Cars have a maintenance cycle which is documented in the Owner’s Manual, or your dealer may send you reminders about scheduled maintenance. Failure to adhere to these servicing obligations could lead to your car breaking down and you not being covered for any necessary repairs.  

If you’ve invested in a SAM Tool, it’s important to understand that it too has a maintenance schedule and obligations to ensure it continues to run smoothly.  These may not be documented in the Owner’s Manual; but they may be part of your company’s server maintenance policies, or the result of applying industry best practices.  In some cases, the tool vendor may send you notifications to apply fixes. 

This is the second of three blogs that will give you some insight into what’s required “under the hood” to keep your SAM tool running smoothly.  In the previous blog, we drew comparisons between the NASCAR and SAM Pit Crews regarding their overall tasks. Here, we will draw parallels between maintaining your car and maintaining your SAM tool.

Just like a car’s maintenance cycle, the maintenance cycle of a SAM tool can be broken up into four areas:

  • Basic Maintenance:  Tasks done most often to maintain and extend the life of the tool
  • Scheduled Maintenance:  Tasks done less often, but still as part of a schedule, to resolve potential issues before they might occur
  • Unscheduled Repairs:  Fixing defects that are discovered during the normal life of the tool
  • Replacement:  At some point, the tool (or the tool’s version) will no longer be supported by the vendor and you’ll need to decide to perform the one-time work to upgrade it, or buy a different one

In the Basic Maintenance of your car, the Pit Crew

  • Changes the oil
  • Rotates the tires
  • Replaces the wiper blades
  • Checks fluid levels and hoses
  • Monitors brake and tire wear

In the Basic Maintenance of the SAM tool, the SAM Pit Crew

  • Checks CPU usage, available disk space and memory
  • Checks logs for potential issues
  • Applies OS Patches (“Patch Tuesday”)
  • Schedules incremental database backups

In the Scheduled Maintenance of your car, the goal is to replace parts before they are expected to fail.  Some of the work performed includes:

  • Transmission service (usually fluid replacement)
  • Replacing the brake pads (and maybe truing or replacing the rotors)
  • Performing a tune-up
  • Replacing cracked hoses
  • Performing an anti-freeze flush
  • Testing and replacing the battery
  • Replacing worn tires

In the Scheduled Maintenance of your SAM tool, the goal is similar:  to prevent & resolve defects before they become bigger problems.  Some of the tasks performed are:

  • Applying application patches.  Maybe a CVE Vulnerability was discovered and the tool vendor provided a patch to resolve the vulnerability
  • Performing database maintenance (table and index reorgs, full database backups)
  • Performing server backups
  • Larger operating system or relational database upgrades, such as the application of a service pack (multiple fixes at once) as opposed to smaller, individual fixes done as part of basic maintenance
  • “Minor” tool version upgrades, to take advantage of multiple bug fixes or new functionality.

Unfortunately, at some point, your car will require unscheduled repairs.  One day it may not start, or it may develop a leak, or the A/C might stop blowing cold air.  Perhaps your Smartphone will fail to connect to the car the way it normally does and you can’t figure out why.  Maybe you’ll receive a notice in the mail about a recall (Takata airbags, anyone?). 

Your SAM tool is no different.  Examples of unscheduled repairs of your SAM tool are:

  • The agent stops communicating with the collection server
  • The agent stopped running and won’t start
  • A memory leak has occurred; you get occasional “out of memory” messages from the agent or the server
  • Intermittent issues occur (the worst kind, because they’re hard to track down)
  • A Windows service stopped or failed to start
  • An unrelated error message appears in the application log that was discovered while trying to resolve some other issue
  • Hotfixes (the equivalent of automobile recalls)

The SAM Pit Crew is responsible for resolving all unscheduled repairs.

Finally, the time may arrive when your car needs replacement.  Some reasons for replacing a car are:

  • The transmission or engine needs rebuilding
  • The business case for keeping the car is no longer viable:  the cost to maintain the car exceeds the car’s value.  This is usually a function of the vehicle’s age
  • No more support.  Remember Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury and Saab? Those brands no longer exist.  (Yugo is in a class by itself.)  While you could take your Pontiac to another GM dealer to have the repair performed, you can’t go to a Pontiac dealership anymore, and for some people, that’s reason enough to discontinue ownership of the car.
  • You’ve outgrown your current model car.  Your two-seater Mazda RX-7 is no longer practical because you started your own business and need an SUV to haul your goods around.  Your Camry sedan is no longer practical because you’re currently a family of four and you’re expecting twins!
  • Disaster (tree fell on car) or accident (your car was hit while parked and was flipped over)

SAM Tools have limited lives too, and at some point, you’ll be faced with replacing them.  In terms of software, “replacement” could mean re-architecting it to address capacity, or installing a new tool from a different vendor.  Here are some possible reasons why you may have to replace your SAM tool:

  • A hardware failure causes you to rebuild the server with a more recent release than what you originally had
  • Severe performance issues.  Back in the ILMT 7.x days, the time it took to “recalculate” took so long that when ILMT 9.0 was released, companies were advised to install the new version and not even deal with fixing the 7.x version.
  • No more vendor support.  If you’re using Flexera 9.2, you’re on your own.  The same is true if you’re still on ILMT 7.5.
  • The next major version has functionality your company has desired
  • You’ve outgrown the current tool.  For example, you deployed the IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) because you’re mostly an IBM shop and you wanted to take advantage of sub-capacity pricing.  However, your company has just acquired another company and they’re mostly a Microsoft shop.  ILMT doesn’t deal with any other vendor except IBM, so what do you do? You just outgrew ILMT so you “upgrade” ILMT with BigFix Inventory so you can maintain sub-capacity pricing and discover other vendor’s software.
  • Requirements of your current tool are not met and/or you are dissatisfied with your current tool

Stay tuned for the final blog of this series, which will draw parallels between the tools and skills needed to support automobiles and SAM tools.

If you suspect your SAM Tool might not be running as smoothly as it should be, why not speak to an expert from Siwel / Livingstone to discuss a healthcheck or how our SAM advisory services can help you get it firing on all cylinders. 

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