vimeo.com/134887135).

To recap, the first three articles, as well as webinars in the series, have already gone through the process of getting Configuration Manager data into the Service Manager CMDB, installing the Cireson Asset Management solution, and creating, as well as importing, custom asset data (including hardware and software assets). As such, this article will jump into examination of asset data for the Cireson Asset Management solution in a bit more detail to prepare us for the fifth, and final, article and webinar in the series.

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 allows 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.

Overview of the Cireson asset data classes

If you recall, we’ve already either manually created asset data, or imported it via import connectors. That’s what we’ll look at in this article – the asset data that we’ve created or imported, and how the various classes of asset information tie together to provide the full information you need to really manage the lifecycle of your hardware and software assets.

Asset management data, at least for the context of this set of articles and webinars, consists of a few different types of data:

  • Administrative data
  • Contractual data
  • Hardware assets
  • Software assets

Each of the data classes can be associated together through relationships to provide the financial, business, technical and contractual data that you want, and need, to track with your hardware and software assets. Certainly hardware and software assets can be tied together to allow you to see which hardware assets have which software assets installed, as well as to see what software assets are installed on which hardware assets. Let’s look at the various types of asset management data classes that are available for management with the Cireson Asset Management solution.

Administrative data classes

The administrative asset data classes are those that provide the financial, business and technical data that can be related to (associated with) the hardware and software assets, as well as the contractual data classes. We’ll explore these last three later in this document.

You access the administrative data classes from the Configuration Items workspace of the Service Manager Console. You first expand the Asset Management node, and then expand the Administration node. From here, you will see unique folders (sometimes called nodes) for each of the appropriate data classes as pictured below.

Administration

The administrative asset data classes are often grouped into three unique categories for discussion:

  • Financial – these represent the following classes: cost centers, invoices, licenses, purchase orders, and purchases
  • Organizational – these provide locations (including subnets), organizations, and standards
  • Other – these are data classes that don’t really fit into the two previous groups, such as catalog items, consumables, notice events, and vendors

A quick overview of each of the data classes for reference include (in order of the console):

  • Catalog Items – these represent consistent, or standard, assets, such as specific models of laptops, desktops, mobile devices, and so on. Catalog Items provide details on these standard systems that can be associated with individual hardware assets to provide additional details on that asset’s configuration
  • Consumables – these are assets that you want to know about, however not fully track the lifecycle of. Items such as keyboards, mice, headsets, and so on. You want to know how many you have, maybe even who has individual ones, and when to order new stock, but aren’t interested in tracking the individual consumable itself
  • Cost Centers – these are the business units or divisions that you want to track assets by. Cost centers can be associated with many of the asset management data classes for tracking purposes
  • Invoices – the specific invoices that were used to purchase hardware, software or the various contract types that can be tracked
  • Licenses – licenses allow you to track the purchased software assets, who is the owner of the license, the specific key to install the software, how many installation you purchased, which users and/or computers are assigned (allowed) to install the software, and so on
  • Locations – locations start with subnets, which come from IP addressing information. Subnets are then tied to (associated with) specific locations, which then let you track the physical location of your assets via logical names, instead of having to try to understand IP subnets
  • Notice Events – these are email notifications when a contract is about to expire, providing the advanced notice to allow time to renew that contract if that is the business decision
  • Organizations – these are the highest level of asset tracking in the environment. Organizations can be related to locations, so you can see all the assets related to the specific organization (including the cost center)
  • Purchase Orders – these are often imported from your internal purchasing system, and allow you to track the assets and contracts acquired via the purchase order, and who was the purchaser, along with the cost center and vendor
  • Purchases – these are individual line items on a purchase order. You can track these individually so that you can see the total cost of an asset over time, as enhancements or upgrades are installed on the hardware asset and thus increase the cost of the initial asset
  • Standards – these represent ‘templates’ for specific types of items, such as users. For example, you may have a standard for accounting users when they are on boarded to provide them with a specific desktop system, with specific software assets, added to a specific Active Directory security group. Standards would be tied to some sort of automation so that when a new accounting user was on boarded, they would be provided with all the items contained in the standard for accounting users
  • Vendors – these are the companies that you purchase your hardware or software assets from, or those who provide services through contracts. Most of the asset management data classes allow you to associate a vendor with individual objects

As you can likely tell from the logical names of the administrative data classes, there are a lot of great classes here that can provide value to your tracking and management of your assets. We’ll see more about some of these asset management data classes as we look further into hardware and software assets later in this article.

Contractual data classes

The Cireson Asset Management solution also allows you to track the various type of contracts – leases, support and maintenance, as well as warranties – and associate the appropriate ones to your assets. And, as mentioned above, the solution can also send email notifications when a contract is nearing expiration, giving you the appropriate time to decide on your next course of action regarding the relevant assets.

Contracts can either be a standard contract or a master contract. Standard contracts have fixed start and end dates for the specific asset. A master contract has a total lifespan (for example three years), which, for an asset, begins when the asset has its received date set in the system.

Contracts

As you can see in the picture above, there are default views in the Cireson Asset Management solution that allow you to easily determine any contracts that are either in a warning or expired state. If you recall from part two of the series, you designate the timing of when you want a contract to be considered in a warning state by designating the percentage of the contract remaining before warning status is identified.

Each of the three types of contracts have very similar attributes for management, such as start date and end date, or contract span if it is a master contract, the vendor, the cost center, the custodian, the purchase order and invoice information, as well as which assets are related to the specific contract. Lots of great information that is invaluable for managing your assets.

Hardware Assets

Now we get to what you really are interested in managing – your hardware and software assets. All the administrative and contractual data classes that were introduced earlier in this article look and sound pretty simple, however they are very important aspects to the lifecycle management of your hardware and software assets, so don’t sell them short. We’ll now look at hardware assets in more detail.

As we’ve mentioned previously, hardware assets can come from multiple sources:

  • Created by Cireson Asset Management workflows, from Windows Computers (computer configuration items) that were created by importing from Active Directory, Configuration Manager, or Operations Manager. You can even manually import computer CIs directly into Service Manager
  • Manual creation in the Hardware Assets node. This would be acceptable for a very small number of assets, but not very useful with lots of assets that need to be added to the environment
  • Imported from an Import Connector. This is a great way to get mass quantities of data added to the Service Manager CMDB, including hardware assets

Once you have the appropriate hardware assets added in the Hardware Assets node, you will want to complete the association of the hardware asset with the administrative and contractual data that was discussed previously. Some of this can happen via Cireson Asset Management workflows, such as determining the asset’s location based on its IP address, or the catalog item it matches. Other appropriate data classes may need to be manually associated, which can be on an individual asset, or via multi-selecting assets and associating the desired data class using the actions in the Tasks pane as pictured below.

Bulk Association of Hardware Assets

There are also Tasks pane actions to create incidents, change requests, or service requests for the assets that would create items directly into Service Manager.

If we look more in-depth at a hardware asset, this is where we’ll really see the associations and relationships of all the administrative and contractual data (along with what you can see in the default view).

In the pictures below, you can see some of those associated data classes and other unique pieces of information:

  • Primary User – this would normally come from Configuration Manager, although you can set if manually if you want
  • Hardware Asset ID – this is how the asset is tracked internally, and set in the Asset Management Settings. As you can see below, this is the same as the Serial Number value
  • Manufacturer and Model – this shows the appropriate model and manufacturer as provided from the source of the hardware asset
  • HW Asset Status – this is a drop down to allow you to select the status of the asset – in this case, a Deployed status. These come from List values, which were introduced earlier in this series
  • HW Asset Type – this too is a drop down to allow you to select the type of hardware asset – in this case, a laptop computer. These also come from List value configuration
  • Location – this can be manually set, or can be determined by the Hardware Asset Sync Workflow based on the IP address of the Associated Configuration Item (just to the lower right of this field)
  • Location Details – this is a free form text field that can be used to provide additional location information for this asset
  • Organization – which organization that this hardware asset belongs to
  • Associated Configuration Item – the Windows Computer (Computer CI) that was used to create this hardware asset
  • Lease or Warranty – you can see the appropriate lease or warranty contract information. There is a checkbox to select whether to use a lease instead of a warranty
  • Support and Maintenance Contract – if a support and maintenance contract is appropriate for this asset, you would be able to view it here

Hardware Asset General 1 Hardware Asset General 2

On the Finance tab, you can see the financial aspects of this hardware asset, as pictured below.

Hardware Asset Finance

Above, you can see the cost center, custodian, purchase order, invoice, and actual cost of the asset (assuming each are provided). Additionally, you can designate dates for receiving the asset, loaned/returned date (for loaners), disposal status and date, as well as the expected end date for the asset’s life. Finally, you can view the vendor information for the asset.

On the Purchases tab, you can see the individual line items that were purchased, and are part of this specific hardware asset. This allows you to track the real cost of the asset, as over time, the cost may have increased with hardware upgrades or new software installed.

On the Related Assets tab, you can see any additional hardware assets that belong to this specific hardware asset, or other hardware assets that this specific hardware asset belongs to. Also, you can view the software assets that are related to this device. Finally, if any consumables (such as keyboards, mice, etc.) are associated to this hardware asset, you can view them here (as pictured below).

Hardware Asset Related Assets

Given all the information that has been discussed here, and as you can see through these pictures, there is a ton of great additional data that you can track along with your hardware assets, which can help provide the true cost of the asset throughout its lifecycle.

Software Assets

The final big area for management of your assets is that for management of your software assets. Software assets are created either via import into the Software Assets node, or manually created. They are not created directly from Configuration Manager inventory data, although that information can be used to tie software assets to hardware assets in terms of installations.

There is a lot of great information that can be tied to your software assets, just as there is for your hardware assets. The default view under All Software Assets provides a basic set of software assets, such as purchase, install and available counts, cost center, and license status. You can manually create or modify your software assets, or multi-select and associate specific financial, business or contract data to the selected software assets, as pictured below.

Bulk Association of Software Assets

Once you open the properties of a software asset, you can see/modify quite a few attributes that are of importance to you. In the pictures below, you can see some of those attributes, including:

  • Organization and Location – tracking as to where this asset is associated within the environment
  • Support and Maintenance Contract – any contract associated with the software asset as appropriate
  • SW Asset Status and Type – drop downs that allow you to designate the status of the asset (such as Approved) as well as Type (such as Per Seat)
  • Software Library Location – this is free form text that allows you to designate a location to find the master version of the software to be used for future installations

Software Asset General 1

  • Software Pattern – this field uses wildcards to match software based on software name. This helps with software normalization for easier reporting and tracking
  • Version Pattern – this field uses wildcards to match software based on software version. This helps with software normalization for easier reporting and tracking
  • Exclusion Pattern – this field uses wildcards to allow you to exclude specific software (such as add-in software) from the name pattern matching in the event that you don’t want software that matches the exclusion pattern to be counted with this asset
  • Warning Threshold Used % – set to a percentage value (the default is 90) to set a warning status when the designated percentage of purchased seats have been installed
  • Software Metering Filename – this would be the filename that is being tracked in the Configuration Manager software metering rule
  • Bundle – use this option to bundle multiple software titles to be tracked as a single software title
  • Licensing Mode – enable these options as appropriate:
    • Enable Operating System Licensing Mode – enabled for tracking operating system installations
    • Enable Named Users and Computers Licensing Mode – enabled for software that is not registered in Add/Remove Programs. This allows you to manually add computers that have the software installed as it is likely not inventoried by Configuration Manager. You can also track by users for user-based licenses. These values would then be used to determine the installed count for this software asset
    • Enable CPU Licensing Mode – enabled for software that is licensed per physical or logical processor
  • Purchase and Install Count Options – enable these options as appropriate for your environment:
    • Count every match per device and subtract from available count – enable this to use matches from assets as installations, and subtract those from available count
    • Unlimited or site license – enable this for site licenses where you do not need to track individual installations
    • Calculate Purchase Count from License Counts – enable this (it is enabled by default) to use the purchased licenses to determine your purchased count for the software
    • Ignore Authorized Cost Centers, Organizations and Locations on this Software Asset – enable this to not count any assets listed on the Authorization tab for cost centers, organizations, and locations, and only count authorized computers and users

The values in the Counts & Totals section should be automatically generated for you based on calculations from Software Asset Update Workflow and manual entry, and should not normally need to be set manually. You can view your status, or position, for available and installed counts, usage, upgrade and downgrade license counts, as well as authorized counts. Upgrade and downgrade licensing is tracked on the Downgrades & Upgrades tab if you have those licensing scenarios in your environment.

Software Asset General 2 Software Asset General 3

If software metering data is available from Configuration Manager, you can use the Software Metering tab to view the usage information acquired from it for this software asset.

On the Finance tab, you can see the vendor information, as well as any licenses that you have for this software, as pictured below.

Software Asset Finance

On the Related Assets tab, you can see the computers that have this software installed, as well as the other software items that are associated with this software asset through the normalization process. In the picture below, you see a number of computers in the top portion of the screen, and a portion of the software items from the software configuration items (likely coming from Configuration Manager inventory data) that were normalized by software and version pattern matches.

Software Asset Related Assets

On the Authorization tab, you can see the cost centers, organizations, locations, computers and users who have been designated as having been authorized to have this software asset installed. Before you can really take advantage of this tab, you need to have all your cost centers, organizations, and locations added to the asset management environment (in the CMDB) to really track that data.

Software Asset Authorization

That’s a lot of information that you can track on your software assets as well as your hardware assets. As you can likely see, it is going to take you a little time, and planning, to really get the most out of the Cireson Asset Management solution. Don’t expect it all to work in an hour from installation – it is going to take some time and effort (maybe even professional consulting services). But in the end, you will be really pleased with what data you have to track your hardware and software assets.

That’s it for this article. I expect that we’ll have one more article after the final webinar in the series of webinars on Cireson Asset Management. That article will cover some of the final topics, such as security access, creating views, and using the Cireson Portal and Microsoft Excel to interact with your asset management data. Until next time…