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Image: The Changing Role of SAM: On-Premise to the Cloud

Then and Now

It wasn’t too long ago that we thought it fairly simple to keep track of hard assets throughout the organization. They were physical pieces of software we could see and touch. Per license fees were paid and software was loaded onto servers. Easy breezy.

Yet just as the cloud disrupted much of how we do business (and life, for that matter), so too has it completely transformed how software is purchased, used and managed. Right Scale released their 2017 State of the Cloud Survey results, proving my point.

  • 85 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, up from 82 percent in 2016
  • 95 percent of respondents are now using the cloud
  • Cloud users are running applications in an average of four public clouds

Software Asset Management (SAM) has become a bit more complicated, perhaps because the cloud and all of its ramifications are still a bit avant-garde. Organizations are trying to determine how cloud-based assets fit under the overall software asset management umbrella.

There are a few misconceptions about SAM, whether it’s traditional, legacy or cloud based software asset management. We introduce three of the most common ones.

Myth #1: SAM Is Dead

With increasingly more business applications entering the business via the cloud, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking SAM is no longer relevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there are fewer traditional and legacy assets under management, but cloud-based assets have equal footing and deserve the same respect.

SAM isn’t going anywhere, it’s just being redefined. Those involved in IT asset management are in the hot seat, but there are opportunities to be had. First, SAM experts must broaden their knowledge base so they can effectively shepherd their organizations through this unknown territory. Assets are assets, no matter in what form they come. If the software is being purchased, data is being transferred and employees are using the application, it must be governed.

Related: 7 Things Gartner Says Every IT Asset Manager Should Do

Along with all of its benefits, cloud software introduces new risks, new vulnerabilities and new rules into the enterprise. Its lifecycle can and must be managed with as much, if not more, attention than its on-premise counterparts.

Myth #2: Cloud SAM Is as Easy to Manage as On-Premise

Oh, if only this were true. The fact is, cloud services can be inconspicuous. IT asset managers and CIOs may never know how many cloud applications dot their asset estate. Why? Because anyone with a credit card, expense authorization or “miscellaneous” budget tendencies has the power to get their hand in the mix. They can purchase software ad hoc, without ever notifying IT or properly categorizing them so that finance can accurately report on them. This action has become so prevalent, it has earned its own term: shadow IT (a.k.a. phantom IT).

There is remarkably little insight into SaaS IT asset management. Most reporting tools don’t pick them all up or integrate them into a complete picture. Many employees aren’t even sure of SaaS policies, if there are any in place at all. Without this required visibility, software can run amuck. Reports only capture part of the picture. Costs run wild. Risk skyrockets.

Companies must have access to real-time data into what SaaS applications are being purchased and renewed, who is accessing them, what data is affected and which other IT systems might be impacted. Licensing and compliance should be monitored closely. Standardized procurement policies must be implemented. This isn’t easy, but using the right tools can simplify the process.

Myth #3: Cloud Assets Are Always Cheaper

We’ve all been educated on the benefits of cloud applications. One of the biggest draws is that SaaS is supposed to bring measurable cost savings compared to the licensing, managing and maintaining on-premise software. While this may be true, one mustn’t be naive. It’s never that simple. There can be extravagant costs associated with cloud-based software, mostly due to user (management) error or neglect.

The ITAM Review recognized the danger of ignorance years ago. “Migrating expensive, server software to shared services and cloud-based infrastructure without a proper understanding of the risks involved will cost enterprises millions of dollars.” It goes on to say that ITAM and SAM professionals must expand their skills to focus on this area.

The BA confirms, saying, “An organization must know which software assets it is entitled to, the actual use of those assets, and the impact that moving to the cloud will have on those assets. Adopting cloud architecture without properly addressing SAM-related considerations can result in serious errors associated with cost and risk analysis.”

Done correctly, cloud computing can save organizations significant costs. Alternatively, going into it without a concrete plan, proper measurement tools and strict policies can negate any expected cost benefits.

Words to the Wise

The BSA published a 28-page white paper dedicated to “Navigating the Cloud.” The implications of the cloud couldn’t be more critical. The paper intends to guide professionals towards successfully moving from traditional software asset management to cloud based SAM.

IT Asset Management icon

IT Asset Management

It all starts with knowing what’s in your IT ecosystem. Flexera One discovers even the most elusive assets whether on-prem, SaaS, cloud, containers and more.

Here’s a quick summary of a few critical points the paper makes around SAM:

  • “SAM programs must be able to completely and accurately measure hardware and software in the new architecture with all of its complexities and nuances.”
  • “In the cloud, SAM must address the management of assets as well as the management of services.”
  • “SAM in the cloud needs to address the risk of rogue organizational implementations in the cloud by departments or individuals.”
  • “Organizations must now consider many new elements in calculating TCO, including hidden cloud service costs, additional software licensing costs resulting from deploying software in the cloud, and other costs.”
  • “Other technology trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) pose unique risks in conjunction with the cloud, which SAM must also address.”

How can organizations incorporate cloud asset management into their current mix? The white paper lays it out rather succinctly (see page 3). The main point to remember is that all of the risks, worries and wonders inherent with the cloud can be effectively managed with SAM. Companies must develop a protocol as to how they intend to integrate cloud management into their overall SAM.

While the cloud may at first have IT managers jumping for joy because of the relief it brings in terms of maintenance, it introduces a host of new challenges. Don’t despair, however. These challenges are not insurmountable. The will require new skills, redirected focus and a newfound commitment to expand SAM responsibilities.