Using Server Inventory Reports to Help Stay Compliant with Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA)

This post is a part of the nine-part “ What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 ” series that is featured on Brad Anderson’s In the Cloud blog. Today’s blog post covers Service Administration and how it applies to the larger topic of “Transform the Datacenter.” To read that post and see the other technologies discussed, read today’s post: “ What’s New in 2012 R2: Service Provider & Tenant IaaS Experience.”

As described in that blog post, helping Service providers to stay compliant within the SPLA framework is another key investment area for this release. Service providers that we have talked to during the planning phases very clearly identified the difficulty involved in being able to accurately report on the licenses consumed within the datacenter, especially true for the datacenters of today which are very dynamic. 

Overview of Server Inventory Reporting

The Creating usage analytics reports using Excel blog post provided an overview of how to use Excel to create powerful reports that help the provider gain insights into the usage patterns of their customers. This blog post will focus on how the service administrator can leverage the same system to create server inventory reports that help the service providers gain insight into how the Windows Servers and the VM instances that they host power the services and assess the licensing impact with respect to SPLA framework of the 2012 R2 release. As shown in the figure below, the Service Reporting extracts fabric or host data from Operations Manager (also called OM) to process the data relevant for licensing scenarios as high-lighted by the red circle.


As called out the in the earlier blog on this topic, the Service Reporting is a data warehousing solution developed on top of the Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) stack.

In the 2012 R2 release, data is correlated from two sources

  1. Windows Azure Pack Usage (Tenant Resource Utilization data)
  2. Operations Manager (Fabric data such as Servers, VM Instances etc.)

The Service Reporting is designed for the Service Administrator who can create reports on their own using Excel power pivots and obtain the insights that help them in their capacity planning needs. While the previous blog went into the details of how to create reports from Windows Azure Pack for Tenant Resource Utilization, this blog will focus on how to leverage the Server Inventory report that is shipped out of the box in 2012 R2.

Server Inventory Data Pipeline

In the figure below, the VM usage data source is VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). This data is periodically collected and stored in the OM (Operations Manager) database. The data in the Operations Manager database contains information about the Hyper-V hosts and the Virtual Machines that are hosted on those servers.

As illustrated in the figure below, the details about the servers and the guest VMs is extracted by the Service Reporting component and is then processed to create the relevant OLAP cubes, which are then used to create the Excel Reports that have the Server Inventory information.





For the 2012 R2 release we targeted the server inventory scenarios below. The goals were to enable the Service Provider to be able to create accurate SPLA reports, understand trends and use the report for planning and auditing scenarios.

  1. Report on the number of processors and monthly VM high water mark on the Hyper-V hosts
  2. Trending data for processor count and VM high water mark, for up to 3 years
  3. Detailed view of all the server and the VMs for upto 3 years

Configuring the Server Inventory Report

The prerequisite for the Server Inventory Report is that the Service Reporting system must be working correctly and Server Inventory data from Operations Manager must be flowing into the system. This blog does not address the installation and deployment of Service Reporting component.

The Server Inventory report shipped out of the box in 2012 R2 needs to be configured to connect to the Analysis Server that holds the Server Inventory cubes. This can be easily done by opening the Server Licensing Report from the Reports folder in the install directory of the Service Reporting component. Navigate to the Data->Connections menu and open up the default connection that is shipped out of the box and edit it. As you can see in the figure below, you can navigate to the Definition tab in the Connection properties.

The connection string to use here is highlighted below.



Ensure you add the correct connection properties and save. The only property you should be changing is the source (highlighted in bold) below.

Provider=MSOLAP.5;Integrated Security=SSPI;Persist Security Info=True;Initial Catalog=UsageAnalysisDB;Data Source=fab-servicereporting;MDX Compatibility=1;Safety Options=2;MDX Missing Member Mode=Error

Make sure that the command string has the text SRVMInventoryCube.

At this point, you should be able to view the server inventory report dashboard.

Click on the Summary worksheet and you should see content similar to this figure.


Depending on the data in the system, the slicers may show different values that are selected by default. The left axis shows the processor count and the right axis shows the VM Instance count. If the slicer values are changed, the report will change as well.

As you can see in this report, the processor count and the VM instance count grew between May and June of 2013.

An important thing to note, is that if you try to print this page for your records, the slicers will not be displayed, since the print area is configured to exclude the slicers.

Further, there is a placeholder for key information to be entered which allows the provider to identify themselves in the report when the scenarios call for communicating with license resellers.

Detailed Report

The Server Inventory Report has a detail worksheet.  It contains the information about what helped compose the summary report. This is useful when one wants to understand the finer details on the report. As you can see in this figure, a monthly breakdown of which host had how many processors and how many VM instances on that host is available.

Expanding the host, the report will list all the VM instances on that host that were hosted on that server.

This view is agnostic of tenants and workloads because the licensing scenarios require only processor counts and high water mark of VMs on the servers for a given month.



This is a very powerful capability for the service providers to accurately and  easily report license consumption based on SPLA framework with the 2012 R2 release.

In subsequent blogs, we will provide more details as we hear more from our customers.

To see all of the posts in this series, check out the What’s New in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 archive.