ManageSoft's ECM 8 digs deeper into SAM to unearth savings

Peter Williams

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Published: 10th December, 2008
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Companies never had a more pressing need to get their software licensing into compliance, and not only to avoid being liable for unwanted penalties. The larger the enterprise the greater the potential for cutting costs through good software asset management (SAM); yet this has never been a more complex issue to tackle.

All the big software vendors—such as Oracle, Microsoft and Adobe—may be on your back. They are not finding new sales easy so are turning their attention to ensuring a full payment for what is already installed. But it is hard for users to prove whether Microsoft's audit that says money is owed is right.

SAM can help, but the features and functionality of SAM products on the market vary widely; so investigate carefully before buying. While no product can do the whole job, a SAM system needs to do the lion's share of discovering and reconciling your software assets; it should also highlight the few software pieces that cannot be automatically reconciled to help you sort these out.

A 90%–10% split between the automated and manual bits could mean a huge manpower saving even over 80–20. This is one reason for wanting to consider the depth of functionality—which is why I will now focus on a few new features in ManageSoft's Enterprise Compliance Manager (ECM) V8, released last week.

For instance, there is a very powerful purchase order (PO) number stock-keeping library (SKU), with 100,000 entries, to offer very precise matching for a very high percentage of commonly-used software. The SKU library normalises PO data to the point where each line item is recognised as a specific version or edition of software—and the system goes on to determine what is purchased versus what is installed; it adds another dimension alongside the other (non-PO number) reconciliation features provided.

Oracle users will like the ECM 8 license compliance engine optional support for Oracle database license management—normally a major headache. Discovering the inventory of Oracle DBs across the enterprise is achieved through a special automated SQL Server interface, an industry first I understand.

Alan Swahn, ManageSoft's VP of marketing and business development told me that Oracle does not block anyone from using its software, so can catch an organisation unawares if its audit throws up extra unexpected users. It is obviously better to know this has happened before incurring extra billing.

Swahn added: "We are now in a new era with very complex licensing models, so it's almost impossible to track this by hand." Some enterprises with or without Oracle who have made a big effort on compliance, concur that it is far too hard to do manually.

Part of the licensing complexity nowadays may come through almost daily changes in the number of instances of a piece of software, caused by creating or collapsing virtual servers; some of the software involved may also be tied back to a physical system by the licence. ECM 8 now supports a VMware server virtualisation option, automating discovery of VMware ESX and VirtualCenter servers; it collects the inventory for all the virtual machines and matches this to licence entitlement rules.

As a Microsoft gold partner, ManageSoft is likewise able to carry out an in-depth discovery and reconciliation of its Windows software licensing—potentially ahead of Microsoft's dreaded audit. A similar in-depth reconciliation for Adobe is provided. Now it has added discovery for several flavours of Unix and Linux, which is important to most enterprises which have mixed Windows and Linux/Unix flavour servers. As Swahn says: "We need to find out where [the operating systems] are before we can get the information from them."

Automated discovery is of course intrusive, but there is no other way to get near the truth. However, deploying a third party's agents to collect the needed data can be unpopular, so ManageSoft has found the need to offer both agent or agent-less discovery to meet all customers' needs and preferences.

So where are the savings to be made, apart from the obvious of not being fined for non-compliance? Invariably the discovery process will highlight some software which was bought but not fully deployed. If that can be matched against a need elsewhere, it may be possible to redeploy the unused copy instead of buying another one; some licence agreements cover use of a range of versions/deployments so the target re-deployment does not have to be a total match.

In this regard, what about all the software sitting on each laptop about to be disposed of? Why keep paying for this until renewal? The saving could be the equivalent of $1,000 for a single PC.

An extra wrinkle these days is with multi-core processors. Some licences are charged according to the number of cores in use multiplied by a base chip price (for example IBM's processor value unit (PVU)); change a server chip-set, when doing consolidation for instance, and it changes. So you may well find you are being under- or over-charged. Measure the situation and you can manage it.

When you get the complete picture for what you are purchasing, including software maintenance, from a large software vendor, you may well have the chance of negotiating a much bigger discount in time for renewal (or else retire your payments on unused software). Big maintenance agreements run to $millions, so the scope for savings is great; but so is the difficulty in getting to what is the true picture.

As you cannot do it manually you need SAM software; but make sure you do your homework in evaluating what the packages provide—as they vary greatly. ManageSoft ECM 8 deserves consideration.

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