Software Asset Management (SAM) is a complex business.  Besides trying to get a hold on the software that exists in your organization and whether it’s being used, you also have the complexity of licensing that software.  The wrong type of license may cost you a great deal of money.  Not having enough licenses for your organization can cost you even more money,

especially if your company has been “selected” for a software audit.

Most organizations, especially the larger ones, have some software product in place to assist with SAM.  But what if your company is just at that point where it has grown too big for the current SAM process, and you’re looking to bring software in house to help you track and manage your software?  (I know, that sounds a little circular! J )  What software should you bring in to do this?

This blog is not going to supply you with the complete answer to that question, but it will help with one thing to consider with that question.  Whatever software is brought in should be a good fit with your company’s I/T skillset because a team of people will be needed to support it.  Notice I didn’t say “perfect fit” … because I think that’s a big nut to crack.  Not only is the business of SAM more complex these days, but so is the software that helps manage the business of SAM.  All of the SAM software needs to be architected carefully so the software has sufficient resources to run, and that usually means more than one server.  There are also various technologies that get put together to make these products function.  Let’s take a quick look at a few examples.

For the management of IBM software, IBM provides the License Metric Tool (ILMT).  ILMT can be deployed in either a Windows environment or a Linux environment.  If you choose Windows, your database server must be SQL Server.  If you choose Linux, your database server must be DB2.  ILMT consists of three actual products put together to manage software: BigFix, DB2 and the ILMT server component itself.  BigFix has Relays that get deployed to help distribute workload so that data collection isn’t bogged down by a specific BigFix database update process.  There isn’t a large dependency on Active Directory in particular or LDAP in general, but you could certainly integrate it with your enterprise directory.  If you want to manage software from other vendors and also IBM, and want to remain (or become) an IBM shop, IBM provides BigFix Inventory, which is ILMT plus add-ons that give you the ability to manage other vendors and even create your own software catalog entries.

You could also deploy Flexera’s FlexNet Manager Suite (FNMS).  Flexera is deployed only on Windows and has Active Directory as a requirement for the installation.  The database server should be SQL Server, though it may be possible to use Oracle as well.  A good understanding of Active Directory is beneficial in setting up and maintaining FNMS, because the users that will get set up should be domain users.  You’ll use Powershell to configure databases and some settings, using scripts that Flexera provides.  If you want to create your own adapters to pull data from certain sources, you’ll need to understand how to use their Business Adapter Studio.  If you want to generate your own reports, you’ll need to install IBM Cognos Report Designer with the product.  You’ll also have to deploy at least one Inventory Beacon, which loosely acts like a BigFix Relay, to help distribute the collection of software inventory from your application servers.

At one time I also installed Eracent’s I/T Management Center (ITMC) (version 11).  In my experience, it was similar to Flexera in that it’s installed on Windows and also uses SQL Server as its database manager.  It has a large number of pre-requisite settings that have to be set or verified in advance of installing the product itself.  It uses SQL Server Report Services and also has a dependency on Active Directory.  You use the server installer to generate client installers of various types, and then these client installers get deployed on the clients.  The Eracent server has 22 Windows services running when the installation is all done.

No matter what product you choose, gone are the days where you’d install one “thing” and be done with it.  In general, all software has become more complex and having a broader range of technical skills to support the software is a must.  Of course, there may be Cloud options which take away the complexity of doing this yourself, but the tradeoff might be less integration with other company systems.  Or, perhaps your company requires a certain level of security which negates the use of the Cloud altogether.

To be sure, before taking any of this on, as the technical support staff, you should make the release notes and installation guides mandatory reading.  I highly recommend having an ILMT drink before you deploy ILMT, FNMS, ITMC or any other “alphabet soup”.  My ILMT drink is Iced Lemon Mango Tea, what's yours?