In my previous blog entry, I identified what IBM calls a “customer pain point” regarding updating the IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) software catalog. Until recently, IBM used to place the link to downloading the software catalog in a monthly technote that would be published, and to get the catalog, you’d simply open the technote, click on the link, download the catalog locally and then upload it to ILMT. IBM changed the method of getting the catalog; you have to run a BigFix task to download the catalog to a specific folder on the ILMT server instead of getting it from the technote.

My position was that the revised software catalog download process introduced what IBM calls a “customer pain point”. The change would require that either the I/T role take on the responsibility of updating the catalog, or have the Software Asset Management (SAM) role run certain fixlets and tasks in the BigFix console, access which was never needed before. The neat separation of duties (and the tools used in the performance of those duties) disappears as a result. 

I suggested a possible compromise to IBM through their feedback channel: change the catalog download fixlet to do everything and be scheduled to run once a month after IBM publishes the catalog. I’m happy to say that IBM did listen and has once again modified the process of downloading the software catalog. Starting from application update 9.2.11, the Software Catalog update process is now automated. By running the task:

  1. The catalog is downloaded to the following directory on the ILMT server, as before:
    Linux: /opt/ibm/LMT/wlp/usr/servers/server1/data/sam/catalog/LMT
    Windows: C:\Program Files\IBM\LMT\wlp\usr\servers\server1\data\sam\catalog\LMT\
  2. The catalog is automatically uploaded to the License Metric Tool server during the next import of data. The import also propagates the catalog to all of the clients. No additional actions are required.

Now, the separation of duties between the I/T and the SAM roles can be maintained as before. Thank you IBM!

Well, since I seem to be on a roll here, I have another possible customer pain point that I’d like IBM to consider. IBM is looking at BigFix Inventory (BFI) to take on more of a security focus than just software discovery. One of the aspects of security is knowing where you are running out-of-date software, as that software is probably not being updated anymore by the vendor, leaving it open to security vulnerabilities and other bugs. In BFI 9.2.11, IBM introduced end-of-support date tracking. BigFix Inventory will provide end of support dates for IBM software components as announced in IBM Lifecycle and you can also specify the dates manually, both for IBM and non-IBM components. Presumably, for IBM software, the end-of-support dates are coming straight out of the software catalog.

For ILMT 9.2.11, the field also exists, but it can only be filled in manually. You won’t be able to automatically propagate this field from the software catalog. There’s no API from where you could enter this data in a batch mode, either.

Why is this field important? You can use this field to help determine license demand for the future. You can also use it for security purposes, for example, to easily identify whether software on a particular server is still supported and to take action to either upgrade that software or process an exception to software upgrades. Even if you can’t upgrade now, at least you will know where the risk is and can take steps to mitigate it.

IBM’s positioning is that ILMT is not a security product; it is meant to track PVU usage as a requirement for sub-capacity pricing. My position is that clients who use ILMT are not just using it for sub-capacity pricing – for example, the ability to enter thresholds (so I can quickly see if I’m over or under regarding my entitlements) and now end-of-support dates seems to support that argument. IBM is being nice by providing this capability with the free version of the product, and if the data is already coming from the software catalog, why not make it available in ILMT also? IBM’s position is that if you want the additional capabilities, you should upgrade to the paid version of the product, which is BigFix Inventory. I understand IBM’s position; if you want full functionality, then you should pay for it. So where do we go from here?

How about another compromise? If an upgrade to BFI is not desired, and ILMT allows me to enter the end-of-support dates myself, then how about allowing me to do it in a batch mode through the ILMT API? I still have to do the work myself of collecting the end-of-support dates, but at least I have an easier method of updating this in ILMT as opposed to doing this one product at a time.

What are your thoughts on the subject?