Open Source Inventory Management
One of the challenges that has faced our company, and most probably many other companies, has been the lack of adoption of any inventory management system. When things are done in a hurry, as was our case, key system management tools were completely left out. Its not that they were not thought of, it’s just that they were deemed less important.
Two years down the line, the money dried up and the (greatly exaggerated) profits to back the business cases for expensive proprietary hardware and software have not been forthcoming, the questions are starting to be asked – “What hardware do we actually have?” and “how can we utilize it elsewhere in the environment?”. We also hear on almost a daily basis – “There is no money for hardware next year, we will have to make do with what we have got.” While big plans to roll out ludicrously expensive software platforms are still being entertained and IBM p570 systems are left to rot.
Some of it is amusing and some of it is depressing, especially when useful open source tools performing important tasks like monitoring – which were never present before – are described by top level management as ‘freebies’… :S
One tool that has caught the eye of management though is GLPI. It is a web based inventory / asset management tool written in php using a MySQL db backend. It has a very impressive array of features and is very simple to use.
Our deployment involved integration with the equally excellent OCS. This allows an agent to run on each and every server in our environment to regularly update the inventory information. GLPI then comes along and helps itself to the information collected. It will pick up almost every little detail about the server from the serial number to the speed of the RAM.
GLPI has built in support for LDAP / AD as well as offering POP3 and IMAP as user authentication mechanisms. GLPI also offers the ability to associate assets with documentation and maintenance contracts, capable of alerting when contracts are about to expire. An array of plugins allow for functionality such as IP address management and dynamic architecture diagrams make this application a very very useful tool.
There is also built in help desk support for ticketing. It is very simple but provides the ability for tickets to be logged against assets. GLPI can be configured for managing assets in various locations and various states. For example you could have a server that is not yet deployed and GLPI would be able to capture that it is in storage and where it is physically. This is useful for determining whether servers are in production, testing or QA. GLPI also has support for devices such as modems and phones, providing a handy way of managing resources that have legs.
In an environment where every resource needs to be squeezed to the limit and every asset accurately accounted for, GPLI provides us a comprehensive platform to manage our equipment.