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Selecting the right SAM & ITAM tools: Why platform architecture matters

by 16 Apr 2020

Home / Expert Advice / Selecting the right SAM & ITAM tools: Why platform architecture matters

 

Sam Green, Digital Marketing Manager

You’d be forgiven for thinking that your initial shortlist of SAM or ITAM tools should be formed purely on functionality.  After all, you need a tool that covers the right platforms, collects the right data, has a nice big software recognition library and supports licensing for the vendors you care about most.   

If the tool can’t support the vision for what your SAM or ITAM program is trying to achieve, then it’s a non-starter.   

But what about the architecture of potential SAM tools and platforms?  How much consideration should you put into how the solutions on your shortlist are actually built and deployed?  And what does it matter anyway?  

Let’s look at a few reasons why the architecture of SAM and ITAM tools is perhaps more important than it first appears.  

Disparate products make for data mess & data loss  

Many ITAM and SAM vendors’ offerings have grown over the years by acquisition and are now more a collection of ‘integrated’ (sometimes in the loosest sense) products rather than a single cohesive platform.  For example, the discovery and inventory module might have a completely separate interface and codebase to the license management, workflow automation or analytics capabilities.  Likewise, there might not even be a single database for the products, with data residing in different places and formats, even though the products are presented as an ‘integrated solution’. 

Why does this matter?  For a number of reasons.  First, SAM and ITAM are not one-trick ponies; success in these programs often requires a range of tools to be brought to bear.  If those tools are not working together seamlessly, it makes your life much more difficult.   

Similarly, if you want to both collect and utilize inventory data from across the network, then you need a solution that not only collects the right data (and by that, we’re not just talking Windows PCs and Servers, but all platforms and all IP-addressable devices) but maintains that data in a single source that can be used to satisfy the needs of a wide range of both Software Asset Management and IT Asset Management use cases. Disparate solutions struggle to support the full range of use cases as they are often restrictive on what data is collected, retained and made available to multiple stakeholders through different parts of the product portfolio.  

As such, the architecture of the solutions can have a direct impact on their ability to support more complex and diverse use cases.   

The answer: Think about a true platform where data collection, processing, storage and availability are all central to the foundation of the solution.  Identify SAM and ITAM platforms where multiple use cases can readily be supported from a single data source without the need to setup and maintain complicated integrations, and where data critical to some stakeholders outside SAM isn’t discarded out of hand.    

Time to get up & running  

If you’ve got the budget sign-off and you’re ready to go, the last thing you want to do is wait for months to get your chosen solution up and running. Yet this is exactly what happens in many cases, whether it’s due to having to wait for internal teams to stand up servers or create permissions for services to be set up, or waiting on availability from the vendor’s Professional Services team to either come on-site and install the necessary technology or remotely provision cloud resources.  

It’s worse when the technology itself requires multiple application and database installs.  And even worse still when getting different parts of the same vendor’s product portfolio to talk to each other takes complicated bespoke integration work.   

Suddenly that Software Asset Management project you got signed-off (and paid for) in March still isn’t delivering any value in Summer.   

The answer: Look for a vendor and platform that takes away as much of the onboarding pain as possible, either by taking advantage of true SaaS architecture to almost completely bypass the need to stand up internal resources (and a vendor that can provision servers and instances in minutes, not weeks) or using that same architecture to minimize the complexity of on-premises installs and configuration.   

Whether you use it in the cloud or on-premises, a true SaaS architecture will ensure your SAM or ITAM program is up and running in record time.  

 

Time to deliver value  

Even when you’re installed, you could still be a long way from delivering real value back to the organization.   SAM and ITAM solutions that depend almost exclusively on client agents to provide inventory can be especially prone to slow time to value (TTV). 

Configuring and preparing agents for deployment can be an arduous process, especially in datacenter scenarios or environments where multiple customers are ‘sharing’ cloud instances.  Even when they are ready, agents can only be deployed to the machines already known to the SAM or ITAM teams (remember Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns” speech?).  So if the tools lacks a strong discovery capability, your chances of achieving full coverage of the estate are small.  

And getting agents deployed to sensitive parts of the IT estate, such as datacenters, can be near-impossible.  

Once agents are deployed, it’s quite common to then face challenges on getting them reporting back to the inventory server, or keeping deployed agents up-to-date. 

All of which means that it can take a long time to build an accurate view of the IT estate and start driving value to the business.  

The answer: Look for a platform that provides the utmost flexibility.  Whether that’s in the ability to use effective alternatives to deploying client agents or to make it easier to collect and process agent-generated inventory data.   

Also look to address those unknown unknowns with a solution that doesn’t just inventory what you already know about, but helps you proactively discover new or previously-unrecorded devices (again, not just Windows PCs and servers) across the network.  

 

Increasing the scope of the SAM or ITAM program  

The chances are that, as you deliver success to the organization, you’ll want to expand the scope of your ITAM or SAM program.  Perhaps you’ll want to start tracking cloud spend. Or to bring mobile devices into the program.  Or start optimizing software for a new vendor. Perhaps you’ll want to start performing a deeper analysis of the inventory, entitlement or spend data.   

With some solutions, adding new functionality can be a similar to experience to your initial implementation, thanks to new applications having to be installed, configured and connected to the existing parts of the portfolio you’re already using.  This creates delay and cost that is the enemy of making smooth progress.  

You also might conceivably want to increase the number of devices being inventoried and supported (through acquisition, inclusion of additional business units, new platforms etc.).  If you’re running on-premises, you’ll need to think ahead and make sure that the not only can the solution process the required volume of data in a reasonable time (some solutions effectively lock-out users for hours at a time while processing inventory data), but that the hardware is also up to the task.  

The answer:  It makes much more sense to have access to new functionality the instant you want it.  The only way to achieve that is through a platform approach where the functionality is already in place, just waiting to be activated.  

For organizations that deploy in the cloud, scaling up the solution to support the efficient processing of additional data should be much less of an issue, as the vendor can quickly upgrade the cloud resources to provide additional power and storage.  

Conclusion: So how important is architecture?  

The functionality of a SAM or ITAM tool is unquestionably very important.  If you need to optimize your Oracle datacenter licensing and the candidate tool doesn’t support Oracle licensing or inventorying the datacenter, it’s an immediate red flag.   

But assuming the tool vendor claims it can support the scenario, it then becomes critical to understand more around the general experience of buying, onboarding, using and supporting their solution in the longer term.  That’s where architecture can make a real difference, in terms of cost, functionality and the sanity of the teams trying to use the solution.   

At Certero, we believe our architecture is one of our most important differentiators. Our growing portfolio of solutions is built on a single SaaS-ready platform architected for how organizations need to operate today and tomorrow, not ten years ago.  Everything is designed with efficiency and scalability in mind.  

Take our onboarding process as an example.  

Through what we call the ‘The 4Ps’ Certero customers get an experience unlike any other comparable SAM or ITAM solution.  On day one, you can access the Certero Customer Center and download our Provisioning software. That takes five minutes.  

Next, you can Provision one or multiple Platforms. Roughly another five minutes per platform (most end user organizations will run just one platform).   

You can then activate one or multiple Products to meet your current requirements.  That’s even faster; maybe two or three minutes.  

Finally, you create a Point Device to enable discovery and inventory.  You can have your first Point Device ready to go in three minutes.  

That’s it.  In fifteen minutes or less, you’re ready to go and start delivering value to the organization.  How many SAM or ITAM tools can claim that?  And that’s just the start…  

Learn more about the Certero Unified Platform’s unique ITAM & SAM tools architecture here. 

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