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:
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:
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.
The administrative asset data classes are often grouped into three unique categories for discussion:
A quick overview of each of the data classes for reference include (in order of the console):
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
On the Finance tab, you can see the financial aspects of this hardware asset, as pictured below.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…