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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Network Design - Network Discovery

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1/4/2013 3:09:06 PM

Configuration Manager can use a variety of network protocols to probe your network and gather data about the objects it discovers into the site database. Network discovery can be used to identify potential ConfigMgr clients. Network discovery can also be used to add network topology data and information about non-client network devices to your database for use in queries, collections, and reports. Configuration Manager network discovery is similar to that in SMS 2003, except there is a new configuration tab for DHCP servers and support added for IPv6.

To configure network discovery, right-click Network Discovery in the Configuration Manager console under System Center Configuration Manager -> Site Database -> Site Management -> <Site Code> <Site Name> -> Discovery Methods -> Network Discovery and then choose Properties. As displayed in Figure 1, there are three levels of network discovery:

  • Topology

  • Topology and client

  • Topology, client, and client operating systems

Figure 1. Choosing the type of network discovery to run


Note: About Network Discovery Resource Utilization

Network discovery can have a major impact on your network and site systems. To avoid overloading network or server resources, you should schedule network discovery to run during off-peak times. If you have a large number of machines, you should perform initial discovery in phases. You may choose to discover a few subnets at a time or you may choose to first discover topology only, then clients, and later add operating system discovery. You should limit the number of new resources you expect to discover to no more than 5,000 at a time.

If discovery will traverse slow network segments, check the Slow network box on the General tab to throttle the number of concurrent network request and adjust timeout values.


The Subnets, Domains, and SNMP Devices tabs determine the initial scope of network discovery. Figure 2 displays the Subnets tab. By default, the local subnet and the site server’s domain will be discovered. You can add subnets, domains, or SNMP devices using the starburst icon (circled in Figure 2) on the respective tabs. You can also remove or modify existing subnets or domains.

Figure 2. Specifying subnets for network discovery


Discovering Network Topology

Network discovery uses Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to query network infrastructure devices for basic information about your network topology. The discovery process generates data discovery records (DDRs) for network devices and subnets. A DDR is a small file with identifying information about an object that is processed and stored in the ConfigMgr database. The properties for SNMP discovery are configured on the SNMP tab of the Network Discovery Properties sheet, shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Specifying SNMP community strings for network discovery


All SNMP devices are configured with a community string, which by default is named public. To connect to an SNMP device, you must add its community string to the list of communities to discover. The maximum hops specified on the SNMP tab controls how far discovery will traverse the network. If the number of hops is set to 0, the devices on the site server’s local subnet will be discovered. If the number of hops is more than 0, network discovery will query the routing tables of the local router to retrieve a list of subnets connected to it and the IP addresses of devices listed in the ipRouteNextHop of the router. These subnets and devices are considered to be one hop away. Network discovery will continue to perform the same process based on the routing data of the devices on the next hop, until it reaches the maximum number of hops. Additional subnets and devices on those subnets will be discovered if one of the following occurs:

  • The subnet is specified on the Subnets tab.

  • The subnet information is retrieved from a device specified on the SNMP Devices tab.

Because a router can be connected to many subnets, the scope of network discovery can increase dramatically with each higher value of the Maximum hops setting. On the local subnet, network discovery can connect to the router using Router Information Protocol (RIP) or by listening for Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) multicast addresses, even if SNMP is not available on the router.

Network discovery can also retrieve information from Microsoft DHCP servers. The Network Discovery Properties DHCP tab lists the DHCP servers to query. By default, network discovery will use the site server’s DHCP server, although typically, the site server is not configured as a DHCP client and you will need to add DHCP servers manually using the starburst icon. Figure 4 displays an example of this.

Figure 4. Specifying DHCP servers to be used by network discovery


The site server will establish an RPC connection to each of the specified DHCP servers to retrieve subnet and scope information. Subnets defined on the DHCP servers are added to the list of available subnets for future network discovery, but are not enabled for discovery by default. For each active lease on the DHCP server, the network discovery process also attempts to resolve the IP address to a name. 

Topology and Client Discovery

To discover potential Configuration Manager clients, network discovery attempts to identify as many devices as possible on the IP network. An array of IP addresses from the ipNetToMediaTable of SNMP devices is used to identify IP addresses in use, and network discovery pings each address to determine if it is currently active. If the device replies to the ping, network discovery attempts to use SNMP to query the device. If network discovery can access the device’s management information through SNMP, it will retrieve any routing table or other information the device holds about other IP addresses it is aware of. Each IP address is resolved to a NetBIOS name if possible.

Network discovery will also retrieve the Browse list for any domains specified on the Domains tab. The Browse list is the same list used to display machines in the Windows Network Neighborhood, and can be enumerated with the Net View command. As with other discovered devices, network discovery then attempts to ping the device to see if it is active.

Discovering Topology, Client, and Client Operating Systems

In addition to the discovery process for topology and clients, if client operating system discovery is specified, network discovery will attempt to make a connection using LAN Manager calls to determine whether the machine is running Windows and, if so, what version of Windows it is running.

In order for network discovery to create a DDR for a discovered device, the IP address and subnet mask of the device must be retrieved. Network discovery retrieves the subnet mask from one of the following:

  • The device itself if it is manageable through SNMP— Windows machines are only manageable through SNMP if the SNMP service is running and configured with the required community information. This will generally not be the case.

  • The Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) cache of a router with information about the device— ARP is a protocol used to resolve IP addresses to the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of the network cards. Routers keep this information cached for a finite amount of time, depending on the router configuration. The ARP cache generally will not have information about every device on the attached network segment. This makes retrieving subnet mask information from the router ARP cache a hit-or-miss operation.

  • The DHCP server— If you are using Microsoft DHCP for all of your IP address assignment, retrieval of subnet mask information from the DHCP server will generally work well. Any machines with static IP addresses or any machines using non-Microsoft DHCP will need to be discovered by another method. All DHCP servers must also be listed on the DHCP tab.

There are many dependencies for network discovery to work properly. Required protocols must be allowed by firewalls, enabled, and configured properly on clients. Network discovery is an important way to discover clients, but in general you will not want to rely on it exclusively.

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