New tool fills gaps left by SMS 2.0

A man who knows Systems Management Server inside and out is throwing IT admins a bone. Well, actually it's a tool that fills a void in SMS 2.0 -- a void some people can't wait for Microsoft to fill.

A consultant with extensive expertise in Microsoft's desktop management software is readying a tool that removes some of the limitations of the software's inventory features.

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  • Michael Schultz, a consultant with experience installing Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) 2.0 on large corporate networks, is completing tests on what he calls the Extended Software Inventory Tool, which lets SMS administrators cull more specific inventory information from SMS 2.0.

    The SMS inventory capability has a few important features. There is an overall license management function, and there is a feature that accounts for what software users have on their desktops.

    The Extended Software Inventory tool addresses the second feature -- the inventory-taking portion, which helps IT administrators collect files. The problem with this feature in SMS 2.0 is it gathers all files -- that is, it gathers all files that end in ".exe" (executable) or ".dll" (dynamic link library). It doesn't give administrators the ability to collect specific file names. Nor does it tell them who has used the file, when the file was last accessed, or which version of a .dll someone is using, Schultz said.

    Schultz is sharpening his tool to fix the problem.

    For example, the Extended Software Inventory Tool can tell, for the purpose of license management, if a desktop is using Adobe Photoshop and who has used the application within the last two weeks, Schultz said. The tool also lets administrators take inventory of shortcuts on an end user's PC.

    The ability to dig into this sort of data is powerful because IT software distributions are based on which software is already installed on a desktop. The Extended Software Inventory tool helps SMS 2.0 users gather these details so administrators can create the right packages.

    IT administrators said that Microsoft has added enhancements in the recently shipped value pack, but not the kind of inventory tools that are promised in SMS 2003, which has recently begun its public beta test phase.

    But customers can't keep waiting. They have operational needs for these features right now, said Ed Aldrich, SMS administrator at CVS Corp. in Woonsocket, R.I. "What can we do to satisfy our needs in the short term?" Aldrich said. "Now we've got some workarounds."

    IT administrators want a tool that helps track and manage what they have purchased through licenses, as well as a tool that helps track what they already own. "It's 'what have you bought' versus 'what have you built,'" Aldrich said.

    No additional hardware is needed to use this software. Eventually, Schultz said he will release a tool that provides a hardware inventory that is even more extensive and works via one simple interface.

    The tool will be available next week at http://www.netimpress.com.

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