Use Gartner’s Tool Decision Framework to Select the Right Software Asset Management Tool

Gartner Analyst Hank Marquis recently published a report titled: Use Gartner’s Tool Decision Framework for SAM to Create Your Roadmap. The intent of the framework is to enable IT Asset Managers and IT Procurement Managers to compare different Software Asset Management (SAM) tools based on what he calls “six critical activities.” He wants to try to make it more of an “apples to apples” comparison. Those six activities are shown in the diagram below and are:

  1. Discovery: identify network-attached physical and virtual devices
  2. Inventory: collect and analyze data to identify hardware and software assets
  3. Normalize: remove duplicate or conflicting information and use standard naming conventions
  4. Reconcile: establish an effective license position
  5. Optimize: reduce software spend by leveraging license entitlements and usage data
  6. Share: share information via a central asset management repository; reporting

Gartner Tool Decision Framework
As stated in the report:

“… ‘begin with the end in mind’ when seeking a SAM solution. Failing to consider the requirements of the complete solution can result in being able to develop an effective license position (ELP) for compliance reporting for one OEM software manufacturer, but not another. Or being able to develop an ELP, but being unable to optimize licenses based on entitlements.

Some Additional Considerations for the Six Activities

Expanding briefly on the first two activities—Discovery and Inventory, it’s important for the tools to have the capability to do discovery across a wide range of platforms—Windows, Linux, UNIX, MAC, and also in virtual environments—VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and App-V, Citrix, etc. Additionally, SAM tools should have the ability to import data from existing discovery and inventory tools in your IT environment, such as SCCM and Altiris. But in some cases, these tools don’t provide all of the data needed for license optimization, so it may be necessary to look for this capability in a more advanced Software License Optimization tool, to fill that gap. A couple of examples are—collecting Oracle database option usage data, and collecting VMware vSphere and vCenter license key information.

Normalization should simply be a standard part of the inventory and recognition process.

When it comes to Reconciliation, it’s really important to look at the level of automation provided by the SAM/License Optimization tools. Automated purchase order (PO) processing, for example, helps ensure that you get accurate data on license entitlements into the system in the most efficient way, and can then match them to your normalized inventory.

With regard to Optimizing software licenses, there are a number of different strategies depending on the vendor, license model and other considerations. Here are the main license optimization strategies you should be able to implement with your software asset management tools:

  • Rationalize and consolidate vendors and applications to remove redundancies and obsolete products—this can help improve volume discounts and reduce internal support costs; this can also aid security efforts by allowing organizations to maintain versions and patches on a smaller portfolio of software assets to reduce software vulnerabilities
  • Optimal allocation of licenses– allocate licenses to devices, users, etc. for best coverage based on the software versions and license entitlements you have
  • Usage data based license reharvesting—primarily for desktop applications; usage data can also be used to reduce ongoing software maintenance or subscription (e.g. SaaS apps) costs
  • Detailed usage analysis to select the optimal user based license type for each user (applies to SAP, for example); also, remove duplicate and idle users
  • Applying product use rights to reduce license consumption—for example, consuming only one license for both the production server and the cold backup server

An additional consideration around Sharing is whether you want the ability to do advanced analysis and reporting with a Business Intelligence (BI) tool such as Cognos, which can be included with the Software License Optimization tool in some cases.