Asset Management

Asset Management

Sysadmins in Connecticut catalog their IT assets to use them efficiently

Sometimes, it's not what you have, but knowing what you have and where you can find it. To keep track of their diverse and growing collections of hardware and software, government computer managers increasingly are turning to asset management applications.

Like many CIOs, Connecticut's Rock Regan recognized the difficulty in writing statewide policy standards or even knowing which computers needed to be refreshed because of the sheer variety of equipment agencies used, and the lack of accompanying documentation. And manually documenting thousands of system configurations would sap scarce resources. So Regan finessed the problem by using asset management software.

Regan's Information Technology Department spent $155,000 on 11,000 software licenses for Centennial Discovery Web edition from Centennial Software LLC of Burlingame, Calif., to build an inventory of the state's computer environment.

By December, Regan will have a complete record of about 11,000 desktop PCs, including each one's configurations, the software versions they run and the servers to which they are connected.

Arms around the base

'We have spent a lot of time over the past year trying to standardize and until now, we never had a broad understanding of the impact of those standards,' Regan said. 'We really want to get our arms around the installed base because if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.'

Asset management is quickly becoming an important goal for many state and local governments, said Bryan Gold, spokesperson for Public Technology Inc. of Washington, D.C., a nonprofit policy shop for state and local governments.

In New York, for instance, a July state audit found $7 million worth of computer equipment could not be found from a $50 million purchase six years ago. Gold said states use asset and content management to improve the returns they get from their investments.

Regan used his office as a testbed before extending the use of Centennial Discovery to the state's Agriculture Department, Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Commission, Education Department, Ethics Commission and Consumer Counsel Office. He said he hopes to spread the software to all state agencies after the trial program.

'With the Internet, we do not know what software people are downloading they shouldn't be, like how many copies of Napster are out there,' Regan said. 'The [system's] audit trail also lets us know the software we have and how many licenses we have. It becomes a compliance issue.'

States and local governments and software companies are paying more attention than ever to license compliance issues, said Patricia Adams, a senior research analyst of asset management tools for Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn. Adams said even Microsoft is auditing companies' licenses as a way to increase revenue.

'Asset management is 80 percent process and 20 percent tools,' she said. 'The tools will help you be more efficient, but if the processes aren't in place, you will lose efficiencies. Asset management processes and tools are about cost savings and risk avoidance.'

Regan's office runs the Centennial Discovery Web edition app on the its main server. Operators direct the system to attach a client agent to individual PCs through push technology, when the user turns on the machine or logs in. Client agents can also flow to desktop PCs through an e-mail attachment or via floppy disk.

Once the client agent launches, it audits the PC to find 14 pieces of information:

  • The manufacturer

  • The serial number

  • The domain name

  • The IP address

  • The available and used disk space

  • The amount of RAM in the machine and how it is broken down by slots

  • The speed and type of processor

  • The operating system

  • All software and versions

  • The last time the software was used

  • The directory the software is installed on

  • The type of monitor

  • The attached peripherals

  • The PC's location on the network.

    Once the agent collects all this information, it organizes an audit report and stores it on the network administrator's Centennial Discovery control console. The network administrator starts audits, views the repository of audit reports, queries results and creates reports via the control console.

    Connecticut's Web edition of Centennial Discovery allows authorized users besides the network administrator to view the most recent audits and help manage systems.

    For the audit of Regan's office, officials installed Centennial on a 500-MHz Compaq ProLiant 5500 Pentium III dual-processor server with 1G of memory.

    Regan said at first the agents found some software that didn't belong on workers' desktops and operators removed those programs. 'But [it was] nothing shocking,' he said.

    State of the state's systems

    The software will inventory servers running Microsoft LAN Manager, NT or 2000 or Novell NetWare 3.11 or higher, and clients running Windows 3.x, 9x, 2000 and NT. The asset management system uses Microsoft SQL Server database management software to store the data.

    Regan hopes the asset management software will give his office an accurate view of the state's systems and help reduce costs.

    'When you look at how priorities are ranked, for many states this isn't as high as it should be,' Regan said. 'For us, it became a high priority because we are trying to get our arms around something we didn't have the ability to measure before.'
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