This article, the second of seven in a series covering the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), will detail the Asset Inventory Service (AIS) including the configuration and deployment to clients.
Microsoft’s Asset Inventory Service (AIS) is an integral part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. In any size environment, a core issue that all IT administrators deal with is asset management. In a day filled with solving technical issues, managing hardware and software inventories quickly gets put into the “when it slows down, I’ll get to it pile”. Unfortunately, for most of us, that pile just seems to grow.
The System Overview page allows you to quickly glance at computer count, agent health and software.
Microsoft has made asset management much easier with their cloud based solution. AIS is available to purchase as part of MDOP. MDOP is available to software assurance customers. The greatest benefit to AIS is that it is hosted by Microsoft. Most IT administrators are weary of hosted solutions and with good reason.
The benefits of a hosted asset service outweigh those reasons though. After the initial client rollout, computers will upload their hardware and software inventory at regular intervals as long as an internet connection is available. This means that roaming laptops can now be fully accounted for.
Another benefit is the Microsoft Application Knowledgebase. Once software is identified, any application information stored by Microsoft on that product is automatically populated in your inventory. This makes categorizing software extremely easy.
The final big benefit to a hosted solution is near constant uptime and updating. Because Microsoft hosts the solution, any updates for AIS are automatically scheduled in much the same way that WSUS schedules windows updates.
One big joy of AIS is how simple it is to set up. Once you have activated AIS with a Windows Live email account, sign into the AIS website. You will be greeted with the System Overview page (see screenshot above). In a new environment, no computers or software would be listed yet.
To populate AIS with computers and software, you will need to install or deploy the client software to machines that you manage. Most environments will want to deploy AIS by using Group Policy. To do so, navigate to the Administration tab in AIS and select “Download Client Software”. After the AIS Setup zip file downloads, extract the executable and accountcert file. Next, open a command prompt to the extracted file path and enter “Asset_Inventory_Service_Setup.exe /extract .”
Opening a command window inside the folder containing the AIS client makes extracting the MSI easier.
This will extract a 32 bit and 64 bit MSI. The period after “/extract” in the command above specifies the current folder as the extraction point.
The extraction file path can be specified after the /extract command.
Microsoft’s recommended deployment method is by using Group Policy but your deployment method may differ. The important thing is to make sure that you keep the accountcert file in the same folder that the MSIs are located in and to not rename the MSIs. You should now be ready to deploy the client.
To verify that the installation was successful, you should see a listing for Asset Inventory Service under Programs and Features (within the Control Panel). After the client has been installed on a computer, the AIS service will automatically upload a hardware and software inventory within 30 minutes upon which your computer count will increase. If the client software failed, check out the Alert Workspace in AIS for the specific error code and troubleshooting information.
After getting more than a handful of clients in AIS, you will want to begin organizing clients into groups. Two of the most common grouping methods are by department and by site. Most organizations tend to follow their AD structure when organizing within AIS. To create a computer group, navigate to the System Overview tab and select Create Computer Group (under Tasks). From here, you can create a root group or nest a group under another previously created one. When planning your group structure, take note that already created groups cannot be nested under new groups.
Creating AIS groups allow for easier administration of AIS clients
After creating the desired computer groups, navigate to the Unassigned Computers Group which is within the computers node. You can now select computers and add them to groups. Grouping computers will make specific reporting easier.
The big purpose in any asset management software is the ability to quickly generate a variety of reports for auditing needs. AIS allows for four types of reports: Software, Hardware, License Purchases, License Installation. After choosing a report type, you can specify further filters. For example, in the Software report, we can filter by computer groups, publishers, and categories. If you use AIS to manage licenses, you can quickly track available licenses as well license coverages.
The reporting features in AIS allow for the quick creation of hardware and software lists.
Over all, the Microsoft Asset Inventory Service makes asset tracking and management easier. After just a few hours’ work, IT administrators can quickly get a glance on an accurate computer count and software inventory. With a little extra work, IT administrators can import license information for both Microsoft and third party applications. Because of a consistent update schedule and being a hosted solution, the time maintaining this asset management software is greatly reduced. Nearly every IT administrator can benefit from AIS!