Tip

Asset management tools well worth the effort


David Gabel

We have said before that if you cannot see something, there is no way that you can manage it. That's why many IT asset management products are really asset discovery products. They operate on the idea that most IT people don't really know what equipment and software they have. So if they want to manage their IT infrastructure, they have to discover it.

It's a good, indeed, a necessary, first step, but there's a lot more to asset management than just knowing what you have. For example, you need to know where it is, what software is installed where, how things are connected, when it got connected, when the lease contract started, what ...

Well, you get the idea. There's a lot of stuff to know and lots more to do with asset management.

And the payoff? "We have seen studies saying that you can save as much as 30% in overall costs in the first year once you have an integrated asset management

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system installed," said Allan Andersen, division vice president of Computer Associates International Inc. in Islandia, N.Y.

Now Andersen is talking about a fairly big-time system, one with several hundred systems and several different locations nationwide, or perhaps worldwide. But you can save some money even if you're a smaller show with fewer systems and other devices. For example, Robert Klotz, vice president of technical services and a founder of Silverback Technologies Inc., said one of his customers saved some $40,000 in one year preparing for bank audits by various federal agencies.

The start is, of course, some sort of way to know what assets you have in your organization. It seems odd, but all the reports agree, that many IT managers don't really know what they have in their shops. There are many reasons for this: something happened when a delivery came from a vendor and the invoice was short and the company got fewer computers delivered than expected, then the shortage was forgotten with everything else that's going on; or perhaps, you got a good deal on 100 computers, even though you needed only 80, and then 20 of them got put in a closet and then they're discovered later; or maybe someone went out and bought a piece of equipment and expensed it and never told the IT organization that the purchase was made.

For those reasons, "very often you know you own it, but you can't see anyone using it," Andersen said. That's where the discovery tool comes in handy, finding out where the asset is.

Computer Associates offers lots more than a discovery tool. In fact, it has two tools that give plenty of functionality -- for a pretty hefty price -- to the IT manager trying to get a handle on the assets he has. Unicenter Asset Management will find the assets in your organization and present the information about them in a fashion that allows you to begin to manage them. Unicenter Argis will allow you to integrate the asset management piece with such products (from CA) as HR management, invoicing, purchase orders and the like. And it has a contract-management function, so you know what lease contracts and what software licenses you have at any given time. This helps out a lot, Andersen said.

"Managing leases is required because leasing lets you stay on top of the technology," he said. With the CA solution, the software will tell you three months before the lease is up on a piece of equipment, so you can arrange to lease a new replacement unit. And the help-desk module will issue a trouble ticket to go out and pick up the item on which the lease is expired.

Software management is also important. If you have to negotiate with Microsoft Corp. in its new licensing scheme, the first thing you need to know is what you have licenses for. That's absolutely essential at the start of any negotiation. Nice to have an asset management product that will tell you what licenses are there.

All that is great for the large enterprise, where CA aims its product. But the minimum price tag to get this all up and running (typically a minimum of $100,000, Andersen said) is a bit steep for many organizations. That's where companies like Silverback come in.

Klotz said his company's offering comes on an appliance that Silverback will install in your shop that has the software loaded to do what mid-tier companies need. "We cover fault, asset and security management," he explained. "We give customers a way to document the hardware and software they have running on their systems."

So, for example, the network report that the appliance generates shows the type of hardware in place (such as a Cisco 2500), the code version and the interfaces that hardware has. "That's a useful report," Klotz said. "It's used a lot."

You can export the reports that the appliance generates to other applications, such as Excel, so that "you don't need agents to get these reports," Klotz explained.

Silverback maintains the appliance itself, handling updates to the installed software through VPN connectivity into the box, making the update process secure. "This is our value proposition," Klotz said. "We provide what the customer needs to get the info he needs. Others need separate servers, they have to add patches, do upgrades, and so forth."

Whether you need to get a full system running or you need to be able to see what's on your network for the next bank audit, asset management can make your job easier, save you money and make you look like a hero to your boss. Check it out.


About the author: David Gabel is executive technology editor for TechTarget.

This was first published in July 2002

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