System Center 2012: Discovery options

Scott Lowe explains two discovery options in System Center 2012 and how you can use them to identify any resources you might want to manage through the Configuration Manager.

After you have a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager system up and running, one of the first things that you need to do is identify resources that can be managed with SCCM. To find these objects-client computers, user account objects, user groups, etc.-administrators configure various discovery mechanisms from within SCCM. For example, if you want to find computer objects that you can manage, use the Active Directory System Discovery or Network Discovery method. Both of these will be explained here.

Discovery configuration can be found by opening the SCCM 2012 console and going to Administration | Hierarchy Configuration | Discovery Methods. You can see this screen in Figure A.

Figure A

General discovery details (click images to enlarge)

When you first load SCCM, you'll notice that all discovery options save one are disabled. The only discovery option that is enabled by default is the heartbeat discovery option. Heartbeat discovery is unique in SCCM in that it does not actually locate new resources for SCCM. Rather, it is a discovery method initiated by a client, which reports in to the SCCM server that it's still alive. In this way, the SCCM server knows that the client should not be removed from the database.

If you're tempted to jump into the SCCM console and simply enable every discovery method, take a step back. Discovery requires some careful planning and an understanding for what kinds of objects are discovered by a particular method. If you don't need a certain kind of object to be discovered, don't enable that discovery method. For example, if you can't think of a reason that you need to know Active Directory group information from within SCCM, don't enable that discovery method until you need it.

Discovery methods

In most cases, one of the first discovery methods that you'll enable is the Active Directory System Discovery method. As the name implies, this method discovers computer objects in Active Directory along with some additional information, such as the operating system version, IP address, Active Directory Organization Unit, and the last login timestamp.

Once you've discovered computer objects that become a part of SCCM, you can push the SCCM client out to the devices.

Here are the other discovery methods available from within SCCM:

  • Active Directory Forest Discovery. Discovers forests, domains, AD sites, and IP subnets.
  • Active Directory Group Discovery. Discovers AD groups and group membership.
  • Active Directory User Discovery. Discovers user objects from Active Directory
  • Network Discovery. Allows you to go directly to the network to find new objects, such as computers, printers and network devices. Network discovery is generally "noisy" in that it generates a lot of network traffic and can be resource intensive, so try to use other methods before this one, if you can. The benefit of network discovery is that it can find objects not available in Active Directory
Let's take a closer look at the settings that accompany the Active Directory System Discovery option. In Figure B, you can see that I've enabled the discovery method and pointed it at the Active Directory organizational unit that I want to scan for systems. In this case, I just chose the root for one of my lab domains.

Figure B

Enable this discovery method and choose OUs that contain systems

Delta discovery is a method by which SCCM rescans previously scanned areas and identifies any resources that may have been added since the previous discovery process. Delta discovery runs every 5 minutes, but this interval is configurable.

Figure C

Do you want to enable Delta Discovery?
In Figure D, you can see that there were a number of systems located in Active Directory. But, how do I know that these were objects discovered by Active Directory System Discovery rather than a method such as Network Discovery? In Figure D, note the highlighted item on the properties page for the system shown. The properties indicate the discovery method that was used to identify the resource.

Figure D

A number of items were discovered


Every discovery option carries with it its own configuration parameters, so explore a bit to see what's out there.