To be effective in managing and optimising software licenses, Software Asset Managers require accurate information about the state of hardware assets within their organisation.
A Software Asset Management (SAM) system brings together data from many parts of an organisation to provide a complete picture of its software license position. The cornerstone of this is hardware and software inventory data, which is typically gathered from each device by discovery and inventory tools in the organisation.
However, software licenses take into account information about a device such as asset lifecycle status, role (e.g. production versus non-production use), and ownership that cannot be determined from raw hardware and software inventory data. Often, this data is stored in a Configuration Management Database (CMDB).
Much of this information is typically managed as part of an organisation’s Hardware Asset Management (HAM) program. For this reason, to be truly effective, a SAM system needs to include information from the organisation’s HAM system. It follows that an organisation’s HAM program should ensure that all of this hardware asset data is recorded and the team has implemented effective processes to manage that data.
What hardware asset information is needed?
Some key information about hardware assets that a software license optimisation program requires to effectively optimise software licenses are:
- A complete list of all computer hardware assets in the organisation
This provides the software asset manager with a reference point upon which to judge the coverage of the data that the SAM system has imported from inventory systems. A common example of something that this helps to uncover is the case where you have difficult to access datacentre servers such as those sitting in high-security network zones.
- Asset serial number
This makes it possible for a SAM system to match asset records to data that it has imported from inventory tools.
- Asset status—what point in the lifecycle each asset is at (e.g. Deployed, In Storage, Retired, Disposed, etc.)
This allows the software license manager to ensure that software licenses are not counted unnecessarily against assets that are no longer in use within the organisation.
- Asset role—what role does each asset play within the organisation? (E.g. Production, Standby, Test, etc.)
This allows the software asset manager to appropriately license the software where licensing terms differ by the asset’s role, particularly in datacentre environments. A notable example of where this has an impact is for test and other non-production environments. Software installed on servers in a test environment may not count towards licenses at all. In other cases, it may be less costly to use a user-based rather than hardware based license in such environments.
- Asset ownership—the organisational entity that owns each asset
This makes it possible for the software asset manager to charge the cost of software on the asset back to the appropriate entity in the organisation. Depending on how your organisation chooses to model chargeback, this may be a specific cost centre or a business unit within the organisation.
- Asset sharing—whether a device such as a desktop or laptop is shared between multiple users (e.g. devices used for training, call centre, etc.)
This allows the software asset manager to apply the most optimal licensing model, typically a device based license, to such assets.
Recommended HAM practices
The quality of the hardware asset management data must be underpinned by good hardware asset management practices. Some useful practices for managing the asset information mentioned above are:
- Choose inventory tools that include software inventory data
There’s no point in your organisation implementing an inventory tool that gathers all the data from devices needed for HAM, only to find that it falls short on the quality of software inventory data that it provides. Software data can be difficult to gather, particularly in the datacentre where application-specific knowledge and patterns are often required to gather relevant information about high-valued applications. Both SAM and HAM requirements should be taken into account whenever choosing such a tool.
- Record the asset as soon as it enters the organisation
As soon as your organisation has taken delivery of an asset, it should be recorded in your hardware asset management system. Ideally, it should be recorded with its serial number so that it can be reconciled against inventory data.
- Have clear asset retirement and disposal processes
These processes ensure that an asset is recorded as retired when it is no longer in use and disposed as soon as it leaves the organisation. There should also be processes to pick up devices that have been lost, damaged or stolen as well as tracking devices that are in storage. Note that devices in storage that have installed software often require a license for that software. There should be an automated SAM process to reclaim licenses allocated to devices that have been retired.
- Track lifecycle decision factors
One of the key pieces of information that tells us that an asset is active is the date that it was last inventoried. This gives confidence that software licensing calculations are accurate. However, there are many reasons why an inventory date may not be current even though its software is still licensable, such as the fact the user of the device is on extended leave. To help manage this, it is good practise to keep a record of these additional factors. For example, store the reason why a device is offline and the date when the device will be back online. Accurately storing the asset role can help too (e.g. a standby server may not be expected to be online).
- Identify and track SAM system metrics
Keep track of metrics that indicate the health of the SAM data and implement processes to improve those metrics. Some examples of these metrics are:
- Assets with no assigned role
- Assets not owned by any entity in the organisation
- Assets that unexpectedly have not reported inventory within X days
- Assets no longer in use that are still reporting inventory
- Assets that have not reported inventory at all
- Assets with no serial number
Hardware asset managers can ensure that they take software asset management requirements into account by:
- Ensuring that both SAM and HAM requirements are taken into account when choosing an inventory tool
- Tracking data about hardware assets that is needed for Software Asset Management and License Optimisation
- Keeping track of the health of that data by including it in their system metrics
- Implementing processes to ensure that the quality of hardware asset data is maintained
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