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Hidden Gems – Part 1

Best Practices for Asset Management with Novell ZENworks

Written by Ken Baker

The key to successful asset management lies largely in the processes you undertake. At Novell BrainShare 2010, the session entitled “Best Practices for IT Asset Management” discussed how Novell ZENworks Configuration Management and Novell ZENworks Asset Management can support, streamline and automate asset management best practices to reduce costs and simplify your management efforts..

Novell ZENworks Configuration Management and Novell ZENworks Asset Management can support, streamline and automate asset management best practices to reduce costs and simplify your management efforts.

Pre-Deployment Management

If you’re at all familiar with the ZENworks product line, you know that both ZENworks Configuration Management and ZENworks Asset Management can help you manage hardware throughout its different lifecycle stages. (See Figure 1.) However, what you might not know is how the products can help you in the acquisition stage—before you’ve even had a chance to deploy the ZENworks agent on your devices.

Presenter Christina Chamberlain, a Novell Technology Specialist, referred to this capability as a hidden gem that lets you add a list of devices into the ZENworks database by importing .CSV files. To take advantage of this import function, you need to know the serial number and hostnames of your devices. These values are used to reconcile the device to the record when the ZENworks agent is deployed. Depending on your procurement system, the serial number information might be available to you at time of purchase. If not, it might be available at time of receipt as part of a bill of lading or through the bar codes on the device packaging, which can allow the information to be scanned into a flat file before it’s ever removed from the pallet on the receiving room floor.

Within the .CSV file device list, you’ll also need a field column that contains the value WS_1.0. This value is case sensitive and is required for the import to work properly. Also, the field order for your file needs to be the value WS_1.0, the hostname of the device being imported, and then the device’s serial number.

Once you have your .CSV file ready, you’ll want to complete the following three steps in order to intelligently manage the import process:

  1. Create an Import Folder
  2. Create a Registration Key
  3. Add the Devices

Create an Import Folder

While you can import your new devices into any folder in the ZENworks database, management is simplified if you create a folder specifically for the imported devices. (See Figure 2.) This allows you to quickly see all your imported devices in one location. Also, if you create a rule to move the device to its appropriate site, group or department folder as soon as it has the ZENworks agent deployed on it, you only have to look inside your import folder to see which of your imported devices don’t yet have an agent installed.

The “Retired” status in ZENworks Configuration Management or ZENworks Asset Management can help you address your beyond end-of-life management requirements.

Create a Registration Key

The registration key is essentially a way of specifying what you want to do with each device record that is created when you import your device file list. For example, you can add it to a specific group, department or cost center. The registration key will also be used to tell the system what folder to move the record to, such as the import folder you created in step 1. (See Figure 3.)

Add the Devices

On the left side of the ZENworks Control Center interface there are a number of powerful, yet often overlooked, task options. (See Figure 4.) One of these is the Import Managed Devices option, which enables you to import multiple devices using your device list file. (Note: There is also an Add Device option that allows you to manually enter individual devices one at a time.) Once you have both your registration key and device list file correctly created, use the Import Managed Devices option to import your devices.

After you click this option, the interface will let you select your registration key and browse to your .CSV device list file. When importing is complete, you’ll see all the new devices listed in the import folder you created. You can drill down into individual devices to see their unique hostnames and serial numbers. As mentioned before, this unique detail will enable you to automatically reconcile the imported device record with the actual device once it has the ZENworks agents installed.

Tracking Device Life Changes

Once your devices are in the ZENworks database and deployed, you need to be able to keep track of their movement through your organization. Has a workstation moved from one location to another? Has it moved from one user to another? Has its internal hardware changed over time? Have changes been made to its software configuration? ZENworks Configuration Management and ZENworks Asset Management can help you track all of these types of changes.

Keeping track of a device’s current user can be one of the biggest challenges you'll face. While some organizations rely on user input to keep this information up to date, you'll want to avoid relying on users for any inventory data entry. Even though ZENworks can simplify this process with the deployment of Collection Data Forms, the potential for human error often results in too much time wasted by IT personnel having to scrub and clean that data. To avoid excessive data scrubbing, some organizations hire IT temps to perform regular inventory updates, but this still consumes valuable IT time and budget. A better option is to rely on the LDAP integration in both ZENworks Configuration Management and ZENworks Asset Management.

Within the ZENworks Control Center, you can create an LDAP Import Task that automatically and regularly imports demographic information (including device usernames) for all your devices from either a Novell eDirectory or Microsoft Active Directory user source. To set up the LDAP Import Task, you select the Asset Inventory tab from the Configuration menu and then click New to launch the New LDAP Import Task Wizard. The wizard will ask you to specify an LDAP source that you have already defined as a user source in your Management Zone. It will also ask you to select and map the fields you want imported into the ZENworks database, as well as create the schedule that determines when and how often the task will be executed.

Just as you can schedule LDAP Import Tasks, you can also schedule regular inventory scans to determine the current status of your devices, such as Deployed, In Service or Retired. Inventory scans will report on changes within the device hardware, including internal memory, total disk space, free disk space and BIOS versions. Inventory scans can also report certain device software changes as they relate to anti-virus/anti-malware definition files, new applications, deleted applications, undesirable software and any deviations from your defined software standards. While all of these functions are available in ZENworks Configuration Management, you can obtain a greater breadth and depth of software reporting by taking advantage of ZENworks Asset Management.

From these inventory scans, the ZENworks product line provides a broad array of reports that can play a critical role in planning and budgeting. Both ZENworks Configuration Management and ZENworks Asset Management provide system readiness reports that can tell you which devices meet the performance hardware requirements for OS migrations or applications upgrades. ZENworks Asset Management is also able to report on trends and application usage. (Read part 2 for more on this subject.)

It's important to note that both ZENworks Configuration Management and ZENwork Asset Management, as well as ZENworks Patch Management, leverage the ZENworks Control Center as a common management console. Additionally, ZENworks Asset Management is included in the Enterprise Edition of ZENworks Configuration Management.

Whether it’s the end of life, the beginning or somewhere in between, ZENworks Configuration Management provides the tools you need to manage your hardware assets throughout their entire lifecycle.

End of Life and Beyond

New regulatory requirements have made end-of-life tracking and reporting more important than ever. In certain industries, you are responsible for every bit of data on a machine, even after its useful lifespan within your organization. So even if you have sold, donated or thrown away your retired machines, you might need to be able to certify that all the data (or the hard drive where the data resided) has been destroyed.

The “Retired” status in ZENworks Configuration Management or ZENworks Asset Management can help you address your beyond end-of-life management requirements. With this in mind, you need to be aware that if you delete a device in the ZENworks Control Center, it completely removes the device and all its associated data from the ZENworks database. However, if you simply retire a device in the ZENworks Control Center, all of its associated information will remain accessible from the database, giving you reporting capabilities that can support compliance efforts. Another benefit of retiring a device is that all software applications associated with the retired device are excluded from software compliance reporting.

Whether it’s the end of life, the beginning or somewhere in between, ZENworks Configuration Management provides the tools you need to manage your hardware assets throughout their entire lifecycle. And by adding ZENworks Asset Management into the mix, you can better manage your software assets as well. To learn more about how ZENworks Asset Management supports the software-based asset management best practices discussed at BrainShare 2010, read part two of this article (Hidden Gems – Part 2; Best Practices for Asset Management with Novell ZENworks Asset Management), which will be available later this month.

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