Overlooked areas in IT asset management

* Vendors that represent overlooked areas of IT Asset Management

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As I hope some of you remember, EMA has developed a new “market” category that we call “Next Generation Asset Management” - or NGAM. What makes it “next generation?” A couple of things.

First and foremost is logic. If traditional asset management remains component-centric, tracking this or that desktop or this or that system through procurement to retirement, NGAM is service oriented and treats assets as performers rather than merely as objects that amortize. The business logic of NGAM is that the ultimate product and hence the ultimate value from an IT perspective is its business services – those services that directly support the productivity or actual revenue of the overarching business that subsumes it. Some services may be purely operational in nature, such as in installing PCs in support of moves adds and changes. But generally IT’s end services are its applications, whether internal applications from SAP to e-mail to VoIP, or external, consumer revenue-generating applications, or applications designed to support partner interactions and partner transactions.

So if services are IT’s products, then NGAM looks at component assets in terms of performing contributors in support of those services. The relationship is one of parent-child. Moreover, NGAM requires that assets be viewed dynamically, and so brings asset management squarely into context with performance management and capacity planning, change and configuration management, and service management including SLM. The fact that this is a fairly close conceptual match with the IT Infrastructure Library’s notion of “Financial Management for IT Services” is actually a coincidence, but an encouraging one from my perspective.

Needless to say, by taking an NGAM approach many vendors that otherwise get overlooked by traditional ITAM can become included – including some with a focus on service management, or others in chargeback, or others in telecommunications resource management. In this column I’d like to highlight three vendors that represent overlooked areas of IT Asset Management, but which are critical to NGAM: Evident Software’s “asset auditing” capability for capturing asset-to-service utilization, Netaphor’s capabilities for printer resource management, and Visual Network Design’s Rackwise for managing and planning the physical systems housing requirements in the data center.

Evident Software is a leading innovator in multiple areas, ranging from service accounting (including chargeback), to demand profiling (which analyzes user consumption) to what it calls “asset auditing.” It’s asset auditing that I’d like to reference here.

While many asset management capabilities have some sort of discovery or inventory associated with them, these are almost invariably targeted at finding location and inventory specific information needed to track an infrastructure component through its lifecycle of use. As a complementary capability for this, Evident’s asset auditing capability tracks infrastructure components based on IP traffic. This serves not only as a safeguard in assuring more complete asset discovery, but it also allows planners to understand which infrastructure assets are being utilized and how often, creating a priority list for inventory driven by usage profiles. This allows IT asset planners to work hand and glove with capacity and services planners, and provides a meaningful context for assessing the real needs for making new infrastructure investments. It also supports growing requirements for virtualization in the data center, and ultimately autonomic, or on-demand computing.

Netaphor’s SiteAudit is designed to discover and manage printers (it also supports copiers) throughout their lifecycle. This includes capabilities to assess how often a printer or copier is being used in order to support license requirements and avoid penalties (copiers are leased, printers purchased), and capacity planning.

SiteAudit also supports performance management requirements including incident notification (including error description and error frequency), response requirements, response time and downtime. SiteAudit is thus designed to support problem analysis and integrate with help desk and operational tools. It can also integrate with chargeback and cost accounting tools, and provides reports that can support compliance requirements for financial reconciliation and configuration changes.

Visual Network Design’s Rackwise is the third product that deserves attention in the category of “critical but overlooked.” It provides a whole-cloth approach to planning and managing the physical requirements of data centers. This includes power, heat, space, weight and available capacity, cooling and connectivity. It supports automated capabilities for creating documentation and guidelines in building and expanding racks and data center facilities that in themselves, according to Visual Network Design, have cut back on the time to implement new racks by 90%. It also provides the capabilities for modeling “what-if” configurations based on existing or new data center plans. If NGAM is about assets as performing entities, then Rackwise can provide unique insights into conditions that are becoming increasingly critical in enabling data center infrastructure to perform at optimal levels.

EMA has a solution center on NGAM vendors accessible through our Web site. It’s an expanding capability that includes two of the vendors mentioned above (Evident Software and Netaphor) currently. But just emphasize that it’s an expanding capability – Rackwise is in process of being added as I write this. Do check out the EMA’s asset management solution center and follow it as it evolves to become the most complete and dynamically relevant resource of its kind on the planet. (And BTW, if you have comments and suggestions on how to make it better, let me know.)

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