How much visibility do you have into your network configuration? For instance, could you generate a comprehensive report, due today? XIA Configuration makes scanning and documenting your environment simple.

Timothy Warner

Timothy Warner is a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who is based in Nashville, TN. Check out his Azure and Windows Server video training at Pluralsight, and feel free to reach out to Tim via Twitter.

Perhaps your IT department practices an IT service management methodology that requires strong documentation. Or maybe your department is subject to regulatory compliance certification that necessitates reporting on precisely how your servers and services are configured.

The bottom line is if you don't have a clear picture as to what hardware and software you manage, your business wastes money, leaves open potential security vulnerabilities, and makes for an overall less effective system.

Today we'll have a look at XIA (pronounced ZEE-ah) Configuration, a network documentation solution from CENTREL Solutions. The value proposition behind XIA Configuration is simple: with it you can automatically document your network configuration across a variety of different platforms and generate submission-ready reports of the same. Let's get started!

Installation and initial configuration ^

CENTREL Solutions offers XIA Configuration as a free, unlimited 30-day trial. Go ahead and download the software and install it on one of your infrastructure servers. I installed XIA Configuration on Windows Server 2016; there's also support for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

Per the system requirements, you will also need to request an .licx license file and have a SQL Server 2016, 2014, 2012, or 2008 R2 instance available (Express Edition is allowed). The installer will also install Internet Information Services (IIS) if the server role isn't already installed.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the XIA Configuration installer is a simple AdvancedInstaller package.

Installing XIA Configuration

Installing XIA Configuration

This will install both the Server and Client components. The XIA Configuration Client scans the network and runs in the security context of a domain service account you specify.

XIA Configuration Server is an ASP.NET web application; access the administration portal by using the URL http(s)://servername/XIAConfiguration. The next screenshot shows a screenshot of the web console:

XIA Configuration Server web administration console

XIA Configuration Server web administration console

Now let's set up a scan!

Scan the network ^

Use the previously mentioned XIA Configuration Client Administration Tool to develop scan profiles. A scan profile allows you to customize how you scan the network. For instance, you may need to specify alternate credentials, ignore particular applications, and adjust the reporting and notification preferences.

A Default Profile is included to get you started which scans the local machine, servers that are members of the domain, Active Directory, Exchange and any network devices it finds.  This will automatically run a few minutes after the install completes.

XIA Configuration has an agentless architecture allowing you to scan an entire network with little effort.

To create your own profile, in the XIA Configuration Client Administration Tool, right-click Scan Profiles, select New Profile from the shortcut menu, and complete the configuration dialog. You can also define one or more scan tasks that target different servers and services.

Defining a new scan profile

Defining a new scan profile

The Scan Schedules node in the XIA Configuration Client Administration Tool allows you to re-run specified scan profiles repeatedly. This is a useful ability for busy, volatile networks.

Generate documentation and execute reports ^

As you saw, the XIA Configuration Client Administration Tool lets you manage scan profiles, schedules, and scan progress. To generate documentation and execute reports, we turn to the XIA Configuration Server web administration console.

To create documentation containing all your configuration, browse or search for the items you wish to document, right click and select Save as PDF.

Saving item configuration as a PDF

Saving item configuration as a PDF

Then press the Generate Document button.

Generating Documentation

Generating Documentation

The PDFs are well done and include many details, as you can see below, or view the online sample documentation.

A formatted PDF document

A formatted PDF document

XIA Configuration also includes a large library of pre-formatted reports, customized to different applications and services. In my test environment, for instance, I scanned a Windows Server 2016 Active Directory Domain Services domain controller. Thus, in the web console I navigated to the Browse Reports tab, opened the Active Directory Reports node, and executed the Domain Controllers report.

I've annotated the step-by-step process for generating a report in the next screenshot.

Generating a report

Generating a report

Notice in the web interface that you can generate the reports in PDF or CSV format as well.

Please note that you can peruse your network inventory data along many facets, not only by server role or application service. For instance, you can browse by item type (Azure tenant, NLB cluster, Citrix XenApp farm, and so forth) or location as well. Larger businesses will like being able to assign locations to their assets, and then to scope reports per campus.

Wrap-up ^

CENTREL Solutions sells XIA Configuration licenses in four different forms, using either on-premise or a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription model:

  • Technician: Single-user license for XIA Configuration Server installation on a single machine; annual subscription with support included
  • Cloud: Unlimited users with centralized auditing and reporting; annual subscription with support included
  • Enterprise: API access, track changes, and compare item functionality; perpetual license with one year of support (renewable)
  • Unlimited: All features enabled; perpetual license with one year of support (renewable)

I like XIA Configuration because the various components work well together; it's clear to me that CENTREL Solutions has highly skilled developers on staff. Besides the network inventory scanning and reporting, XIA Configuration also boasts additional capabilities we didn't have time to cover in today's review; these include:

  • Compare a system's configuration with other systems or with itself in the past
  • Disaster recovery (DR) documentation
  • Configuration management database (CMDB) relationship mapping, which is helpful to see relationships and dependencies between items
  • Compliance benchmarks to give you a leg up on your industry and/or regulatory compliance requirements

To learn more about XIA Configuration, check out their support and documentation site and watch some tutorial videos.

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