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How to measure data quality and protect against software audits

By Christof Beaupoil, co-founder and managing partner, Aspera, special to Network World
June 06, 2011 11:49 AM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Software asset management (SAM) covers a complex cross section of IT and business and can pose an integration problem between IT, purchasing and finance. For this reason the focal point of license management is transparency. And consistent transparency can only be realized through consistent data quality management.

In order to achieve this it's necessary to gradually expand the coverage of data collection while also keeping the existing data up to date, and in doing so the most diverse process steps must be followed.

Data gathering challenges

Over the last decade organizations in all industries have been consolidating data centers. As data centers are merged and centralized, some enterprises choose to outsource management of operations. Unfortunately, responsibility for license management has never been part of these outsourcing agreements, which results in negligent software cost management, and possibly compliance and legal trouble.

IN DEPTH: How to win the software licensing game

Not surprisingly, the enterprises that favor outsourcing also release a good portion of their in-house IT professionals that were in charge of managing the different data centers. Suddenly nobody knows the answer to simple questions like, "How many servers are running Oracle Database and which services are using these?"

The IT environment in any large organization contains various platforms, from Windows and Linux/Unix to terminal servers, virtual servers and virtual clients. This means, on the one hand, you have to gather technical data across numerous platforms and, on the other hand, the more software your company uses the more and different data must be gathered to manage licenses.

Further complicating SAM is the fact that, although software vendors are gradually modifying their license metrics to accommodate virtual environments (e.g. cloud), the management tools have not yet adapted to the changes.

Ten years ago the majority of software was licensed on a per-installation, per-device, or per-user price model. Any tool that could discover software installations and/or devices could theoretically provide the necessary data to manage licenses. This is definitely no longer the case and processes are required to close the gap between today's software license models and the tools gathering data.

What is quality data?

Quality data is having all the information you need when you need it. The three basic criteria to determine quality are: completeness, consistency and timeliness.

Data completeness in license management is three-dimensional. It requires having a) full organizational data (legal entities, cost centers, users); b) tools to gather data on each platform, and c) comprehensive device data. The data is not complete if you need device information on a Unix server, but only have tools to gather data on Windows servers. If you need to know the number of CPUs on a device, but the asset inventory report does not have this, then you need to find a data source that does record this information and combine it with the other data you have.

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