In this article, you will learn about the tools that are available for Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). Some of the tools discussed are used for troubleshooting and others are helpful with day-to-day tasks that an SCCM solutions provider faces. A few of the tools are supported by Microsoft and others are community tools created by nifty SCCM administrators.
System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Toolkit
The SCCM 2007 Toolkit is an official download from Microsoft.com and contains seven tools of which the tool Trace32 is the most important. Here is an overview of the tools in the configuration manager toolkit:
Client Spy -- This tool to helps troubleshoot issues related to software distribution, inventory and software metering on SCCM 2007 clients. It displays the current settings of a client.
Policy Spy -- SCCM clients are updated using policies that are downloaded from the SCCM Site Servers Management Point by SCCM client agents. Client agents are machines that have the client portion of SCCM installed. Policy Spy helps a solutions provider look into the policy update system on clients.
Trace32 -- Everyone who has had to troubleshoot a System Center Configuration Manager 2007 configuration has seen the numerous logfiles that SCCM uses to store information about the processes that occur within it. Trace32 shows these logs in a readable format and allows the logfiles to be updated while viewing them in real time. SCCM logfiles contain very important information, and Trace32 makes the data easy to read Hence, the tool is an important one.
Security Configuration Wizard template for SCCM 2007 -- This template is an attack surface reduction tool for the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system, Service Pack 1 (SP1) and SP2. The template determines the minimum functionality required for a server's role or roles and disables functionality that is not required. It closes ports that are not used in the Windows Firewall and disables unnecessary services that are running on the SCCM Site Server.
Desired Configuration Management (DCM) Model Verification -- Administrators that manage content for DCM find this tool useful for the validation and testing of configuration items and baselines authored externally from the SCCM console.
DCM Digest Conversion -- A tool used by solutions providers to convert existing Systems Management Server 2003 DCM solution templates to DCM 2007 configuration items.
DCM Substitution Variables -- This tool is used for authoring desired configuration management configuration items that use chained setting and object discovery. This tool is specifically helpful in more complex DCM configurations.
Community tools for SCCM 2007
Aside from the "official" tools for SCCM, the Internet has a lot of tools that are very interesting for SCCM solutions providers. The most important of these tools are covered in this article.
SCCM right-click tools -- Right-click tools are integrated in the SCCM management console and add a lot of SCCM installation options that the original version lacks. The new right-click options include the following:
Easy access to logfiles on site servers and clients
- The ability to trigger actions from within the SCCM console instead of having to connect to the actual client you wish to alter. Examples of actions that can be done with the right-click toolset include:
- Viewing client logfiles with Trace32
- Pinging workstations
- Starting event viewer for a client
- Showing who is logged on locally to the client
- Updating machine policy
- Running cycles for inventory, file collection and software metering
- Connecting to CCM setup
ScreenLock -- Sometimes, it is necessary that users don't have control over their computers during installation or software updates. ScreenLock literally locks the screen of the computer and displays any message an SCCM solutions provider wants. Besides locking the screen, ScreenLock also blocks mouse and keyboard input so that no points of entry are available to users.
Collection Commander -- This tool simplifies the collection of clients. SCCM uses collections to assign actions. Sending Wake on LAN packets is one example; adding or deleting clients to a collection is another example. It is also possible to ping machines from this tool to check if a client is online.
SCCM Client Center -- This tool is much like the Client Spy utility from the SCCM 2007 toolkit, but there is one big difference. This tool has a good user interface, which allows an SCCM solutions provider to have a quick and easy overview of client settings, including running services and SCCM settings.
SCCM 2007 is a very big product from Microsoft -- it has 5.8 million lines of coding and needs a good set of tools to be easily managed. All actions by solutions providers can be done from the original management console, but in some cases that would take too much time. In my opinion, the most important tools for solutions providers are Trace32 and the SCCM right-click toolset, as these tools will help the most with troubleshooting SCCM 2007.
About the expert
Alex de Jong is a freelance IT professional who specializes in Microsoft System Center, Exchange and infrastructures. As a consultant and trainer, Alex focuses on enterprise-sized networks. Alex is a very popular speaker at worldwide technical events, including ones held by Microsoft. He has written seven books about Windows and networking and contributes to several magazines.