by December 1, 2004 0 comments

One major concern that an IT department of a medium to large company has is tracking the number of installations of any particular software in their network. This is important to comply with the number of licenses they own for that software as well as to make sure that optimum utilization of s/w assets is taking place. Doing this manually in even a smaller network can be extremely difficult.

Here is where SMS (Systems Management Server) 2003’s software metering feature comes in. Using this, you can easily set up statistics collections that can tell you exactly how many installations of a particular version of a particular software are present on your network.

To set up software metering on your SMS installation, first open up the SMS Administrator Console. Then go to Systems Management Server>Site Database>Site Hierarchy>(Server Name)>Site Settings>Client Agents. In the right-side panel, select the Software Metering Client Agent and open its properties window. Turn on the ‘Enable Software Metering on Clients’ option. Optionally, you can go to the schedule window and set up a schedule when this metering takes place.

Direct Hit!
Applies to: Network administrators
USP: Understand how to control licensed software installations on your network using SMS Server 2003

Now that the software metering policies are setup on the server, the clients need to download them and start sending data across. This will happen
automaticallyaccord-ing to their schedule anyway. However, to see the action of the policy you just setup, do the following steps on a client machine for testing.

On a Win XP/2000 machine, go to the Control Panel when logged in as a user who is part of the Administrators group in the domain where the SMS is. Now open the Systems Management applet and go to the Actions tab. Select the ‘Machine Policy Retrieval and Evaluation Cycle’ action and click on the ‘Initiate Action’ button. You will be informed that this action has been initiated and may take a little while to complete. Keep pressing the OK button till you come out of the applet.

After a little while, open the applet again and go to the Components tab. Here you will see a component called ‘SMS Software Metering Agent’. This will now be listed as ‘Enabled’ since you have set the policy on the server to do software metering. Now go back to the Actions tab and you will see a new action called ‘Software Metering Usage Report Cycle. Do not do anything right now.

Once software metering policies are enabled on the server, clients need to download them

Back on the SMS Server, let us now set up a rule for monitoring the usage of a particular software. Go to Systems Management Server>Site Database>Software Metering Rules. Right click on the empty area on the right side and select New
Software Metering Rule.

In the dialog box that comes up, go to the filename box and click on the Browse button. Browse over to C:\Windows\Notepad.exe and select it. The dialog box will automatically fill in some other values such as the Name of the rule and the ‘Original File Name’ box and the Version. You can choose to save it now or customize the rule by changing a value such as the language or version. For instance, to monitor the usage of Notepad on Win XP, enter the version value as 5.*. Save the rule by clicking on OK.

This rule now will percolate down to all the clients and the software-metering agent on their machines will send data regarding the existence and usage of this application back to the SMS Server. To test this, go back to the test client machine and to the Actions tab of the Systems Management control-panel applet.

First select the ‘Machine Policy Retrieval and Evaluation Cycle’ and click on the Initiate Action button again. This downloads the new set of software rules (along with any other policy changes) to the client. After a little while has passed (to ensure that the new rule has been downloaded), select the ‘Software Metering Usage Report Cycle’ action and click on the initiate action button. This sends back statistical data regarding the software in the rules downloaded.

Once you’ve set a rule for a particular application in SMS Server, it percolates down to all client machines, and the SMS agent sitting on them initiates it

Back on the SMS Server, go to Systems Management Server>Site Database>Reporting>Reports. Sort the list by category and find the ones that are for Software Metering. You will find a number of reports already created for you. Simply right click and execute the report you wish to view to see the statistics regarding the software you are monitoring.

Software metering is an important task in any system administrator’s job. MS System Management Server 2003 just makes this task much easier and less painful to do than doing it manually. Since the rules are automatically propagated to the clients and the users have no control on what is sent back or not, it becomes easier to gather this data and is in fact much more accurate than what you would get otherwise.

Vinod Unny

Enterprise InfoTech

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