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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Configuration Manager Technology and Terminology (part 2) - Inventory & Configuration Manager Console

 
10/1/2011 6:15:42 PM

Configuration Manager Client

Configuration Manager 2007 uses a new client, known as the Configuration Manager client. This client is the agent residing on all managed systems. The ConfigMgr Client agent periodically checks in with the ConfigMgr infrastructure, using an administrator-defined interval. This interval is every 60 minutes by default, and can be set to be as wide as 1,440 minutes (every 24 hours). The client supports installation in a number of ways—preloaded into an image, manually installed, installation with a silent command line, via WSUS, or a pushed installation by the ConfigMgr server (manually or automatically) using the discovery processes .

The ConfigMgr client is responsible for installing and removing software, running inventory, reimaging a system, performing patch management compliance scans, monitoring desired configuration compliance, software metering, remote control support, maintenance tasks, file collection, downloading policies, and uploading status messages. The client is bandwidth aware and leverages BITS to determine available network capacity and utilize that to download packages without affecting end-user performance.

Inventory

Installing the Configuration Manager Computer Client agent gives an administrator the ability to enable hardware and software inventory client agents to collect specific types of data and upload them to the ConfigMgr infrastructure in an efficient and compressed XML format. Hardware and software inventory run under the client SMS Agent Host service. The settings (policies) defined for the various client agents, often referred to as sitewide settings, affect all clients monitored by the ConfigMgr site.

Hardware Inventory

Hardware inventory enables collecting data on client systems from their motherboard, BIOS, hard disk, CPU, video card, network card, Registry, WMI, and other components. Hardware inventory uses MOF (Management Object Format) files to define what is to be inventoried and the format used to report that data. The Hardware Inventory Client agent defines hardware inventory frequency.

ConfigMgr incorporates a major shift in handling MOF files. In earlier versions, the SMS_Def.mof file was the only MOF file SMS provided natively to collect inventory. The problem was most administrators modified the file directly to extend inventory to include things such as proxy settings or antivirus definition dates and versions. Service packs and site resets overrode any customizations to the SMS_Def.mof file, making it critical to maintain backups.

ConfigMgr 2007 MOF files are functionally similar to OpsMgr management packs. The Configuration.mof file defines the data classes inventoried by the Hardware Inventory Client agent. You can create data classes to inventory existing or custom WMI repository data classes, or registry keys present on client systems.

The Configuration.mof file also defines and registers the WMI providers used to access computer information during hardware inventory. Registering providers defines the type of provider used and the classes it supports. WMI and Configuration Manager 2007 hardware inventory will only access registered providers.

The SMS_Def.mof file defines the reporting classes used by the Hardware Inventory Client agent to determine whether specific client data class information is reported. Reporting classes are based on the WMI repository data classes and the attributes of those classes; these exist on clients by default, or you can add them by customizing the Configuration.mof file.

Reporting class information in SMS_Def.mof is converted into a reporting policy provided to clients during their normal computer policy polling interval. After the client compiles the new reporting policy, the reporting policy information is stored in the client system WMI repository in the InventoryDataItem class of the Root\CCM\Policy\Machine WMI namespace.

The initial hardware inventory generated by the client is a full inventory. Subsequent inventories are deltas, information that has changed since the initial inventory. All of the hardware inventory data is viewable via the Configuration Manager Resource Explorer, displayed in Figure 2, which shows hardware for the Alamo computer system.

Figure 2. Configuration Manager Hardware Inventory for the Alamo system, viewed in the Resource Explorer

Software Inventory

ConfigMgr 2007’s Software Inventory Client agent has the ability to scan files, inventory them, and upload this data to the site server. The Software Inventory Client agent can also collect and copy files to the site server. The ConfigMgr administrator enables and configures the Software Inventory Client agent from the Configuration Manager console.

Caution: File Collection Warning

Be careful when you identify files to collect. If you specify collecting a 1MB file, for example, ConfigMgr will collect every occurrence of that file on each client; with 10,000 clients, you would send 10GB across the network and to the site server. Sending this amount of data will affect server storage capacity and introduce network bandwidth concerns.


Software Inventory scans the header and footer of every file with a file extension specified in the user interface (UI). By default, ConfigMgr scans only .exe files. Individual organizations may add additional file types to this list to identify specific software. When Software Inventory initially runs on a system, it performs a full scan of the drive and generates a manifest of all files the system contains. All subsequent inventories generate delta reports, thus minimizing network traffic and server processing load. Software Inventory catalogs file and product details, including a file’s publisher, product name, creation date, and file version, to name a few. Figure 3 shows Software Inventory for the Alamo system.

Figure 3. Configuration Manager Software Inventory viewed in the Resource Explorer

With Software Inventory, the ConfigMgr administrator can define which drives to scan, and whether to include the Windows system directory, encrypted files, or compressed files. Similar to the Hardware Inventory Client agent, a schedule can be specified determining when the Software Inventory Client agent will run.

The agent also has the ability to group various files it has scanned, which may come from the same manufacturer but show up with different names, under the same overall name. This feature is very similar to the Asset Intelligence integration introduced in SMS 2003 SP 3.

Configuration Manager Console

Configuration Manager 2007 uses the MMC, version 3.0, to provide the user interface to configure the Configuration Manager hierarchy and manage clients. An important part of ConfigMgr deployments is installing the ConfigMgr console on administrators’ workstations. A best practice is to run the console from a remote system, not directly from the server.

Table 1 lists the platforms on which you can install the Configuration Manager 2007 console.

Table 1. Platforms Supporting the Configuration Manager 2007 Console
Operating Systemx86x64IA64
Windows 2000 Professional SP 4X  
Windows XP Professional SP 2X  
Windows XP Professional for 64-bit Systems X 
Windows Vista Business EditionXX 
Windows Vista Enterprise EditionXX 
Windows Vista Ultimate EditionXX 
Windows 2000 Server SP 4X  
Windows 2000 Advanced Server SP 4X  
Windows 2000 Datacenter SP 4X  
Windows Server 2003 Web Edition SP 1X  
Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition SP 1XXX
Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition SP 1XXX
Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition SP 1XXX
Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard EditionXXX
Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise EditionXXX
Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS)X  
Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP)X  
Windows XP Embedded SP 2X  
Windows XP Tablet PC SP 2X  

When upgrading to ConfigMgr 2007, many organizations have SMS 2003 and Configuration Manager 2007 coexisting to maximize end-user support. If performing an upgrade or migration from SMS 2003, you can run the SMS 2003 and the Configuration Manager 2007 consoles on the same computer in parallel. In addition, most functions an administrator can perform on a secondary site server, using the primary parent SMS Administrator console, are available with the ConfigMgr 2007 console.

Because the console now uses MMC 3.0, it can take advantage of a new feature called the Actions pane. This pane is context sensitive and allows administrators to quickly see and execute different tasks, based on what they selected elsewhere in the console. The console is used to configure and manage the ConfigMgr infrastructure, to execute tasks such as distributing packages and advertising packages and task sequences, to review inventory, and so on.

Caution: Mixed SMS/ConfigMgr Scenarios

Do not install the ConfigMgr 2007 console on an SMS 2003 secondary site server. Doing so will result in an SMS 2003 secondary site server that cannot be upgraded.


The ConfigMgr console displays what are known as top-level objects, also referred to as nodes. SMS 2003 had 12 top-level objects in the SMS Administrator’s console. Microsoft substantially redesigned the ConfigMgr 2007 console to be more intuitive and logical in regard to grouping objects that work in conjunction with one another. The console now has only five top-level objects: the Site Management, Computer Management, System Status, Security Rights, and Tools nodes.

You can view an example of how this change is implemented by looking at the top-level Computer Management object, which has 12 child objects. Software Distribution is one of the child objects and contains packages and advertisements, which are two nodes where administrators spend a lot of time. Figure 4 displays the Configuration Manager console with the Software Distribution node highlighted.

Figure 4. The Configuration Manager 2007 console
 
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