Next-Generation Asset Management turns out to be on the rise faster than expected

* Are you ready for Next-Generation Asset Management?

I have to admit that doing research in many of its various forms is probably what I enjoy most about my current job. Since I'm an industry analyst, that's, I suppose, a good thing. And more specifically what I enjoy about research isn't simply gathering data, but testing out ideas about how the overall IT management marketplace is evolving and seeing the difference (and or similarities) between what I anticipated and what turns out to be "real."

To be honest, I enjoy finding out the truth either way - no point investing in perspectives that are either wrong or so far ahead of the market as to be of minimal interest. But of course, I enjoy it more when it seems like we at EMA are "on to something."

And that would appear to be the case for a report (and an online Solutions Guide that should be completed by end of summer) on what we call "Next-Generation Asset Management" (NGAM). Virtually all of the data is in, and what remains are tuning perspectives on a wide range of companies that have been generous with their time in answering questions about "asset management" that go far beyond traditional ways of thinking about asset management.

The general notion of NGAM is that it represents the gradual convergence of asset management and service management. The logic of this is that services are the end "products" and hence the "ultimate assets" for any IT organization. Therefore, all components (infrastructure, operational costs, contracts for outsourced services) ultimately have to be understood in parent-child fashion as they map to the services they support. Another concept that's closely related is that NGAM reflects capabilities to understand assets in terms of performance and contribution and not merely as static entities that simply go through life cycle procurement to retirement with a passing nod to TCO.

Of course doing all this goes far beyond traditional tools and traditional organizational models. It's more like ITIL's notion of "Financial Management for IT Services," and will require new organizational, process and even political models for it to fully come of age within IT. Integration is also a key requirement if asset management is to evolve towards NGAM. We asked vendors specifically about: CMDB support and integration with capacity, change, service management, and service accounting or chargeback. Dynamic awareness of the real environment is important, as well, so we also asked about inventory and discovery.

As a whole, the vendors we spoke with were all "works in progress" when it came to NGAM, but that was very much our expectation. If anything, progress was further along than I anticipated on many fronts. And while only a few of the participants, for instance, claimed full-fledged CMDB strategies, almost all reported supporting a CMDB in terms of integration and data normalization for northbound and southbound requirements. Since in my view the CMDB is becoming less and less of a "thing" and more a way of approaching the integration and reconciliation of management investments as a total strategy, I was very pleased to see this trend.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the vendors that are participating in this report. They are, in alphabetical order: Altiris, Avocent/LANDesk, Avotus, Blazent, BMC, CA, Digital Fuel, Evident, HP, IBM Tivoli, iET, JCube Mobile, MRO Software, N(i)2, Netaphor, NetQoS, Newbury Networks, Novell, Numara, Oblicore, OpenIT, Opsware, Provance and Rivermine.

The list of vendors may raise some eyebrows as it includes companies other than those squarely in the asset management camp, such as vendors focused on platforms, help desks, service desk, service-level management, business service management, chargeback and accounting, and telecommunications resource management, as well as niche areas such as printer management and wireless asset management. The list, itself, reflects converging industry trends to make asset management more dynamic and service aware, and service management more dollars-and-cents aware.

If you don't think this is important, then I would suggest you rethink your asset management strategies - at least in term of your long-term direction and goals. Sure, there is a strong need to get started with something finite and tangible, such as merging accurate inventory with other asset management tools and processes. But as a mindset, you're still lost in piece parts if you're not even considering the need to link assets to value - and the value you as IT provide is in the delivery of services.

I'd welcome any dialog from you on this - agree or disagree. Just e-mail me and I promise you I'll respond.

* Editor's Note: Take a Vacation, Stay Connected

If you didn't think it was possible to stay connected to the network while on vacation, think again. Advances in networks and technologies make it possible for you to get away from the office yet still remain tethered to what's going on. Our special 'Toys of Summer' product guide (compiled by Cool Tools guru Keith Shaw) will show you the best new devices that let you get away from the data center and onto a nice, sandy beach.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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