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Microsoft SCCM (ConfigMgr) Plug-Ins Group Test

An Independent Review and Competitive Comparison
By Martin Thompson, Founder and Analyst, The ITAM Review

February 2012


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SCCM Plug-Ins Index


Introduction

This Group Test showcases eight market leading SCCM ITAM plug-ins. The aim of the research is to showcase the capabilities of tools that harness System Center data for IT Asset Management.

Microsoft SCCM is a very popular platform for systems management but IT Asset Management features are not a core competence. Many organizations want to make use of their existing System Center infrastructure and avoid deploying ‘yet another agent’.

The key deliverable of these tools is cutting out the noise. As a configuration and deployment tool SCCM brings back an enormous amount of information – these tools allow ITAM professionals to focus on the most pertinent information for managing assets.


Microsoft SCCM Market Share

SCCM has grown to be the de facto standard for enterprise deployment since first release as ‘SMS’ back in 1994. ITAM vendor BDNA has estimated that Microsoft SCCM has around 50% market share at 100m desktops (Their argument states that there are 400m desktops globally, half of these are for business, and half of these again are managed by Microsoft).

I have no firm evidence to substantiate this claim, but anecdotally I only hear of organizations moving towards the System Center stack. Similarly Gartner defined Microsoft as a leader in both technology and market share in their 2009 and 2012 Magic Quadrants for Client Management Tools [Reprints Courtesy of Symantec].

However you define it, I think it is fair to say SCCM is the dominant market leader in this space and its no wonder a small ecosystem of complimentary solutions has developed to make use of the data.


How Tools Interact with SCCM

This group test is titled SCCM ‘plug-ins’ but strictly speaking only two of the eight are actually plug-ins.

By plug-in I mean the tools that sit within SCCM itself.

All the tools reviewed are complimentary and add value to an SCCM installation and can be classed into three categories:

  1. Plug-ins – Work within ConfigMgr itself
  2. Two-Way Integration – Export data from System Center but also send new data classes or tasks back to System Center
  3. One-Way Export – Use SCCM data to produce analysis

The importance of these three options will depend on your preferences, ownership of the ITAM function within the business and your current goals.

 


Key Differences

NEXThink and Provance can be considered plug-ins. Provance is an official ‘Management Pack’ for System Center and also works within Operations Manager and Service Manager as well as Configuration Manager.

BDNA purely exists to enhance SCCM data by cross-referencing its own database of asset intelligence against the SCCM database. 1E, LicenseWatch and Snow are external tools but allow commands to be sent back into SCCM, such as ‘remove software’. NEXThink exists as both a Plug-in within SCCM and an external tool. Finally, Assetlabs and License Dashboard accept SCCM data but do not write back to the SCCM database. The differences are illustrated further in the table below.

1E, AssetLabs, BDNA and Provance are ‘Agent-less’ solutions. License Dashboard, LicenseWatch and Snow can be Agent-less (And just use SCCM data) or use their own agent. NEXThink is reliant on its agent to be installed to enable their SCCM offering.

Again, using another agent along side your SCCM agent will depend on your environment and preferences. The main benefit of considering an additional agent is software usage, since it is rare to find an organization tracking software usage using SCCM for more than a handful of applications.

Finally, in the short time since this review started Express Metrix has released an SCCM connector and Flexera Software have bought SCCM expert.


Inventory Review Index

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITAM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.