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IBM License Metric Tool / BigFix Inventory Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Year-end blog entries typically take a look at the previous year, talk about what worked and what didn’t, and what might be improved in the next year. So who am I to break with tradition? I figure this is a good time to talk about some IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) / BigFix Inventory (BFI) lessons learned and best practices obtained in my experiences deploying and working with these products in the past year. The identity of any clients I worked with has been changed to names that are more fun.

Measuring Savings

So why did you deploy ILMT/BFI in the first place? I can think of three reasons:

  • IBM requires it to qualify for Sub-capacity Licensing.
  • Sub-capacity licensing results in substantial financial savings due to virtualization.
  • You’ll get an idea of what’s deployed in your environment, which helps determine your software license position.

The measure of savings is in “processor value units” … but that’s not a meaningful measurement. What does that mean exactly? That’s like saying that the Alpha Centauri galaxy is 4.367 light years from Earth (which it is) … you know it’s far but you don’t quite grasp how far. It’s best to translate that into dollars, which brings us to the first best practice: management might not understand PVUs but they do understand the mighty dollar. Your license agreement will tell you how much a PVU is for each product, so simply multiplying that value by the number of PVUs you have will come up with a dollar amount. If you do this for both your full capacity and subcapacity numbers, and determine the difference between them, you’ll see how much the use of ILMT/BFI is saving you … and then management will promote you for being so smart. (Well, wishful thinking anyway.)

Executive Sponsorship

It’s also not enough to just have the tool installed … you need a software asset management process that works with that tool. I had one client which I won’t name, but let’s call them the Acme Cracker Company (slogan: “We’re Crackers!”); they installed ILMT as a contractual requirement (to take advantage of sub-capacity licensing), and then just basically left the tool alone. It wasn’t maintained by the I/T staff and nobody on the SAM team took advantage of additional savings by investigating bundling opportunities. In fact, it could be said that they didn’t have a SAM team at all! Yeah, they’re crackers, all right! Two years later, the tool was so far out of date and the knowledge needed to support it was so far gone that they had to reinstall ILMT all over again, and the re-installation effort probably cost as much or more than the sub-capacity savings they earned.

This brings us to the second best practice: you need executive sponsorship for your SAM program. Management has to make a commitment to the success and longevity of the program, because there is real savings in understanding your software license position. Companies like IBM and Microsoft can audit you, and you’d better be prepared to justify your software usage. In addition, two dedicated teams should be set up: one to maintain the tool (the I/T team) and one to manage the data that the tool provides (the SAM team). The tool in this case doesn’t need to be ILMT or BFI; it could be any SAM tool. In the case of ILMT, the tool might be free, but using it is not. BFI is not a free tool; you purchased it, so you should maximize its value!

Maximizing Tool Value: Skills Transfer

The best way I can think of to maximize the value of the SAM tool you've chosen, is to learn how to use and maintain it. You will probably need to bring in an outside expert on that tool, but the expense will be worth it.
I mentioned that two teams need to be set up, the I/T (technical) team and the SAM team. What kind of knowledge would the technical team need?

  • Operational knowledge of IT infrastructure domains including data centers, network / communications, server utilization, virtual environments, storage, and application development / support.
  • Understanding of multiple Operating Systems environments (Solaris/AIX/HP-UX/Linux/VMWare etc.) because the agents will run on computers with these different operating systems.
  • If you chose ILMT or BFI, give the technical team the BigFix training they need.

What kind of knowledge would the SAM team need?

  • CSAM (Certified Software Asset Manager) or similar experience with respect to:
    • Licensing skills. Have a good understanding of how IBM licenses software with an emphasis on PVU and RVU licensing. These are the most expensive and most pervasive products installed.
    • Passport Advantage Navigation skills. Know how to run Entitlement reports so that they can be compared to deployments which highlights gaps.
  • The SAM team processes the Confirmation, Reassignment, and Exclusion of the automated bundling rule associations.
  • If the SAM team doesn’t understand IBM Passport Advantage Licensing, get help from a consultant.

Oftentimes, knowledge picked up in “the lab” doesn’t quite match reality. So how do you build “realistic” skills? I have found when assisting customers with BigFix/ILMT implementations that conducting WebEx sessions on technical topics and troubleshooting issues works very well. I would provide instructions, and when appropriate, an explanation of why certain actions were being taken. This goes a long, long way in building the “realistic” knowledge base. Using one of my clients (whom I’ll call the Smart Cookie Company) as an example, those smart cookies took snapshots of the installation panels during their ILMT deployment to serve as a record of chosen options at a particular time of the installation process. At any time during their WebEx calls, the smart cookies were able to ask questions about how something was set up, what the significance of a particular action might have been, or why a particular action was taken. During subsequent webex troubleshooting sessions, at the close of an issue, a summary of what the issue was, and what was done to correct it, was provided. This was all compiled into a support & maintenance document to which the support team could refer back. (How else did you think these cookies became smart?)

As for the SAM team, the same techniques can be used. The senior SAM staff should learn the tool from an external tool consultant (in one or more “train the trainers” sessions), and at the end of that engagement, the consultant should create a document that acts as a reference guide to what was covered over the previous sessions. This is not meant to replace product documentation; rather, the reference document complements product documentation by summarizing company specific decisions that were made. When needed, your in-house trainers can run as-needed webex sessions with the newbies so they can learn how to use the tool.

For ILMT/BFI, here is a suggested list of topics:

  • What is sub-capacity and why is it is important. (If you like pizza, you’ll like this explanation!)
  • IBM License Metrics – definitions, examples and how they apply to ILMT/BFI.
  • Overview of ILMT/BFI features and functions to include:
    • Navigation of ILMT GUI Panels and explain functionality.
    • Creating required IBM Audit Snapshot Reports.

    • Explain audit period and required frequency of running reports.

    • Explain purpose and interpretation of each report.

For ILMT & BFI specifically, use the reports created by the “All IBM Metric” button as a reference document in preparation for and during the bundling tasks. It’s easier to analyze “what if” scenarios as you are bundling products than when navigating through the ILMT user interface.

Deployment Best Practices

At this point, you’re probably thinking “this guy usually writes about more technical topics – this stuff isn’t so technical. Where’s The Beef?” (You’re also probably thinking “I can’t believe I read this far”.) Well, that’s the topic for my next blog. (It’s the end of the season so I need a cliffhanger).

Learn from Siwel’s experience. Don’t be an Acme Cracker Company!