Command unifies Unix, Windows inventories

The Army Intelligence and Security Command is putting its inventory of Unix and Microsoft Windows systems on the same screen.

The command's computers, spread across 180 locations worldwide, collect global intelligence for warfighters. INSCOM operates about 800 servers running Windows and 3,000 workstations and servers running Unix.

CIO Robert Fecteau said he will soon have a single, automatic inventory of all those IT assets to accurately assess how well they are running. A unified inventory will also streamline budgeting and enterprisewide software management, he said.

'I can much more accurately predict the costs of renovating the infrastructure,' Fecteau said.
For the Windows side of the house, the command for years has kept inventory with Microsoft Corp.'s Systems Management Server on 33 servers around the world. SMS shows Fecteau the number of working Windows systems.

He called its reporting capabilities adequate, though limited to Windows discovery. 'Our objective was to extend that visibility into the Unix space,' Fecteau said.

He bought Altiris Inventory Solution software from Altiris Inc. of Lindon, Utah, to collect the Unix information and hand it off to SMS' SQL Server database. An Altiris software agent on each Unix machine captures its serial number, installed software, operating system configuration, processor type and working condition.

At regular intervals, the agents send this data to the Altiris Notification Server, which formats it for SQL Server. The inventory, which used to be hand-collected, should be largely completed this month.

'Our management system is built on a Microsoft platform. Rather than a separate management solution for Unix, I wanted an integrated solution,' Fecteau said.

In addition to displaying the machines' status, the inventory will automate help desk tickets, using stored information about ailing computers to aid in diagnosis.

Down the road, Fecteau said, he wants to see software that can use the aggregated data to spot trends such as mean time between failures. 'That kind of software is critical to managing an infrastructure,' he said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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