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License Management with ConfigMgr 2012

Firstly, if you intend to rely, solely, on ConfigMgr for software license management & compliance – think again!

According to Microsoft this functionality within the suite has its limitations. Microsoft admits to these ‘limitations’ within the ConfigMgr Asset Intelligence Documentation (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg681998.aspx)

Asset intelligence is a feature in ConfigMgr that utilizes special hardware inventory classes, a set of reports and a catalog that is periodically updated by Microsoft.

The section of the documentation which describes the limitations is below:

Legal Limitations
The information displayed in Asset Intelligence reports are subject to many limitations and the information displayed in them does not represent legal, accounting, or other professional advice. The information that is provided by Asset Intelligence reports is for information only and should not be used as the only source of information for determining software license usage compliance.

The following are example limitations involved in inventorying installed software and license usage in the enterprise by using Asset Intelligence that might affect the accuracy of Asset Intelligence reports:

Microsoft license usage quantity limitations

  • The quantity of purchased Microsoft software licenses is based on information that administrators supply and should be closely reviewed to ensure that the correct number of software licenses is provided.
  • The reported quantity of Microsoft software licenses contains information only about Microsoft software licenses acquired through volume licensing programs and does not reflect information for software licenses acquired through retail, OEM, or other software license sales channels.
  • Software licenses acquired in the last 45 days might not be included in the quantity of Microsoft software licenses reported because of software reseller reporting requirements and schedules.
  • Software license transfers from company mergers or acquisitions might not be reflected in Microsoft software license quantities.
  • Nonstandard terms and conditions in a Microsoft Volume Licensing (MVLS) agreement might affect the number of software licenses reported and, therefore, might require additional review by a Microsoft representative.

Installed software title quantity limitations
Configuration Manager Clients must successfully complete hardware inventory reporting cycles for the Asset Intelligence reports to accurately report the quantity of installed software titles. Additionally, there might be a delay between the installation or uninstallation of a licensed software title after a successful hardware inventory reporting cycle that is not reflected in Asset Intelligence reports run before the client reports its next scheduled hardware inventory.

License reconciliation limitations
The reconciliation of the quantity of installed software titles to the quantity of purchased software licenses is calculated by using a comparison of the license quantity specified by the administrator and the quantity of installed software titles collected from Configuration Manager client hardware inventories based on the schedule set by the administrator. This comparison does not represent a final Microsoft conclusion of the license positions. The actual license position depends on the specific software title license and usage rights granted by the license terms.

However, should you wish to use the Asset Intelligence feature for License Management regardless of its limitations, the following steps will need to be completed.

  1. A CSV file containing all license information will need to be created. A sample CSV License file is here:Not all fields need to be completed, however the following fields are mandatory; Name,     Publisher, Version and EffectiveQuantity. All dates within this CSV need to be in the US format i.e. mm/dd/yyyy.  Name & Version must match what is in the ConfigMgr DB – I (or another ConfigMgr Admin) can sort this.
  2. This CSV needs to then be imported into ConfigMgr;
    Open the console and navigate to Assets And Compliance -> Asset Intelligence.
    Right click on Asset Intelligence and select Import Software License.
    Run through the wizard ensuring you select General License statement when given the choice.
  3. Software Licenses can then be reported on.
    Navigate to Monitoring -> Reporting
    Run the report named License 15A – General License Reconciliation Report
    This will show you a basic report containing license count, usage and more importantly the difference between them both

Is this reliable? No!

Could you use this as evidence during a compliance audit? Definitely not.

Is it real-time? No, it can be days, weeks or even months out of date.

What other options are there?

There are a multitude of discovery tools available on the market, including tools from 1E, Snow, LicenseDashboard etc – these all range in price, but from our experience, 15-20GBP per client per annum is the norm.

These tools generally ‘plug-in’ to ConfigMgr and make use of Asset Intelligence, Software Metering and their own DBs to give you a bigger picture of your licensing within the enterprise.

Toolsets:

If, like many enterprises, you are in the process of moving towards a new Windows 7 platform along with a new implementation of Configuration Manager 2012 – take this as an opportunity to get hold of your licensing and manage it correctly. Knowing where software is installed can now become a business process rather than a technical investigation – and its easy!

ConfigMgr 2012 also offers Software Metering – i.e. Is software deployed but not being used? We can determine this easily, and with a bit of simple SQL Querying we can automate the removal of the application.

The one issue which still blights most enterprises is how to prevent deployment of applications when no licenses are remaining. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue, as the whole software approval process would look something like this:

  1. User requests a licensed application
  2. Service Desk passes the call to relevant parties;
    Whoever deals with software license purchasing to check license availability, costs etc
    IT Department to potentially ‘push back’ and ask for business justification and potentially suggest other software (Maybe a viewer is a better option?)
    Users manager to approve the ‘need’ for the software and potentially, the costs to his/her departmental budget
    CMDB guys to record software asset deployment
  3. Once the Service Desk has the required approval, the call is passed to ConfigMgr Administrator or Infrastructure guys to either (for example):
    Approve request from ConfigMgr Console
    Add the user to the relevant AD group for deployment.

If, when the call gets to 2a/b/c there are no licenses left, and the users manager approves the cost then more should be purchased prior to the call being forwarded to next person/department.
No manual installs should ever take place.

Unfortunately, the above process is nearly always flawed.

Another issue which impacts most enterprises is the recovery of licenses from lost, stolen or broken machines, or users who have left the company – its usually a dirty process which in most case is left to luck, and crossed fingers.

There is a tool available on the market which can prevent deployment of applications if no licenses are available, easily recover licenses from lost, stolen or broken machines and even from users who have left the company. It can even help bring existing software installations under control. Slickey License Manager (http://www.slickey.com) can be easily implemented and work alongside ConfigMgr and/or any discovery tool.

In summary, License Management + ConfigMgr 2012 = half a solution. However, it can help you keep a mindful eye on your licensing position – but its not automated and will need IT resources to manage.

Slickey – License Manager Presentation

Slickey License Manager Whitepaper

Here is the first of a series of whitepaper showing the benefits of License management using Slickey License Management.

Slickey License Management
SlicKey Software Limited
Info: +447932773506
Email: Information@slickey.com
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