Special Processing with XCMD
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
by David Woodruff
A database is only as good as the data in it, and keeping a database updated is critical to any application that uses one, such as ServiceNow’s IT Service Management product.
For many companies, the printer fleet is a fluid environment. Over time, break-fix swap outs, printer upgrades, even location changes can make the task of maintaining the service management database daunting.
One LRS customer wanted to automate this task as much as possible. Their environment included the CMDB (Configuration Management Database), which was a module within their ServiceNow instance. Scans are carried out across the network and new IT assets are automatically loaded into the CMDB. This database acts as the customer’s source record for assets.
There is also a basic asset retirement process for CMDB assets that have not been selected on a network scan for a certain period of time. This process takes several months, so the CMDB may show assets as active that have long been retired, resulting in an inaccurate CMDB. The customer needed to have a more accurate inventory of in-use print assets. Although cost savings and reduction in support were not the driving forces for this effort, both were secondary benefits likely to be recognized over time.
This customer already had LRS’ VPSX Enterprise software, the most extensible output management system in the market. The LRS Professional Services team worked with the customer to define their requirements and tailor a customized integration with ServiceNow by leveraging the VPSX Enterprise software’s external command notification feature, otherwise known as XCMD.
XCMD is a process VPSX Enterprise uses to externalize major events that occur during normal operations. These events can be print job-related, or in this case, print device-related events. Specifically, when printers are added, modified, or removed from the VPSX inventory, the changes the need to be reflected in ServiceNow.
One of the challenges our team faced was how to uniquely identify the print devices. This was especially difficult since many times when a printer is swapped out, the IP address and Hostname (labels used to identify a device on a network) remain the same for the new device. Once again, the extensibility of VPSX Enterprise software proved invaluable. It supports an API method that can retrieve printer attributes; in this case, the printer’s serial number.
According to the customer, the asset serial number is the unique asset identifier that allows them to map the LRS MFDs/Printers to existing records in the CMDB and add information that may be missing from the network scan (like the model of printer, or its host name etc.). It also means that when the customer adds a new MFD/Printer to the output management server, the API will check the CMDB, see that it’s a new record and then add it to the CMDB. Similarly, when they delete a device record from the output management server, it will immediately retire that asset in the CMDB, therefore keeping it accurate in real time for the customer’s LRS printers. Since the majority of their print devices are in the LRS system, this functionality represents a big step forward.
Using VPSX XCMD makes it easy to capture the device event (along with serial number and other device-related metadata) and call the ServiceNow API to automatically update the table(s) in the CMDB database. This gives VPSX Enterprise customers the ability to do real-time updates of their IT Service Management database, resulting in a more stable, more orderly IT environment.