As a prominent provider of ITAM consultation and services, Siwel encounters all kinds of IT Operations, large and small, with all kinds of software asset management (SAM) schemes and hardware asset management (HAM) schemes, some more automated than others.

One facet of IT Operations that everyone has at this point is a DECOMMISSIONING PROCESS.

This of course is the scheme where hardware (usually servers/PCs) and software assets are pulled from service, and it typically involves evaluation of the hardware assets for reuse or for destruction based on age, condition, and other things, or elimination due to migration to a cloud service provider (CSP). Less often do we see any real evaluation of the software license entitlements of the software that was resident on the server/PC.

Here’s a NON-SCIENTIFIC summary of our observations of client IT Operations DCOM practices:


Features Hardware Software
DCOM Based on Age 90% 30%
DCOM Due to Cloud Migration 70% 40%
Pull HD and Erase 20% N/A
Pull HD and Degauss 40% N/A
Pull HD and Crush/Destroy 90% N/A
Dump Crushed Parts in "Certified" Landfill 10% N/A
Donate Old Asset to Charity 5% Usually not allowed
Resell Old Asset 10% Usually not allowed
Recover Entitlements for Reuse  N/A 20%

For DCOM based on age, pretty much everyone has an algorithm for eliminating older hardware. Sometimes the DCOM plans arise because a client is migrating between data centers; in other cases a client performs a tech-refresh that renders the older gear surplus; in other cases the gear becomes EOL.

This number would be closer to 100% except that some clients do not have decent ITAM records on hardware and don’t really know what they have.

Far fewer clients focus DCOM energy on eliminating older software based on age. Often the software does not get any DCOM attention until the hardware is removed. Home-grown applications are often heavily imbedded and difficult to remove, or the “expert” is no longer around to upgrade it. For licensed packaged software products, some clients do have policies which require them to remove older installed versions (older than the one-before-last for instance) when installing new versions, but we see many clients who simply install new versions while keeping the older versions installed, too, “just-in-case” they’re needed. Clients that do not have any SAM program are especially vulnerable to vendor audit challenges in this latter case depending on usage rights to multiple versions. 

Keeping the old software installed after an upgrade exposes clients to wasted storage, possible license entitlement issues, security problems, possible additional maintenance payments, and Help Desk support issues. Failure to reclaim the software entitlements usually guarantees new purchases of entitlements and extra costs.

For DCOM due to cloud migration we often see clients use these as reasons to eliminate HW. Clients who have no SAM program usually pay little attention to reclaiming any SW entitlements. They usually just DCOM the hardware and abandon the software.

Lots of clients are migrating things to the cloud. Most eliminate at least some on-site hardware. Few reclaim any software entitlements, they just delete SW.

Hardware Treatment during DCOM: Some erase the data; some degauss the hard-drives which renders them unusable pending reformatting. Most end up crushing the hard-drives and some pay the extra costs for rights to “certified” landfills where they send the HD fragments. Some do erase-then-crush, although this seems like extra effort. In a few cases we observe the reselling of older gear, and in even fewer cases we hear about charity donations of older gear.

The fairly consistent theme in any of these scenarios is the abandonment of software entitlements for licenses products especially among those clients who do not have a mature SAM program. Among those who make at least some attempt to recover software entitlements when DCOM’ing hardware, those clients who lack an active SAM program usually keep informal lists of “spare” software on spreadsheets. This too can lead to audit surprises and extra costs.

The Decommissioning Process is an often-overlooked area where an active and aggressive SAM program can save significant money by avoiding the re-purchase of license entitlements and avoiding audit disputes with suppliers.

What’s your view on this matter?