The MIF: SMS's Workhorse

In Systems Management Server (SMS), you create Management Information Format (MIF) files to collect inventory information. The Desktop Management Task Force defined MIFs as part of the Desktop Management Interface (DMI) specification. MIFs are human-readable ASCII text files that describe inventory components (e.g., personal computers and employees) in terms of high-level groups that contain detailed attributes.

Out of the box, SMS uses MIFs to describe and collect Personal Computer inventory information as part of its standard processing. In addition to Personal Computer inventory collection, SMS uses MIFs for capturing inventory information. SMS will also let you create custom MIFs for almost any inventory component, including routers, hubs, printers, people, and concepts. If you can provide attributes that describe a component, you can represent that component with a custom MIF.

MIF Architectures and Identification Groups
The DMI specification requires that you identify each inventory component with a unique architecture that defines the groups and attributes associated with that particular component. Each MIF has a special Architecture group to identify the component the MIF is describing. SMS includes five built-in inventory architectures:

  • Personal Computer
  • SMS Events
  • Job Location
  • Job Details
  • User Groups

Each architecture has a specific purpose. For example, SMS uses MIFs with a Personal Computer architecture to collect client workstation inventory.

To provide inventory extensibility, SMS lets you create new architectures by submitting MIF files with a new architecture. These are custom architecture MIF files. SMS also lets you add new groups to existing architectures by adding the new group to a MIF that includes the existing architecture. These new groups are custom groups. You can add custom groups to existing built-in or custom architectures.

In addition to the Architecture group, another required group is the Identification group. This group contains attributes that identify the particular instance of an object that the MIF is describing. A subset of attributes within the Identification group form the logical key for the inventory record in the SMS database that the MIF file will add or update.

For more information on MIFs, see Mark Eddins, "Customizing Systems Management Servers," January 1997, and Mark Eddins, "Customizing Graphics for SMS Custom Inventory Objects," March 1997.

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