Use the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit to create a hardware inventory and document your computers’ configurations.
Imagine that you start a new job as an IT manager for a company with hundreds of workstations and dozens of servers to support. As you tour the facility on your first day, you see many different computers, of varying ages, from diverse manufacturers. When you get to your office, you look high and low for the records that detail these computers’ configurations and list their hardware. But you can’t find any records—because they don’t exist.
If no one ever created a record of the computers and hardware in your organization, your first order of business should be to compile one as soon as possible. Opening up individual computers and physically examining their hardware would be a monumental task. A better alternative is to use a software-based system inventory solution.
Most products that can create a network hardware inventory require the administrator to install a client or agent on each computer inventoried. This task in itself can be complicated and expensive. The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is a fast, convenient, and free solution that creates a computer hardware inventory without agents. (To download the Toolkit, go to the Microsoft Download Center.)
The MAP Toolkit isn’t a complete network management solution. Its primary function is to evaluate the inventory information it gathers and use this information in a variety of assessment scenarios, mainly to determine which of the computers on a network are capable of running the latest Microsoft OSs, such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. The Toolkit can also generate formatted reports that you can use to present this data to your colleagues or supervisors. The inventory information provides a useful snapshot of your network computers and the components inside them.
Installing the MAP Toolkit
The computer on which you install the MAP Toolkit is the one that will contact the other computers on the network to receive information about their hardware and software configurations. You can install the Toolkit on a computer running Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Professional with SP2 or later.
Because Windows workstation OSs are limited to ten concurrent network connections, taking an inventory of a large network can be a lengthy process. Windows server OSs support unlimited connections and are recommended for networks larger than 250 nodes. Software prerequisites include Windows .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, Windows Installer 4.5, and Microsoft Office 2007 or Office 2003 SP2. The MAP Toolkit installation will fail if these applications aren’t installed.
The MAP Toolkit software also relies on a SQL Server database to store its data. For networks of up to 20,000 computers, the software can use SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (Microsoft’s free database), which the installation program automatically downloads and installs if it isn’t already present on the system. Because SQL Server Express is limited to using 1GB of memory and can create databases no larger than 4GB, networks of more than 20,000 nodes require SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition, which you must purchase separately and run on another computer. For extremely large networks, you can install the MAP Toolkit on multiple computers and configure them all to save their data to a single SQL Server database instance. However, for networks this large, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), Microsoft’s full-featured network management product, would generally be better choice.
The hardware requirements for the computer running the MAP Toolkit depend on the size of the network. The greater the number of computers you need to inventory, the more memory the computer needs. Table 1 lists the hardware and software requirements for the MAP Toolkit, based on the number of computers on the network.
|Number of Computers to Inventory||Operating System||Database Manager||Hardware|
|1 to 4,999||Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2||SQL Server 2005 Express||CPU: dual-core 1.5GHz+
RAM: 1.5GB+ (2GB+ for Vista)
|5,000 to 9,999||Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2||SQL Server 2005 Express||CPU: dual-core 1.5GHz+
|10,000 to 19,999||Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2||SQL Server 2005 Express||CPU: multiprocessor 1.5GHz+
Network: Gigabit Ethernet
|20,000 to 49,999||Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2||SQL Server 2005 Standard||CPU: multiprocessor 1.5GHz+
Network: Gigabit Ethernet
|50,000+||Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2||SQL Server 2005 Standard||CPU: multiprocessor 2GHz+
Network: Gigabit Ethernet
Configuring the Clients
The MAP Toolkit uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to communicate with the other computers on the network. No agent or other client software is needed on the other computers. However, the Toolkit must be able to communicate with the clients through WMI, which means that you need to configure any firewall products between the computers to open TCP ports 135, 139, and 445 and UDP ports 137 and 138.
TCP port 135 is the Remote Administration exception in Windows Firewall, and the other four ports are the File and Printer Sharing exception. These ports let the Toolkit discover the other computers on the network and access them. To avoid having to configure each computer’s firewall individually, you might want to create a Group Policy Object (GPO) that uses custom rules in the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security policy to open the ports.
Running the MAP Toolkit
Once you’ve installed the MAP Toolkit, you can run it from the Start menu. Figure 1 shows the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit console.
The Toolkit is scenario-based, meaning that the program gathers information from the systems on the network and uses the information to evaluate each computer’s ability to perform a specific task. The first step in using the Toolkit is to select an existing database or create a new one. The console prompts you for a database the first time you run it, or you can choose Select a Database from the File menu. Once you’ve selected or created a database, you can run the Inventory and Assessment Wizard to collect information about your network computers.
Using the Inventory and Assessment Wizard
When you select the Inventory and Assessment Wizard link on the console’s home page, a Computer Discovery Methods page appears, in which you can specify how the MAP Toolkit will discover the computers on the network and what credentials it will use to access those computers. The values for these key elements will depend on the nature of the network. The six discovery methods that the Inventory and Assessment Wizard supports are as follows:
- Use Active Directory Domain Services—The wizard sends queries to a domain controller (DC) to discover the names of the computers on the network. To limit the size of the scan, you can select specific domains, containers, and organizational units (OU). If all of your computers are members of an Active Directory (AD) domain, you should select this option only.
- Use the Windows networking protocols—Intended for networks containing workgroup computers or members of a Windows NT 4.0 domain, the wizard generates broadcast messages, and the computers on the network respond. Because broadcast messages are limited to the local network, you must run the wizard on each network segment.
- Import computer names from a file—Create a plain text file containing the computer names, NetBIOS names, or Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDNs) of the computers that you want to assess.
- Scan an IP address range—Designed primarily to provide a means of assessing a subset of the computers on the network, such as those in a particular subnet. The wizard can scan up to 100,000 IP addresses each time you run it.
- Manually enter computer names and credentials—Designed to provide a means of assessing a small number of computers, which you identify using computer names, NetBIOS names, or FQDNs.
- VMware server discovery—Designed to let the wizard inventory servers running VMware, as well as the virtual machines (VMs) running on them.
To access each computer, the wizard must use an account with administrative access. On the Enter WMI Credentials page, you supply one or more sets of credentials for the computers on the network. The credentials can be domain or local accounts. When you add more than one set of credentials, the Toolkit tries each one in turn on each computer, until it connects successfully. The MAP Toolkit doesn’t store the credentials in the database or in any other file; it encrypts them and stores them in memory only, disposing of them when it completes the inventory.
When the wizard starts, it downloads the latest Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) from Microsoft and displays a Status window such as the one in Figure 2. The wizard then connects to each computer it discovers on the network, retrieves the information it needs in encoded form, and stores it in the SQL Server database.
Evaluating the Data
When the Inventory and Assessment Wizard finishes, you can select one of the seven Discovery and Readiness scenarios in the console. These scenarios display a series of charts and tables interpreting the inventory information with respect to a particular goal, such as readiness to install Windows Server 2008 R2, as Figure 3 shows.
In addition to the console scenarios, you can use the MAP Toolkit to generate detailed documents by selecting Prepare New Reports and Proposals from the File menu. Reports are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that summarize the inventory data in various ways; proposals are Microsoft Word documents that contain boilerplate text with the tables and charts found in the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit console. Reports are intended for less technical individuals who require further explanation of the assessment results.
The reports and proposals you can generate are as follows:
- Windows 7 Hardware Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal which computers on the network have the hardware, firmware, and device drivers needed to run Windows 7.
- Windows Server 2008 R2 Hardware Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal which computers on the network have the hardware needed to run Windows Server 2008 R2.
- Windows Vista Hardware Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal which computers on the network have the hardware, firmware, and device drivers needed to run Windows Vista.
- Microsoft SQL Server Discovery—Specifies in a report and a proposal what SQL Server resources the wizard found on the network and specifies how best to migrate them to SQL Server 2008.
- Virtual Machine Discovery—Lists in a report the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Microsoft Virtual PC servers running on the network and the VMs running on them.
- Windows Server 2008 Hardware Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal which computers on the network have the hardware needed to run Windows Server 2008.
- Windows Server Roles Discovery—Lists in a report the roles installed on the computers on the network running Window Server.
- Office 2007 Assessment—Lists in a report the Microsoft Office products installed on the network computers and specifies which are ready to have Office 2007 installed.
- Performance Metrics Report—Using information compiled by a separate Gather Performance Metrics Wizard, this report contains detailed statistics quantifying the performance of the processors, memory, network interfaces, physical disks, and logical disks in your network computers.
- Server Consolidation and Virtualization Recommendations—Using information compiled by a separate Server Virtualization Planning Wizard, this report contains information about the virtual server host computers on the network and how you might consolidate the VMs for greater efficiency.
- Security Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal which of the computers on the network are capable of supporting Network Access Protection (NAP) and Forefront Client Security.
- Application Virtualization Hardware Assessment—Specifies in a report and a proposal how you might deploy Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 on your network.
- Power Savings Assessment—Specifies in a proposal the power savings you can realize by upgrading the computers on your network to the latest Windows OSs and taking advantage of their power-management capabilities.
- Inventory Report—Lists in a report all of the computers discovered on the network and provides details of their hardware and software configurations, as Figure 4 shows.
Using the Data
The information you obtain from running the MAP Toolkit can provide a useful start for managing your network. Determining the current state of your network will help you project future hardware and software needs. You can quickly see which computers could benefit from hardware upgrades, as well as which computers might be nearing the end of their useful lives. In addition, with a little editing and a few additions, you can easily rework the Inventory and Assessment wizard’s summary reports into a format that you can submit to your CTO.