In the first and second installments of this series, we looked at some of the technical details you should think about when evaluating and selecting a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool. In this third installment, we’ll cover what insights your SAM tool should be able to provide once it has collected and normalized the SAM discovery information. Said another way, we’ll look at how your SAM tool can take raw deployment data and turn it into actionable intelligence.
To ensure your SAM tool is properly gathering data, you’ll need to start by ensuring your contracts and entitlements are properly accounted for in your SAM tool. Entering the initial set of contracts and entitlements can be a daunting task and is the most challenging aspect to establishing an effective SAM program for many organizations; however, many tool vendors or third party service firms will assist with entering an initial set of entitlements for your top IT vendors. This is a good opportunity to get your SAM staff valuable experience by seeing exactly how your contracts will be translated by the tool.
At a basic level, an effective SAM tool should allow you to make the corresponding connections between your entered contracts and entitlements to your deployed software. For example, your tool should be able to detect licenses that allow unlimited virtual machines (VM) on a piece of hardware, like Windows Datacenter, and notify you that any Windows install tied to that piece of hardware doesn’t need another license whenever you install a new VM. If your licensing is user based, then your tool should be able to understand when a single user has multiple devices and count the license requirement accordingly.
If you’re looking to further level-up your SAM tool, you can use your contract and entitlement data to produce automated license position summaries for various vendors. These reports will really start to drive value, as they can identify where you have potential compliance exposure, true-up needs, or costly shelf-ware.
Beyond these fundamental license position and reconciliation features, it’s worthwhile to look ahead to what kind of cost-savings your SAM tool will enable you to realize. Ideally, your tool will have technical capabilities that will allow you to start planning proactively rather than being in a reactive state. For example, most of the best-in-class SAM technologies support some type of software usage tracking or metering. They’ll record every time a user starts something like Microsoft Project and provide reporting data on who has it installed, who started the software, and how long he/she used it for. The tool should also draw your attention to areas where you have multiple versions of software installed, or even multiple types of software that provide similar capabilities from different vendors, as there could be opportunities for IT vendor consolidation.
Your SAM team could use reports based on this data to send monthly emails to low-usage users, and determine if they really need that software installed. If you’re looking to further optimize the process, you can consider enhancing your SAM tool to automate sending those emails and even automate the process of removing or reclaiming the software from employee devices to support software re-harvesting.
Of course, usage metering isn’t just limited to users starting software on their desktops. You should also consider your server environments and see if your tool can provide any insights there. For example, could your SAM tool monitor a SQL Server over a month and determine that the CPU usage never goes above 5%? This is a good metric to track for identifying server consolidation opportunities in a virtual environment, or maybe even a conversation with the server owner to determine if a particular server even needs to exist. Again, we come back to your SAM tool acting as a source of data, allowing you to be proactive in your environment and optimize your IT spend.
The final key item you want from your tool is a way to help effectively plan for future IT investments. The usage of cloud services, containers, microservices (and every other buzzword you can think of) is expanding and challenging many traditional software licensing models. What does a CPU socket license mean to an “AWS t2.large” instance anyway? Your tool should be able to help evaluate your current on-premise usage and determine what kind of cloud instancing you need, whether in AWS, Azure, or another public cloud environment. However, a 1:1 mapping of on-premise servers or VMs to cloud instances will almost certainly result in overspend on cloud resources. Instead, see if your SAM tool can help analyze Actual Resource Consumption (ARC)—the actual CPU, memory, and storage usage of your environment—and compare that to what each cloud instance can provide through your selected supplier. Instating proper cloud cost management and governance will, without a doubt, help reduce waste in the cloud.
An advanced tool could also provide you with insights on your application dependencies. This means tracing through the applications your organization uses to see how they are connected and find opportunities to optimize your architecture. For example, you could find servers that are ostensibly part of an application, but never actually receive any connections or do any work! It’s easy to add servers to an environment, but having information at your fingertips to identify where they can be taken out or consolidated is invaluable.
While many of the high-end tools on the market can do some of these calculations automatically, it’s important to remember that without staff dedicated to learning, understanding, and using the tool, you won’t realize the value that you should. Whatever capabilities a tool has, there’s still no “silver bullet” or an easy button that you can press to put your SAM program on auto-pilot. The human factor remains critical for a well-functioning and optimizing SAM team.
If your company is currently assessing or evaluating a SAM tool, considering a SAM technology upgrade, or has questions about what questions to ask a SAM solution vendor as part of your selection process, reach out to Connor Consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org today.