Tracking Software: An Accurate Count For a Superior Outcome

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

If you want to get best value from an IT infrastructure, an essential first step lies in understanding what that infrastructure consists of—and how much utility you're getting from it.

This is rarely easy, but it's particularly difficult in the case of the software fraction of the infrastructure. Many organizations deploy new copies of software based on ad hoc needs, rather than via a governed plan. They also track those deployments in a similarly ad hoc way—manually managed spreadsheets, perhaps, that are rarely updated and rarely accurate.

Consequently, they typically lack quantified insight into how many copies are in use, what versions they are, whether they might better be deployed somewhere else in the infrastructure, and whether the number of copies is equal to or less than the number they actually own.

So not only is the business value of the software compromised, but so is the organization's compliance with federal copyright law. Also, in cases where the number of copies owned actually exceeds the number needed, resources are being wasted; this is information every organization should have, in a difficult and unpredictable economy.

Furthermore, as cloud infrastructures become more popular, this problem is likely only to get worse. Because clouds automatically provision complete software stacks to an ever-changing number of virtual servers, the number of copies of a given software package could easily surpass the number owned. So as cloud computing escalates worldwide, the need for smart software analysis capabilities grows in proportion.

IBM Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis: Complete, granular insight into all software deployment

IBM's recognition of this problem has led to an advanced solution: IBM Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis. This offering delivers comprehensive insight into software deployment in exceptional granularity—down to the version number—for every endpoint in the complete IT infrastructure, including production servers (whether cloud-hosted or not).

"Because Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis is part of the larger Endpoint Manager family, its value becomes multiplied when other members of that family have been deployed, and it can contribute to the much larger process of managing software throughout its full lifecycle."

Furthermore, because of its intelligent design, that insight is continuously and automatically updated—meaning that organizations are always aware of the number of copies deployed vs. the number owned, a critical metric for compliance.

And because it naturally integrates with other members of the IBM Endpoint Manager family, the insight it provides can be "sliced and diced" in any way the organization needs, creating not just new business value, but many kinds of new business value.

Smart design and a best-in-class feature set

As part of the larger Endpoint Manager family, Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis inherits the same essential design: a single smart agent that, once deployed to all endpoints, collects data (such as the software inventory), and reports back to a centralized server. Because the agent actually leverages the endpoint's resources to do this work, not the server's, a single server can support an extraordinarily large infrastructure—as many as a quarter-million endpoints.

Another key strength of the solution is its bundled Software Identification Catalog, which right out of the box includes information on software from more than 5,000 publishers, 5,000 software products, and well over 100,000 application signatures. This already-impressive catalog is continually updated with new additions from a cloud-based service linked over the Internet. The Software Identification Catalog is managed by the Software Knowledge Base Toolkit, which delivers greatly improved catalog content. The software catalog now contains UNIX software from some third-party vendors as well as full coverage of IBM products on Windows, UNIX and Linux platforms—including increased Windows coverage. New software signatures can be defined based on raw inventory data; if users find a software item that is not matched by any signature from their existing software catalog, they can create a signature for the unmatched software item.

The result is a catalog so complete that the solution can automatically discover and recognize virtually any software, anywhere it may be deployed in the infrastructure, all with no scripting and no custom code.

This agent-driven design also means that the solution can continually track compliance. Instead of occasionally updated spreadsheets that are occasionally correct, the organization always has near-perfect knowledge of the number of copies it has of all software packages, complete with the versions deployed and the logical locations of those versions.

What about the special case of a cloud? To Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis, it's not special at all. As new virtual servers are created and provisioned, each contains an Endpoint Manager agent included in the server image. Once provisioned, the agent discovers all the software in the virtual server, and reports back to the Endpoint Manager server... which then incorporates that information in its on-screen overview of software use, or any reports that may be generated.

Furthermore, because of its continuous updating and accuracy, the organization also has new power to generate those reports at will. They can be scheduled at times of demand (such as a government audit) or at times of convenience to business processes, and they never require a lengthy, painstaking inventory process of the type familiar to most organizations lacking such a solution.

Benefits that span the complete software lifecycle

A number of compelling additional business benefits stem from this design. Among others:

And because Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis is part of the larger Endpoint Manager family, its value becomes multiplied when other members of that family have been deployed, and it can contribute to the much larger process of managing software throughout its full lifecycle.

Some examples include:

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