The evolution of SAM

21 Nov 2016 | SAM/SLO

Although software asset management (SAM) has not been around for very long, the reasons why organizations implement it have been changing quite radically over the years. These changes have been brought about by a mixture of internal and external factors acting on enterprises, causing them to continually refine and update the required outcomes of their SAM activities. The fact remains that you’re never actually ‘done’ when it comes to implementing a SAM program. SAM is continually evolving and organizations need to recognize and embrace this if they are to fully realize all the potential opportunities and benefits.

SAM started with compliance

It could be argued that SAM really began with the introduction of the PC and the advent of mass software being used across large organizations. This would take us back to the 1980’s, and to be fair the circumstances and technology around then are a long way from where we are now.

It was not until the early part of the current century that SAM became more widely known with the introduction of ITIL V2 and its subsequent formalization. Although, the real accelerator to implement it was caused by an external factor – the financial crash of 2008. As a result of this, software vendors, looking to protect their margins, latched onto the fact that is easier to get more revenue out of existing customers than try to innovate with their product development and find new ones.

The tool they used to achieve this was their legal right to audit to prove non-compliance of license agreements. And, sure enough, due to the complex and Byzantine agreements they had created, coupled with them making it as easy as possible to download and install their software for corporate customers, they were not disappointed with the results.

The vendors took to trying to disguise their audit activity, by cloaking it in ‘SAM Programs’. Sadly, for the uninitiated, this resulted in ‘SAM’ gaining a negative association with ‘cost’ and ‘pain’. Of course the opposite is true, but misinterpretation of the ‘S’ word was probably responsible for many organisations failing to become early adopters and missing the opportunity to take advantage of all the benefits.

Eventually organizations stopped using SAM just as an audit response mechanism and it moved into more of a protection/defence mechanism, aimed at maintaining compliance. This was achieved through the introduction of enhanced control and management. At the same time the ability to monitor actual usage led to improved utilization, eliminated over-licensing and significantly reduced costs. This was the point at which organizations realized SAM delivered value in its own right.

The initial focus was all around the desktop, but then we saw the advent of ‘enterprise’ SAM and solutions which could deliver the same compliance, cost and utilization improvements for licensing in the datacentre.

Then Cloud came along… and Mobility…

License optimization and the cloud

In its simplest form, the easiest way to remain compliant is to buy more licenses than you need. While this will make you popular with your software vendors, it is obviously not the best way of doing things!

This is particularly the case with cloud-based software. All the major vendors are moving to this subscription-based model – with some more aggressive about it than others. This makes it easier for them to ensure you are compliant – as your users cannot access the software without a valid license.

However, many organizations do not want to run the risk of their employees not being able to do their job, due to not being able to access critical software. So, they tend to over-buy licenses, leading to unnecessary cost.

Coupled with this is the fact that – despite what the software vendors are saying – there will always be desktop-based software that will need managing. So the cloud does not make license management and optimization go way, just more complex; so license optimization will always be a key driver for SAM.

As a result, we find organizations with the highest levels of SAM maturity are those with a recognized, fully utilized, tool-based SAM solution which maintains compliance, eliminates risk, controls cost and optimizes utilization across the entire IT estate (including desktop, datacentre and mobile devices), whether in an on premise, Cloud or hybrid environment.

Big data and the IoT

The fact is that when a SAM program is done properly (and I don’t mean using something like SCCM to produce the bare minimum of information) it delivers a raft of detailed data that can be used to provide the insights to transform not only the use of IT, but the business as a whole.

Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are now reckoned to be the future and SAM locks firmly into this vision. The information it will produce, on not only what software is installed but what is used and who uses it and on what hardware, will enable you to understand more fully how your technology investment can be maximized. This in turn will ensure that the business as a whole benefits by having IT systems that are both rationalized (only buying and using what you need – no more and no less) and are capable of transforming the business to allow it to be agile enough to meet future challenges.

The best SAM tools don’t just capture data relating to software assets and licensing; they also capture detailed key inventory data relating to the hardware it resides on, and increasingly organizations are utilizing this data to assist decision making and enhance planning in relation to future technology investments. The success of Cloud Transformation, Enterprise Mobility, Security and Data Management strategies, to name a few, are all underpinned by the ability to access accurate information relating to the deployment, nature and utilization of existing assets.

Further to this, we’re now starting to see SAM becoming more integrated with IT service management tools which in turn will allow IT departments to accurately pinpoint and resolve faults or issues, thereby improving productivity, responsiveness and end-user satisfaction.

That has to be it right? Evolution of SAM realized? Not quite…

We’ve already partially considered the big data element, but IoT takes things to another level. Inventory, usage and location data relating to a plethora of connected assets, their users and associated interactions with internal and external systems, networks and channels, presents an unprecedented opportunity to map, model and interpret relationships and patterns to aid forecasting, assist in planning and decision making, and ultimately lead to organizational and competitive advantage and, hopefully, happier customers!

So, if you have not yet taken the first steps on the SAM road, because you have not yet been (and do not fear being) audited, now may be a good time to revisit it as the advantages of implementation will enable your business to cope with the likely revolution caused by Big data and the IoT.

If you are looking to start out on SAM and want to find out more, or have already implemented it and would like to find out how to take it to the next step, please get in touch.