The job of an ITAM team is never done, is it? Just when your software asset management program starts to mature, cloud and SaaS raise the bar on what’s needed to keep spending and risk under control.  Now that we are starting to see SaaS spend management and cloud cost management solutions being used, we can already see the next thing that will raise the bar again: edge computing and IoT.  Edge computing uses local devices, edge gateways and edge servers to run software right where it is needed. That results in faster service and lower network resource consumption.

MarketsandMarkets estimates that edge computing spending will reach $6.7B by 2022 and is currently growing at 35.4 percent each year.  That’s not surprising given that edge computing will enable the next wave of customer experience innovation, making services more responsive and available whenever and wherever customers want.  But what new risks do companies take when starting to use edge computing technology? Gartner estimates that through 2020, 90% of organizations conducting edge computing pilots will risk costly penalties by breaching compliance with their software license agreements. (See Gartner research note “How To Mitigate Software License Risk From Edge Computing,” 17 Aug 2018)

So, the critical question becomes, “How do we safely adopt this technology?” At Flexera, we work with many customers today on matching the software they use with what’s been purchased. The more accurate the visibility into licensing and usage, the more they save and the less they risk in penalties. We’ve seen a huge drive from traditional data centers to XaaS delivery models, and it is more common for people to talk about cloud strategy as part of their software asset management programs.  Edge computing will broaden software asset management even further. In the future, software will not only be used by individual users, but also by bots, edge devices operated by a range of users and other automation software steered by AI.  Software publishers have only just started to reflect this kind of “indirect” or “digital” usage in licensing terms and conditions.  Once edge computing is adopted, this type of indirect access can quickly outpace individual use – and create a big cost risk in over-use penalties for early adopters.  Adding to the problem, many edge servers will run software that once was run on a single central server.

Here are three things that will be needed to safely adopt edge computing technology:

Accurate Data

As software publishers define different pricing terms for classes of direct and indirect usage, it will be critical to have accurate and enriched inventory data on a much wider range of assets.  Being able to distinguish between end user devices, bots, public multi-user devices, edge gateways, edge servers and automation can mean the difference between a high ROI edge computing rollout and a penalty nightmare. Discovering, classifying and frequently updating the full range of assets consuming software will be a must-have.

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IT Asset Management

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Broader Data Normalization

As the number of edge devices and asset types goes dramatically up, the likelihood of individual devices being identified by different names across a range of discovery data sources can lead to counting phantom devices and result in an inflated usage picture.  You’ll need a way to normalize the descriptions of each virtual and physical edge device so that usage can be accurately calculated.  Having consistent device identity data will also let you define automated policies preventing unauthorized devices from accessing certain software.

Edge Usage Analytics

Safely governing the use of edge computing technology also means having the analytics to accurately measure the various classes of software access/usage and comparing it with what’s been licensed.  Edge-ready licensing promises to be much more complex than today’s license terms and there’s likely to be a long phase of widely varied licensing models from different vendors. The sheer number of new edge devices, including swarms of IoT nodes, will make manual tracking impossible.  You’ll need an asset management tool with the analytics and automation to make use-rights entry and usage calculations feasible and scalable across the enterprise.

Edge computing promises to become the next big way that companies can stay relevant and grow by delivering new amazing customer experiences.  We at Flexera plan to do our part in enabling that future by helping customers limit their risk and stay in control of new technologies as they pioneer them.  We’ve been first to offer an end-to-end technology spend management suite covering SaaS, cloud, software and hardware and we’ve built the largest library of 2.1 Million current hardware and software products.  Now we’re setting our sights on the capabilities that will be needed for next generation edge computing technology.