Nine Considerations for Choosing a SAM Tool – Reviewing the SAM Requirements You Need to Think About

By Molly McDevitt

Software Asset Management (SAM) software programs are not just a financial investment, but also one of time. A new program takes time to set up, learn and implement, as well as the ongoing maintenance of the system and data. There is no shortage of programs to choose from and costs vary as much as functionality. Those who are new to SAM may find it difficult to navigate all of the options available. After all, how do you know what you don’t know? But there is some basic functionality you should be looking for.

1: Operating Systems and Data Collection

Is your company Windows based, or do you also have Mac, UNIX, VMWare or other operating systems? If you want to collect data from multiple platforms, make sure that the tool you choose will work in your environment.

What will be the local processor load during data collection? If your end users are going to notice a significant performance hit when the auditing portion of the SAM tool is running, your SAM program implementation will be doomed before it can begin. Unhappy users make themselves known to management. A good SAM tool should be invisible to the majority of your users.

2: Hardware Data

Does the SAM tool collect information on hardware or would that be a separate component purchase? Software licensing requirements can be hardware based, especially server software. It can be based on processor, core, processor value unit, desktop/laptop or VM. A good SAM tool will at least scan for the minimum information on the hardware: processor, cores, asset type, OS, serial number and user login identification.

3: Purchasing Information

While your SAM tool may not be your purchasing tool, it should have the ability to capture basic purchasing information and tie it to a license. For every license you are tracking, you should know the date of purchase, quantity, vendor, PO number and invoice number. If you are audited, you will be asked to prove ownership and that requires original purchasing documents. By capturing this information upfront, you will be able to work with your purchasing department to pull together the necessary documentation quickly and efficiently.

4: Automated Counters

Does the SAM tool have either pre-scripted software counters or the ability to build software counters for software reconciliation? Software licenses can have complex installation rules that require regular auditing to stay in compliance. A license may state that each user may have one primary and one portable or secondary installation. This essentially gives you two licenses per user. However, if the agreement states one desktop and one portable installation, that means a user who has a license on two laptops is out of compliance. Counters allow the SAM tool to create complex data rules to manage these license exceptions and report results. Without scripted counters, you will find yourself manually trying to manage these calculations on many spreadsheets.

5: Software Reconciliation Database and Regular Updates

Every SAM tool should come with a software recognition database so that as it gathers data, it is matching it to known software titles. This type of recognition database should be updated by the SAM tool publisher regularly. Updates at least once a month are expected. Additionally, does the database also have the ability to add unknown licenses to its discovery process ad hoc? Some titles may be unique to a specific industry. SAM software databases, although extensive, do not have every title in them for discovery. There may be titles unique to your industry that you want to track.

6: Reporting

Not all SAM tools come with built in reporting, many require an additional purchase of a tool like Crystal Reports. The reason often given for the lack of built-in reporting is that reporting needs are unique to each company. While this idea is valid, it also adds to the overall cost of the tool you choose. Collecting all of your data and not being able to report on it is pointless. Make sure you know if reporting is built in. Is it predefined, or is there flexibility to create what you need, or do you need to purchase a third party application to get at your data?

7: Documentation and Training

Does the SAM tool come fully documented? Not just for the software installation, but also guidance on the user interface and implementation? Is there any training offered by the publisher directly, or is it consultant-based? Some SAM software publishers expect their product to be implemented with the help of a consultant. There is nothing wrong with using consultants to guide you through the process of developing a SAM program. It is just another part of the overall expense to consider.

8: System Requirements/Costs

While the SAM software itself will have a cost, what are the requirements to run the program? You may find that you will need to purchase a separate server for the tool, additional storage for the database and a SQL license. Do you need CALs for the discovery component? Do you need client licenses for your team’s access to the program?

9: Third Party Tools

Software Large Area Resellers (LARs) will often offer some type of SAM program, if you have a master purchasing agreement with them. It is a benefit that they offer as an additional incentive to choose them as your company’s LAR. However, these tools generally only cover what the LAR has sold to you. There isn’t a way to add all of your purchases from other vendors into this tool and it is hosted on their servers so you don’t have ownership of the data. What happens with your purchasing data if you terminate the agreement with the LAR? What type of guidance and reporting is the LAR going to offer in an audit?

Your Findings

In the end, you may find one tool does not fit all of your needs. You might need a combination of a discovery and reporting tools. Some tools are easily customizable to suit your environment, and other tools are very robust, but may require the help of an outside consultant to implement them which will increase the overall cost. Create your list of must haves and begin investigating and testing tools. Many SAM tools available today have limited trial installations for testing.

About the Author

Molly McDevitt is the IT License Administrator for Mentor Graphics Corporation.