VBA: A real asset to asset management apps

Eric B. Parizo, Asst. News Editor

To paraphrase a popular television advertisement, Visual Basic does not always make the products you buy, but it can make the products you buy better.

That's what Percuity, Inc. is betting on.

The Arlington, Va. Software firm has announced it will incorporate Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) into its upcoming Asset360 3.0 Enterprise desktop asset management application.

Asset360 is designed to allow just about any mid-market company to appraise the hardware, software, files and configurations of client computers on a corporate network and store that information in a database.

The stored data can be used to keep track of software licenses and configuration standards, to conduct audits and inventories, and to distribute software updates.

"We found that this is extremely valuable data that you might want to integrate with other enterprise systems like an HR or budgeting system," said Ash Rofail, chief technology officer for Percuity.

With Asset360 3.0 Enterprise, administrators with development knowledge will be able to employ VB code to write integrated applications that leverage information Asset360 collects, both on clients and on a server.

For example, said Rofail, each time a client machine reboots, a full appraisal report of its inventory is conducted and recorded on the Asset360 server.

"You can write a code that compares it with other inventories, and maybe send an alteration report for an IT manager saying that the configuration was changed, and indicate potential foul play," he said.

Also, a small code could be written to collect certain information about client computers in a database and pass it along to Microsoft Visio, which would use the data to graphically illustrate what a network looks like.

Another alternative would be using VBA to collect data directly from network clients or their users.

"Imagine this idea. I have 20,000 employees and I want to know who is coming to the company picnic," said Rofail. "I can put out a form saying, 'check this box if you're coming to the picnic.'

"I can package that as a VBA form, push it down as VBA infrastructure to the clients, and on the clients, [employees] will be sitting doing their work, and this form will automatically pop up. Through the UI they'll select" whether or not they plan to attend, he said.

Through Rofail's experience working with other companies on Microsoft integration, he knew that when it came time to build out Asset360, using a well-known language like Visual Basic would open the door for many more potential users.

"We looked at what our competitors were doing, and I wasn't happy with the old model that requires you to learn a proprietary language. That's just not a feasible solution. Proprietaries are not today's solution, when people are moving into a standardized architecture," Rofail said.

Rofail said Percuity focuses Asset360 on the mid-market because smaller companies tend to manage their networks manually and enterprises typically invest in their own customized infrastructure.

Asset360 3.0 Enterprise with Microsoft VBA will be released on October 15. It will be available through Percuity and its channel partners. Pricing details are not currently available.

In the coming months Percuity is also looking to offer Asset360 through an application service provider (ASP) model, and launching an online community which will offer generic VBA customizations.

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