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Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator

Last updated Mar 28, 2003.

You hear me talk a lot about security, standards, and control of your SQL Server environment. Of course, to do that you have to know where all of the instances of SQL Server are on your network to being with. And I’ve also called out the need to plan for your upgrades to new versions of SQL Server (and any product, really) correctly. If only there was a tool that would help you do those things...

There is. It’s a mouthful of a name, but the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator (which I’m just going to call MAPS from here on out) does that and so much more. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to get it, install it and use it, step-by-step.

It’s a deceptively small tool — but what this program will help you do is discover software installed in your organization, collect reports on them, and plan upgrades of those software packages. It works not only for SQL Server, but other products as well. I won’t cover those here; instead I’ll focus on discovering instances of SQL Server on the network.

Getting and Installing the Software

The software is a free download from here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb977556.aspx. MAPS installs SQL Server Express to store the results of the assessments it runs, and it also uses Microsoft Office runtimes to display the reports it creates. You don’t have to install anything on the systems you want to asses (or inventory), because it uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Remote Registry Services, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Active Directory, and Computer Browser to find everything from the central system where you install it. I’ll show you all that in a moment.

Once you start the installation, you’re greeted with a “welcome” panel.

Clicking Next from there brings up the licensing panel:

Clicking Next on this panel sets the location for the installation:

And clicking Next again brings up the panel to install SQL Server Express. I wish I could just pick a current SQL Server here, but hey, it’s free, so get Express again and it will as a Named Instance called “MAPS”:

Once again, another license panel — this one is for SQL Server Express:

Clicking Next brings up the summary panel before everything starts installing:

Then you just click Install to begin. You’ll get a feedback panel showing the various downloads:

Assuming all goes well, you’ll see a panel like this one:

I’ve checked the box to start the tool, but you can bail on it and come in later from the Windows Start menu if you like.

Performing an “Assessment” of SQL Server on Your Network

Although the MAPS tool can do everything from analyzing your hardware to see if it is capable of migrating to Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Application Virtualization, and Windows Vista to verifying Hyper-V server virtualization and best practices for security and SQL Server 2008 migration, I’ll focus on only one aspect: discovering SQL Server Instances. Once you learn to use this part of the tool, the rest of the features are pretty easy to implement. If you’re planning a migration or system consolidation effort, this is the tool to use, or at least to start with.

There are three basic steps to follow after you perform the installation to inventory computers on your network.

  1. Select the Reports and Proposals you want to evaluate
  2. Choose the Discovery Methods
  3. Review your settings and run the assessment

I’ll walk you through the basics of each of those steps — and then you can try this out on your own system. Along the way, I’ll explain the choices I made and where you might make some different ones.

Select the Reports and Proposals You Want to Evaluate

After you install MAPS, you’ll have a Start menu item with that name. You can open the tool from there, and you’ll also have links to the help files that come with it. After you work through this tutorial, you might want to read through that to find out more about what the tool can do.

Once you start MAPS, you’re presented with a screen with three main sections.

The left-most panel uses a Microsoft Outlook-like menu to show the features the tool has. The middle panel shows the result of what you’ve picked as the current feature you want to work with (in this case the Assessment) and the right-hand panel shows the actions you can take within that feature.

The first thing you need to do is to choose (or create) a database to hold the Assessment data. The screen below appears when you click “Select a database” link:

I’ll create a new database, and since I’m using on my test system I’ll stick with the fictional Microsoft example company called “Contoso." Since this is my first run of the tool, I enter that name in the “Create an inventory database” box and click OK. That brings up the main assessment panel.

Don’t let all the choices overwhelm you — just stick with inventorying SQL Server. To do that, I’ll select the “Identify SQL server Instances to Upgrade to SQL Server 2008” link. Don’t worry — it will still discover systems that are already at SQL Server 2008 — and as of this writing, that shouldn’t be a big issue. Odds are you’re aware of the places where you’ve installed that version, and what you’re after are all those older Instances you’ve got all over the network.

Once you click the link, you get to the first part of what you need to select:

Here I’m choosing what I want the MAPS tool to look for. You can see that I’ve selected SQL Server, although you can select more products if you want to kill several birds with one stone. Clicking the Next button here after you’ve made your selections moves into the next phase of the process.

Choose the Discovery Method(s)

Once you click Next, you’re presented with this screen:

Now you have the full arsenal of connection methods to scan the network. I’ve selected both Active Directory and Windows Networking as you can see, but you can also use files and IP ranges, which I suggest if you are on a large network. Using a text file gives you the most control, but you might miss systems if someone has installed SQL Server Express or MSDE without your knowledge. I recommend IP ranges on large networks, especially if you have a good segmentation using those IP addresses, which most networks do. In other words, many networks are segmented by IP address based on floor, building and so on.

If you added Active Directory as I did, you’ll see a panel similar to this one when you click Next:

This panel is looking for the credentials to hit Active Directory with. Enter this (or have your network admin enter it) and select Next.

Now you need to provide the domain or workgroup if you chose Windows Networking Protocols as I did. You’ll get other panels if you chose other methods as well. Once you click Next you’re given the chance to enter the WMI information you need to remotely check services and so on. If this is the first time the tool is run, click the New Account button.

That brings up a panel to enter the account you want to use. Once again, either you or your network admin will need to enter the account to use.

Click the Save and New button and you’re brought back to that last panel to select the account you just filled in. Click Next there and you’re brought to the summary panel:

Review Your Settings and Run the Assessment

When you click the Finish button, the system first updates its own internal files for the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) and then begins the assessment. Depending on how big the network is, it runs pretty quickly.

When the process completes, you get a chance to see what passed and what failed on the same panel.

Clicking the Close button brings you back to the main Assessment panel. From here, you can click the “View Saved Reports and Proposals” link.

Selecting that link brings up — of all things — a directory. This directory has the Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents that contain the assessment.

The Word document is business-ready, complete with lots of marketing info on why you should upgrade. The good parts are towards the middle, where you get a graph of the versions the tool found with tables of the results.

The Excel worksheet is interesting as well. It contains not only the same list, but a further detail on exactly the kind of machine the software was found on and more.

In future tutorials, I’ll show you how to work with some of the other features in this tool.

InformIT Articles and Sample Chapters

Rich Schiesser has a great tutorial on inventorying your hardware in the (now defunct) InformIT IT Management Reference Guide. You can find the full installment still online with this direct link, however.

Books and eBooks

Rich Schieser also wrote IT Systems Management: Designing, Implementing, and Managing World-Class Infrastructures, from which you can find an excerpt on software inventories in the aforementioned InformIT IT Management Reference Guide.

Online Resources

The official documentation for MAPS is here.