NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) drivers have a pit crew of personnel tasked with the support and maintenance of the race car.  If you drive a car, you have a pit crew of personnel at a dealership tasked with the maintenance of your car, or perhaps you do some of the work yourself.  Just like cars, all Software Asset Management (SAM) deployments have a pit crew of personnel keeping the tool(s) of choice up and running, so you are able to perform your job of maintaining your software license position and audit readiness.  This is the first in a series of three blogs that will give you some insight into what goes on “under the hood” to maintain SAM tools, using parallels that will be drawn between NASCAR, ownership of your car, and SAM tool support.

With that said, let’s start with NASCAR racing.  Gentlepeople, start your engines!!

Who’s Who in the NASCAR Pit Crew

The NASCAR pit crew is a highly specialized team that consists of the following roles, all performed by a different person:

  • Crew Chief: Oversees all work.
  • Tire Changers: Two sets of them (if you’ll pardon the expression); one for the front and one for back of the race car.
  • Tire Carriers: They roll new tires in and the old tires out.
  • Tire Catchers: They catch & store the tires that are rolled out from the Pit.
  • Jack Man: This role’s only responsibility is to raise or lower the car for the tire changers.
  • Gas Man: Puts gas in the car.
  • Catch Can Man: Collects extra gas that doesn’t reach (or spills over) the fuel tank.
  • Window Tear Off: A windshield cover is applied in bad weather that is removed when the weather improves, and this role is responsible for its removal.
  • Technologist: Maximize the car’s aerodynamics.  The less drag on the car, the more speed it can obtain using less fuel.
  • Meteorologist: Monitors the weather.  Small weather changes during a race could mean slight car adjustments during a Pit Stop.
  • Spotter: Interestingly, all spotters are not in the Pit; they are in the same designated area of the race track, so no one has an advantage. Spotters act as the driver’s long-distance eyes.  Drivers have limited visibility in what they are seeing, mostly concentrating on the cars around them and the track before them.  Spotters tell the driver what’s going on further down the track, outside of the driver’s vision.

The specialization of the Pit Crew is vital to the success of the driver.  Without the crew, a driver cannot do his job.  The Pit Crew ensures the safety of the driver, identifying and correcting defects between races and during the pit stop, and hopefully the defects discovered at the pit stop don’t force the driver to quit the race.  During races, time spent at pit stops must be minimized to maintain or even improve the driver’s position in the race.  It could be the difference between a first and second place finish.

Who’s Who in the SAM Pit Crew

The SAM Pit Crew is also highly specialized and it consists of the following roles:

  • I/T Manager: Oversees all work.
  • Solutions Architect: This role ensures the successful installation and integration of all product components.  For example:
    • The IIS Server used by FlexNet Manager Suite needs to have certain roles activated.
    • Connectivity to the SQL Server used by most SAM tools needs to allow communication on a particular port (by default, 1433).
    • After the IBM BigFix Server is set up, Relays are configured and then clients are configured to communicate with the BigFix server through a Relay.
  • Database Administrator: This role handles the care and feeding of persistent data, usually in the form of a relational database.  Some tasks this role performs are:
    • Database backup and restore
    • Reorganization of tables and indexes (a “reorg”. Imagine a book’s index that is updated dynamically as the book is written.  New index entries are written to the end of the index as pages are added to the text, not in alphabetical order.  After a while, if the index was left alone, trying to look something up in the index would take a long time because it is not alphabetized; a reorg would alphabetize the index so it becomes much more efficient and lookups become much faster.  In relational database systems, a reorg makes table indices, and by extension SQL queries, more efficient as well.)
    • Monitoring of the transaction log (because if this log runs out of space, the database manager stops working).
  • Software Developers: The SAM tool you are using may not provide a particular feature, and software developers (whether in-house or contracted from the SAM tool vendor) can use product APIs to provide the missing functions before they become product features.
  • Quality Assurance Testers: This role ensures that the product works as designed.
  • Project Leader: While the I/T Manager is responsible for the SAM tool / program overall, one or more project leaders may be responsible for individual projects affecting the SAM Tool.  In their individual projects, project leaders ensure the timeliness of their work.
  • Cybersecurity: This should really be part and parcel of all the other roles here, but usually someone takes on this role.  This person ensures that deployment of product components is as secure as possible to prevent data breaches.  An example of where a data breach could come into play is when you have an Internet facing server that needs to report on its inventory to an internal collection server.  The internal collection server is configured to only allow outside connections from the external server (usually in a special zone called the DMZ or “Demilitarized Zone”), and the external server is “locked down” to ensure that all but the absolutely necessary ports are open for proper operation.
  • Support Engineers: This role applies product fixes & updates to both the tool and the computer’s operating system.
  • Network Engineers: This role ensures successful and secure transport of data over the network on which the tool resides.

The specialization of the SAM Pit Crew is vital to the tool’s success.  Without the pit crew maintaining the tool, inventory cannot be discovered, the Software Asset Manager cannot do his/her job and problems won’t be diagnosed and resolved.  Unlike the NASCAR pit crew, however, the SAM Pit Crew roles may be spread amongst fewer people, and sometimes (in the case of small shops or a tool consultant), one person.  If the single person runs into a problem that can’t be resolved, a ticket is opened with the tool vendor to diagnose and resolve the issue, essentially increasing the size of the pit crew temporarily.

Stay tuned for the second blog of this series, which will compare a car’s maintenance cycle with those of a SAM Tool.

Footnotes:

“The NASCAR pit crew is a highly specialized team…”:  https://www.aamcocolorado.com/what-consists-of-a-nascar-pit-crew, accessed March 25th, 2019