David Graham, Principal Consultant, Certero
Originally posted in February 2016, revised in November 2019.
What is Microsoft SCCM and how can you get the most out of it?
Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), formerly Systems Management Server (SMS), is widely used for configuration management namely, hardware and software inventory and software distribution.
These capabilities are traditionally what has been expected from ITAM (IT Asset Management) tools, but are not designed or capable of critical SAM (Software Asset Management) capabilities, which is a problem when trying to adopt a SAM strategy within your organization.
If you are looking at using Microsoft SCCM for Software Asset Management to enable compliance or to optimize your license position to reduce costs, then you will encounter quite a few difficulties.
Microsoft SCCM Software Metering – Vital for Optimization
One of the critical shortfalls of Microsoft SCCM concerns software metering or application monitoring. Whilst it will carry out this important task, it does not work out of the box. It is complex and requires an SCCM trained expert to set it up. With Software Metering in SCCM you need to define which executables are going to be measured via rule. Rules must be setup for each set of applications. This presents an issue when you want to report on usage of a particular application and the application is not defined in a rule. Where there is no rule there will be no data to report on. A rule then must be configured which will then take several months before meaningful business decisions can be taken.
Then you hit another snag. SCCM produces a mass of complex data that has had no intelligence applied to it. This leads to problems with analysis and effectively means you need to purchase a 3rd party tool or expensive consultants who have the skills to understand this data to properly analyze and interpret it.
As well as the quantity, there are shortfalls in the quality of the data produced as well:
- Details of components of suites – SCCM data makes it difficult to tell whether applications were installed as a suite or as a standalone application. This will be picked up during a vendor audit and could cause compliance problems. How would you know these complex relationships?
- Missing edition information on key expensive Microsoft Server products – e.g. SQL Server, Exchange Server etc. You cannot tell whether you have the free edition of SQL (Express) or the paid for editions (Enterprise and Standard) as SCCM information is not complete. This could leave you open to noncompliance or mean that you pay for licenses that you do not need.
- Processor information can also be incorrect – SMS uses WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) to gather the processor information. So, an older OS e.g. Windows Server 2003, running on newer hardware may lead to the processor and core information being incorrect. This could be picked up in a vendor audit e.g. by Oracle or IBM and cause compliance problems.
- Almost no information on Oracle products at all – e.g. Database, Middleware etc. Leaving a large gap in the view of your IT estate.
Limited information on IBM products – and PVU values need to be calculated manually.
- Autodesk serial numbers and license types are not returned – so you cannot tell if the install is a standalone license or a network license.
- Clusters, Virtual Machines and physical hosts in virtualized environments – there is a lack of information, which is very important for server-based products.
- Limited information on IBM products – and PVU values need to be calculated manually.
Integrating Microsoft SCCM with Certero for Enterprise SAM for Enhanced Software Asset Management
The fact is that SCCM was designed as a configuration management tool, not for SAM. So, while the information it produces is great for ITAM purposes (discovery, inventory and distribution), it was never intended to be used for Software License Compliance and Software Licence Optimization (SLO).
SCCM really needs a specific SAM/SLO product working in conjunction with it. This will enhance its capabilities and enable you to leverage the investment you have made to reduce costs. This is where Certero for Enterprise SAM with its SCCM integration capabilities can help by providing ‘must-have’ SAM capabilities and SLO functionality for SCCM.
These capabilities include:
- Seamless Integration Between SCCM and Certero for Enterprise SAM
- Automated inventory feeds – through SCCM integration giving you a full inventory of hardware and software assets
- Ability to deploy and remove software using Certero for Enterprise SAM (integrates with SCCM software distribution)
- Easy-to-use, yet powerful the Certero Management Platform user interface makes SCCM inventory data user-friendly and easy to manage
- Latest Software Asset Management Solution
- Real-time Effective License Position (ELP)
- Intelligent licensing solution to automate Microsoft, Adobe and others
- Complement SCCM inventory with Certero inventory to provide data relevant to Data Center applications (e.g. accurate MS SQL Server inventory, physical and virtual machine clustering etc.)