The critical role of IT Asset Management

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If you don’t know what IT assets you’ve got, you can’t manage them. If you can’t manage them, you can’t provide assurance to the Board in the performance, availability and security of your business applications. I don’t think that any sane IT Operations Manager wilfully ignores the need for detailed, accurate hardware and software asset information. But the reality is that increasingly complex hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures, rapidly changing IT configurations and additional pressures from mergers and acquisitions or new business models are putting a severe strain on IT departments. Add to that the proliferation of different, siloed IT operations tools which makes the development of a comprehensive Configuration Management Database (CMDB) time consuming and expensive, you can see that many IT departments will be left feeling exposed if the Board requests assurance about ability of the IT infrastructure to support the strategy and targets of the business.

I must confess that my research into Hybrid Infrastructure Management, that I have been undertaking for a couple of years now, has seen me sort of back into the topic of IT hardware and software asset management (ITAM and SAM). In particular, I had ignored the whole topic of SAM until I was confronted with the challenges of understanding the complexities of software licencing, and their significant cost implications, in public cloud implementations. I was equally surprised to discover how complex licencing was in much of the enterprise software market.

It was in this light, a couple of weeks ago, that I had the opportunity to get a briefing and demonstration from ITAM and SAM specialist Certero, a global organisation with significant presence in the UK, North America as well as Asia Pacific. I use the term specialist advisedly. At Bloor we have been charting an increasing trend amongst most IT operational tool vendors, including ITAM and SAM vendors, to broaden the scope of their solutions to cover as much of the IT operations management space as possible. Certero have eschewed this approach, to focus their energy and attention on their core capabilities in ITAM and SAM… but more of that later.

Over the past twenty years or so, ITAM and SAM solutions have developed in a fairly piecemeal fashion. Specific solutions were developed to manage specific IT assets and software environments. This made for a complex environment to manage and it also made it almost impossible for IT operations to get a single consolidated view of all software licences for example. In 2013, rather than trying to continue developing and managing an increasingly complicated, clunky solution stack, Certero took the brave decision to go back to the drawing board and completely re-architect their solutions into a single unified platform. The new unified ITAM and SAM platform went through a quiet, soft launch in 2015 with additional capabilities being added over the next 3 years. The benefits of this approach can be seen very clearly in the SAM arena. Customers can start with a basic Certero for Enterprise SAM module that covers generic licencing, Microsoft, Adobe and Access Control. They can then add specific products covering Oracle, IBM, and SAP environments as well as products for managing mobile and a range of cloud environments in the sure knowledge that they can get a single unified view of their software assets and licencing position. This sounds easy but has proved harder to deliver for solutions that don’t have that underlying, unified platform.

Another particular bug-bear for IT Operations teams, has been the inability to get either a complete view of all the IT assets in their IT estate, and/or the inability to get the level of detail about each asset to enable effective infrastructure management. Certero seem confident in the range of agents and agentless traces that they deploy to identify equipment that isn’t already on inventory. They can pick up non-domain joined servers using Net Bios, they can capture all the networking equipment and they have wide support for VM environments.

This is only scratching the surface of both the topic and Certero’s capabilities. For me, two things are telling. One is the mix of real IT operations management experience and enterprise vendor-side management in the organisation. The other is the high level of customer satisfaction you can see from a range of sources. That focus on customer satisfaction was a key enabler in helping Certero to maintain their revenues from legacy products while they developed the new unified platform. It also appears to be one of the main drivers keeping them focused on their core competencies of ITAM and SAM, rather than trying to expand out into other areas of IT operations management.

I do believe there is a need to reduce the large number of IT operations management tools being used in most organisations. However, I don’t think the industry is close to delivering a single, all-encompassing tool set. Given the importance of basing IT operations and cost management on a solid base of information about assets, then finding the best tool for that job would seem to be a key requirement and it would be worth having a good look at Certero.