Extending SMS with Digital Equipment's POLYCENTER AssetWORKS

This article is the third in a series that discusses Systems Management Server (SMS) procedures for inventorying desktops. The first article explained how to collect the inventory information, and the second described how to develop reports with data in the SMS database (for these two articles, see Windows NT Magazine, May and June 1996). These articles identified necessary functionality and information that native SMS doesn't provide. You can make up for some SMS shortcomings by creating ingenious queries and programs or by viewing the SMS SQL database with a separate tool such as Microsoft Access.

Another way to supplement SMS is to take advantage of the extensibility that Microsoft built into it. Third-party products such as Digital Equipment's POLYCENTER AssetWORKS (PAW) and Seagate Technology's WinINSTALL are SMS extensions that eliminate the need for workarounds. PAW adds Enterprise clients to the list of desktops you can inventory, adds software metering for DOS and Windows 3.X systems, and has built-in management reporting capability. By contrast, WinINSTALL automates creation of install packages for software distribution, eliminating the laborious and complex process of writing scripts with Microsoft Test. WinINSTALL also lets you use SMS to uninstall software from the desktop. Both of these excellent products show SMS's extensibility and create unique solutions to systems management problems. In keeping with the theme of this series, this article focuses only on Digital Equipment's AssetWORKS.

Installation
You must have a working and fully configured SMS Version 1.1 site before installing AssetWORKS. You install it on the SMS site server by running the setup program and providing the SQL database information and the SMS service account data.

The AssetWORKS manual says you need 80MB of free disk space on the site server (40MB on a secondary site server) and recommends at least 32MB of RAM. No sane network administrator will run SMS with only 32MB of RAM, so that requirement won't be a problem. However, my experience is that you need to increase your site server's memory by 16MB over your base memory to maintain performance when you add software metering to your site (so if you're running at 48MB, increase your memory to 64MB).

After installation, AssetWORKS adds several icons to your SMS program group and creates three new directories, PAW, PAWCLNT, and PAWRPTS, on the site server. You will also see four new services in the Control Panel Services applet (PAW Communications, PAW Executive, PAW Reports, and PAW Service Controller) and many new options in the SMS Administrator tool.

You don't load AssetWORKS; rather, you load the SMS Administrator as usual. First, you notice that AssetWORKS replaces the SMS login banner with a lurid, dark red AssetWORKS bitmap. The SMS Administrator window and its windows for sites, jobs, packages, queries, and events are familiar but have a few new functions. For example, if you select Open from the File menu, you see a list of new windows you can open besides the standard SMS windows. These new windows include Management Reports, Report Templates, and Metering. Similarly, if you open the regular packages or queries windows, you find some predefined objects. If you don't need the packages, queries, or new windows that AssetWORKS installs, you can continue with SMS as before.

If you administer SMS on the site server by working with the SMS Administrator tool on other systems, you need to run the AssetWORKS setup program on these systems to see the AssetWORKS functionality. If you don't install AssetWORKS on these systems, you can still open the SMS Administrator and work with the Windows systems as before. You will even see the UNIX hosts that you have inventoried. However, if you try to view the Personal Computer Properties (although you can see some groups), you get a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) error and you can't open any new AssetWORKS windows.

Extending SMS to Include UNIX Hosts
To make a PC desktop report its inventory to the SMS site server, you must run an inventory process on the desktop. Microsoft supplies a version of the Inventory Agent for each OS that SMS supports: INVDOS.EXE for MS-DOS, Windows 3.X, or Windows 95 clients; INVWIN32.EXE for NT clients; INVOS2.EXE for OS/2; and INVMAC for Macintosh System 7. Digital Equipment supplies its own Inventory Agent for Enterprise clients.

AssetWORKS comes with an installation script, INSTALL.PAW, that installs, configures, and starts the AssetWORKS Enterprise Client on the UNIX system. Unfortunately, you can't use an SMS script to install this client on the UNIX host. The host's users don't log in to an NT domain and run a logon script, which is the usual process for installing SMS clients. Instead, you need to access the console of the UNIX host and follow five pages of instructions in the AssetWORKS manual to install the client. The manual provides variations of the commands you need, depending on your UNIX flavor. AssetWORKS's current release supports Digital UNIX (formerly OSF/1), ULTRIX RISC, HP-UX, SunOS, Sun Solaris, SPARC, OpenVMS, and IBM AIX clients.

Next, you need to ensure that the UNIX host is talking to the SMS site server over TCP/IP. Send a ping from the site server to the UNIX host and another back to the site server. Once you establish connectivity and install the AssetWORKS client, you can run the inventory agent on the UNIX box. You can run the inventory agent on a schedule or invoke it manually with the command //sbin/pawinv

The UNIX host displays a status screen similar to the one for a Windows system reporting its inventory, and returns you to the # prompt. The inventory agent then generates Management Information Files (called .MIFs). The PAW Communications service on the NT system pulls these .MIFs from the UNIX host to the SMS site server. The PAW Executive service then preprocesses the .MIFs and places them in the SITE.SRV\ISVMIF.BOX. Now, the standard Inventory Processor service converts these files, and any other .RAWs and .MIFs it finds, to Delta-MIF files. The Inventory Data Loader service updates the information in the SQL database.

If you open the Sites window in the SMS Administrator, you see the inventory for the UNIX host, as Screen 1 shows. This example consists of a Digital AlphaStation 200 running Digital UNIX 3.2, a Digital Alpha AXP150 running NT Server and SMS, a Compaq desktop running Win95, and a generic 486/66 running NT Server and SQL Server.

Although AssetWORKS didn't affect the inventory process for the Windows boxes, you see a new entry (e.g., Alpha200.paradigms.com) for the Digital UNIX host. Whereas SMS identifies Windows hosts by their NetBIOS name, it identifies UNIX hosts by their host name. To change how often a UNIX host reports its inventory, you need to modify the INVENTORY.INI file in the /PAW/CONTROL directory of the UNIX host.

If you select the UNIX host from the Sites window, you get a custom architecture UNIX Properties window that is a modified version of the Personal Computer Properties architecture. Screen 2 shows the UNIX Properties window for alpha200.paradigms.com. In Screen 2, the host table for the UNIX host is the equivalent of the \SYSTEM32\DRIVERS\ETC\HOSTS file in NT. The UNIX Properties architecture has about 25 groups, many of which do not appear unless you create the appropriate jobs. For example, the packages icon will not appear unless you inventory some packages.

From this point on, SMS treats UNIX systems the same as Windows systems. The AssetWORKS manual provides specific instructions and examples of how to create packages to inventory and distribute software for systemwide installation. Make sure that the software you are distributing is appropriate for the platform and that your setup program is a UNIX script.

Software Metering
AssetWORKS extends SMS functionality for Windows clients by adding software metering and a reporting function. Metering is a special type of inventory--it identifies the number of copies concurrently in use, rather than the number of copies you have installed. Some license packages, for example, allow 100 concurrent users, regardless of the number of installations.

AssetWORKS meters software by installing and running a process on the SMS client. The current AssetWORKS release has clients for DOS, Windows 3.X, Windows for Workgroups, NT, and Macintosh, but not Win95, UNIX, OS/2, or OpenVMS. You can install the client metering software using SMS and predefined packages that you install with AssetWORKS. Screen 3 lists these predefined packages.

You can create a job as usual and specify the target and platform appropriately, and SMS will install and run the terminate-and-stay-resident (TSR) service on the desktop. Then you need to configure metering in the SMS Administrator Metering window.

Screen 4 shows metering for four software packages. You create new metering packages as you usually create packages--by selecting New from the File menu. You can specify the files you're monitoring, the platforms they're running under, and the interval you want to sample. For example, you can check once an hour to see how many people are running MS Excel. Screen 5 shows the Package Usage dialog where you specify the interval.

The TSR service running on the desktop checks the system according to a schedule you specify and answers yes or no to the site server. You can have several instances of MS Excel running on the desktop, or you can have just one; the system reports only that the metered package is on the desktop.

The site server then tells you how many desktops are running the software at the interval you previously specified. This information displays in the Personal Computer Properties architecture with a new icon, PAW Metering. To view this new icon, you need to open the Reporting window you see in Screen 6.

When you first create and schedule metering, it displays on the right side of the AssetWORKS reporting window with a Scheduled icon. Once the metering data starts to accumulate, a new icon appears, showing what reports are available. To view a report, you have two options: PAW View (a nice graphical representation) or Access View (a predefined reporting view in Microsoft Access).

Two, not well-documented caveats apply to viewing these reports. First, the PAW View button doesn't appear unless you're running the Administrator tool on an Intel box (the PAW Viewer is a 32-bit runtime viewer that calls on some third-party libraries that weren't available for the Alpha at this release). Second, the runtime Microsoft Access report viewer is a 16-bit program that runs in 286 emulation mode on a Digital Equipment Alpha. Creating this demo on a 32MB system took about 10 minutes from the time I selected Access View to the time the view windows were fully displayed. The conclusion here is simple--run the SMS Administrator tool on an Intel box, where both PAW View and Access View work well.

Although my two-system demonstration doesn't do PAW justice, PAW View displays the metering results well, as you see in Screen 7. You can select various graph types, axes, intervals, and legends to represent system usage. Access View lets you create special reports with standard Access tools.

Management Reports
POLYCENTER AssetWORKS includes a set of graphical management reports, as Screen 8 shows. These draw directly from the SQL database. You can run these reports as is, or you can create new ones from a set of templates. As the previous article in this series showed, creating a report with a third-party, Open Database Connectivity (ODBC)-compliant reporting tool is no big deal. However, you need to run SMSVIEW.EXE and understand the structure of the underlying SQL views and database. AssetWORKS adds some of this reporting functionality to SMS directly, which reduces the urgency of creating reports. Some users will welcome this feature. I find learning another reporting tool more troublesome than creating reports in a tool I already know.

Finally, Digital Equipment doesn't offer a modified version of SMSVIEW.EXE that exposes decent views of the extended database. Consequently, you need the AssetWORKS reporting facility to create reports that work with the extended information. Keep your fingers crossed in the hope that AssetWORKS will further the open systems concept and offer predefined SQL views, a published API, and a Software Developer's Kit (SDK) in a future release.

\[Editor's Note: After this article was written, Digital Equipment changed the name from POLYCENTER AssetWORKS to AltaVista Manager for BackOffice.\]

Contact Info
POLYCENTER AssetWORKS
Digital Equipment * 800-344-4825 (US only. Check the Web site for your local distributor.)
Web:
http://www2.service.digital.com/ddi/html/DECdirect-Interactive-Ordering-Information.html
Price:
$975 (full server kit); $282 (Enterprise client); $23 (PC client only)

WinINSTALL 5.1
OnDemand Software (recently acquired by Seagate Technology) * 800-368-5207 or 941-261-6678
Email:
sales@ondemand.com
Web:
http://www.ondemand.com/odwini.htm
Price:
$495 (50-user license)
$695 (100-user license)
$1295 (250-user license)
Site licenses are available