Inventory is Not a Commodity – Re-Thinking the “Done Deal” Attitude towards Inventory

By Mark Flynn, Snow Software

Some within the SAM profession have started regarding inventory as a commodity item. Actually, the reality is that inventory is far from a commodity and it is a dangerous, not to mention expensive, mistake to make. Ignoring the importance of inventory is rather like trying to build a home extension without deep enough foundations. If anything, inventory management is more important than ever because it is what enables SAM to deliver real value and proactively manage costs.

Inventory Strategies

Embarking on an inventory strategy requires avoiding over-complicating the work that needs to be done and missing vital IT assets. These two common errors occur as a consequence of the increasing complexity of IT estates. SAM managers now have to contend with multiple operating systems, hypervisors, cloud based software and confusing enterprise software licensing rules.

Most inventory solutions are limited in terms of how many platforms and technologies they can support, which means that organizations often end up using multiple solutions to do this job, resulting in “making do” with inconsistent reports and information silos. The alternative to this is spending time manually cleaning and consolidating data to cobble together a single report based on multiple and disparate inventory sources. We find many customers having to waste IT resources doing this and it is always a key factor in their decision to migrate to a next generation tool.

SAM Tools

Advanced SAM tools can help overcome a cobbled together report through their audit and integration capabilities to include a vast array of network environments. This gives the user an automatically generated “single pane of glass” view of total hardware and software assets. The tools are also more effective at software recognition, which is more important than ever when dealing with multiple inventory databases and complex licensing rules. For instance, consider a virtualized environment. Hypervisors such as Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and VMWare vSphere might simplify the provisioning of new devices, but serious issues can arise if users do not appreciate the impact these tools have on licensing costs. Oracle usage in one of these virtualized environments provides one of the best examples of an expensive mistake in one of these virtualized environments.

In an IT environment with 2000 or more computers, each home to potentially hundreds of applications, a tool with an advanced software recognition feature comes into its own. This is because it automatically identifies which files belong to an application requiring a license and where they are being used. In addition, the complexity of how software is now deployed (or even streamed) highlights the importance of inventory as a foundation for SAM. Although the traditional MSI-package with local installations is still widespread, the mix now extends to virtual applications, hybrid solutions like Adobe Creative Cloud and MS Office 365, plus applications deployed as App-V, ThinApp or XenApp packages.

Importance of Software Recognition

With cloud software, subscription-based licensing means compliance is less of an issue and the emphasis moves to license optimization and cost prevention instead. Software recognition only increases in importance. Another good reason for increasing the granularity of software recognition capabilities with additional attention to the inventory is to support software ID tagging. This practice is becoming more widespread because it is a requirement for ISO 19770-2 compliance.

Having the ability to consolidate information from all these sources into a single tool, and then making this data available in a format that is relevant to all of the different stakeholders is beneficial on a number of levels. It brings IT closer together with the rest of the organization rather than continuing to work in silos and clearly demonstrates the value IT delivers in financial terms. This is a key first step in the IT department being able to consider chargeback models and be regarded as a critical service instead of a cost center.