New technologies simplify asset management

Jan Stafford

In an era when IT budgets are being cut to the quick, IT managers have to quickly adopt practices and technologies that improve performance and increase profitability. In this searchWindowsManageability interview, asset management technology expert Steve Goldstein describes new technologies--such as radio frequency--that will help IT managers better control IT assets, thus increasing system productivity and total cost of ownership. Goldstein, general manager of asset management solutions for San Diego, CA-based Peregrine Corp., also offers tips for improving asset-related business processes.

sWM: What systems management issues does asset management address?

Managing technology is becoming more complex - not because of the technology but rather the proliferation of technology. There are now more standards and types of devices to manage. This proliferation has created complexity and a greater need to manage assets.

Additionally, the requirements on the infrastructure are greater. Historically, an IT manager who kept his network up 95 percent of the time was a hero. Now, he will be fired. The requirements on performance are now above 99 percent availability, and IT managers need to manage the assets to provide this availability. Enterprises are also requiring more information in real-time.

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Getting back to you in a week does not cut it anymore. Managers need access to information quickly and need to manage assets to have this information handy.

sWM: What are some of the problems that come up when a company deploys asset management systems?

The problems don't usually relate to the software. One is that companies don't know what they have. If there's no repository of asset information, then it's a big job to populate the database. Getting good clean data is the first hurdle. Also, companies often have to improve their business processes. Automating bad processes won't necessarily improve productivity and reduce costs.

sWM: Could you offer IT managers some basic tips on asset management best practices?

Make sure you define a process for asset management. Asset management has to be a daily process. If you do it now and then, your data becomes useless quickly. Also, examine your business processes, and then streamline and simplify them. Be sure to set up an implementation program with clear deadlines that say you will accomplish certain tasks by certain dates.

sWM: What new technologies will enhance businesses' ability to manage assets?

One of the most exciting new technologies is the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID). RFID allows an administrator to automatically discover non-connected devices. This will make it simpler to track things like furniture. It's easy now to track items like software and hardware, because it's connected to a network. RFID will allow me to discover things that are not connected to a network, such as medical equipment in a hospital or mobile cell phones. The cost point is getting to a point where it's not cost-prohibitive to use RFID.

sWM: How would a company deploy RFID?

RFID is still a new technology and is constantly being improved, so it is difficult to definitively answer how it will work. How it is being tested is an RFID tag is placed on the physical asset. The person doing the inventory has a device that they can simply point at a room and record the assets in that room that are tagged. This quickly reduces the time to do an inventory. With highly mobile devices like medical equipment, there is the ability to do this in real-time and track real-time location. Again, this is still exploratory, but we are very excited about the technology.

sWM: Are there other technology trends that are increasing the need for better asset management?

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) computing may increase the need for asset management. For instance, some companies are trying to leverage P2P software to share under utilized PC and server computational resources. For complex, calculation-intensive algorithms, companies have typically utilized some form of mainframe or supercomputer. Some companies have begun to examine breaking up the calculations and using PC-based processing resources during off hours.

To undertake such an initiative, a company really needs to understand what they have within their asset base. It might necessitate a corporate-wide IT standardization initiative or require only utilizing PC's with 500 MHz or higher CPU power. In either case, asset management becomes a very important part of the analysis and decision-making process.


sWM: What is the most important criterion for choosing an asset management software product?

Look for a tool with an open architecture that makes it easy to integrate to applications. In particular, it has to be easy to integrate the tool with these applications: discovery tools like SMS; ERP apps for general ledger accounting; and supply chains software in the business-to-business world.


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