19 March 2018

20 Years of Open-AudIT

20 Years of Open-AudIT

A long, long time ago, in a town far, far away, I used to work for a financial institution. A small financial institution. Quite small. As in no IT management software small. As in if we wanted to update our desktops, we had to write a batch script and copy it “by hand” to individual devices and run it one at a time.

Once upon a time, my manager approached me and asked: “How many installs of MS Office do we have?”. I could not reliably answer the question, so I set about finding out how I would find out. At the time Microsoft had a product called SMS Server. Its purpose was to manage your Microsoft Windows PCs. It was also expensive. Well, it was expensive for a small financial institution. Expensive enough that my manager denied the funding and put me in a car to drive from north to south and record by hand the MS Office installs on 100 PCs across 12 branches and 200 kilometres. Good times!

I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to write code. I think I first wrote some basic back in about 1982. Damn, I’m showing my age now! Obviously, I was thinking – well, if Microsoft can retrieve the information, then how? How are they doing that? That lead me to VBScript and WMI. For our Windows NT machines, these were optional components, but for our new Windows 98 machines, it was built in, yay! Yes – Windows NT and 98. Things are a little different now, but back then a lot of businesses looked at IT as a simple expense that they didn’t want. Hence as little money as possible was spent on it. Windows NT and 98 it was. And no management software for you.

OK, so I found VBScript and WMI. So what? I somehow need to write a script to retrieve details from PCs and actually store it somewhere. The obvious answer is in a database. We were a Microsoft shop, so SQL server. Uh oh – that costs money. No way. Funding denied. Sigh. Well, guess what? Further research turned up this software called “Open Source”. I could have a web server, a database and even an entire operating system FOR FREE. What? What is this voodoo? Oh, and the kicker – it would run on an old desktop PC we had retired. Call me sold.

I was so enamoured with the idea of open source that when requesting the project approval I stated that the code should be licensed under an Open Source license. I would write it by night at home and use it at work. The copyright would stay with me, but the business would benefit from having a tool to be able to list what software was on our machines. It would cost the business $0. Project approved!

And so was born WINventory. Windows Inventory. It was designed first and foremost to retrieve details from Windows machines. Along the way came a name change to Open-AudIT, a healthy community, the ability to audit network devices (routers, switches, printers, etc) as well as computers running various operating systems (Windows, Linux, MacOS, AIX, Solaris, etc). Open-AudIT has grown and grown.

We added the ability to run reports on the data. Even to make your own reports. To “discover” a network as opposed to running the audit scripts on individual PCs and so much more.

Today, almost 20 years later, I couldn’t be more proud of how far this little spare time project has come and what we’ve achieved. Nowadays I work for Opmantek and develop Open-AudIT for a full-time job. Since arriving at Opmantek, Open-AudIT has gone from strength to strength and shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed we have so many ideas that I don’t know how I’m ever going to realise them all!

So many ideas, so little time.

So that’s how Open-AudIT came to be. We’re not slowing down so get in, sit down, shush up and hang on!

Onwards and upwards.

Mark Unwin.