Why Do Software Asset Management Tools Stink at Software Asset Management?

Why Are Software Asset Management Tools So Bad at Software Asset Management?

Software Asset Management Tools are all basically imperfect solutions to the challenging task of Software Asset Management.   We all want to know what software has been deployed and be able to correlate that with the licenses that we own.  On the surface it sounds pretty simple yet in our experience pretty much all Software Asset Management Tools are somewhat bad at Software Asset Management.   Here are the top 6 reasons that these tools fail to deliver on their promises.

Reason #1. Bad Inventory Data

The old saying “Garbage in, Garbage out” holds true when considering Software Asset Management tools.   Capturing accurate inventory data of what has been deployed on your network is a critical component of software asset management.  Some of the common culprits that cause the process to break down include inconsistent data sources.  By this I mean naming conventions.   If you have good process and discipline around this, it makes it much easier to accurately identify development and test environments for instance.

Reimaging can also cause challenges as they sometimes create a custom ID Tag as part of the reimaging process.  This can cause the asset to no longer be recognizable by the tool.

Reason #2. Failure to Account for Duplicates.

One of the most frustrating occurrences is when Software Asset Management tools double count the deployment of software assets.  We often see this happen when updates have been applied to software, but the old installation is not completely removed and replaced with the update.  As a result, many software asset management tools will count both copies of the software instead of just one.

Reason #3. Failure to Identify Development and Test Environments

A clearly defined production environment is so critical as the underlying software that is deployed is what the analysis is based upon.  Mixing production and non-production instances is often confusing from an audit perspective and could lead to software asset management tools showing incorrect licensing requirements based on flawed data.   We strongly recommend having solid naming conventions and, if possible, dedicated non-production environments.

Reason #4. Licensing Models Change

The only thing that is constant in software licensing is that licensing models change and sometimes with very little to no notice at all.  This is a huge challenge for software asset management tools.   For example, in the last few years we have seen Microsoft SQL Server change to Core Based licensing from per CPU/Per Named User/Device.  In addition, traditional software licensing models are increasingly being turned on their head as cloud computing becomes and more prevalent.  Remember that each and every software vendor has a unique licensing model that can change at any time.  We are also seeing vendors focus on the installation of software on a server accessible by a community of users.

Read About the Dangers of Audit From Smaller Software Vendors

The point is that these models are constantly in flux and most software asset management tools are somewhat static.  In order to get good data a separate optimization process is usually required.

Reason #5 Virtualization and Cloud Models Add Complexity.

On the surface it would seem that cloud computing could have the potential to make software asset management somewhat obsolete.   Unfortunately, the reality is that it had increased the complexity involved in software licensing and inventory.  Most mid-sized to larger organizations operate hybrid cloud environments in which workloads and assets transition from being cloud based to on premise and back again.   Hybrid cloud environments are an absolute necessity for most organizations, but they dramatically increase the complexity of software asset management and licensing in general.  For more information check out this webinar we recorded about it.

Click Here to Watch

Reason #6 OEM and Retail Box Purchases

OEM and retail box purchases of software can also confuse software asset management tools.   In the case of OEM licenses, they arrive in the environment with the purchase of new hardware.  Depending on the vendor you may or may not uplift them to volume licenses or you may just let them exist as standalone installations.  The problem will be that if they continue to exist as OEM licenses they will not appear in your volume licensing statements and will cause reconciliation and potentially contractual issues for your organization.  The same holds true for retail box purchases.  Furthermore, both OEM and retail box licenses may have very different rules in terms of usage than volume licensing.

What’s the solution?

The bad news is there isn’t a single software asset management tool that truly automates software asset management and does it well.   At MetrixData360 we developed a managed service called SAM Compass which provides you with the best of both worlds.  SAM Compass combines inventory tools with licensing optimisation and then adds software licencing expertise to provide a holistic solution.

Want to learn more about SAM Compass?  Click Here and Scroll Down

Register for our SAM Compass Webinar Here!

Further Reading


System Center Configuration Manager – Windows Update Model

This week we will be talking about Microsoft outlines Windows Update Model Using System Center Configuration Manager; Microsoft’s newest Windows Server test build adds new storage, failover clustering updates; and Microsoft challenges Chromebooks with $189 Windows 10 laptops for schools.

Microsoft Outlines Windows Update Model Using System Center Configuration Manager

Microsoft kicked off a video series describing how to update Windows 10 using System Center Configuration Manager recently.  The nature of the updates for Windows, Internet Explorer and NET Framework and how they get updated monthly is outlined. The article below describes how both Windows 10 systems and older Windows operating systems get updated. For Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to move its customers away from selectively choosing which patches to apply each month utilizing automation. However, this can lead to problems.

Windows 10 updates follow a cumulative model, where a monthly update release contains prior patches. Microsoft started the cumulative update scheme when they launched Windows 10.

There were 9 update types that were identified in the article:

  • Critical Update: a widely released fix for non-security software flaws
  • Definition Update: a widely released update to a definitive database
  • Drivers: an update to the system that manages hardware
  • Security Update: a widely released fix for a software vulnerability
  • Service Pack: a between-version cumulative update that largely applies to “legacy” or older software
  • Tool Update: an update to a utility software program
  • Security-Only Update: an update released each month that contains all of the security updates for that month, but which is not cumulative • Monthly Rollup: a set of cumulative updates that include both security and reliability updates • Preview of Monthly Rollup: a tested cumulative set of new quality updates packaged together for distribution in the next month, containing what was included in the prior month, but excluding security updates.

Updates are cumulative for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. The updates typically arrive on “update Tuesdays,” or the second Tuesday of the month.

Update releases get more complicated for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012/R2 systems. They have “standalone” and “cumulative” patch options. The NET Framework also has such options.  I know we here at MetrixData360 struggle on patch Tuesday as our users are unable to use their laptops for long periods of time as the updates install.

For more information please visit the Redmond Magazine article here.

Microsoft’s newest Windows Server test build adds new storage and failover clustering updates

Microsoft released a new test build of Windows Server 1803 to Insider testers on Jan. 16.  Windows Server 17074 includes some enhancements to Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) and failover clustering. As Server users may recall, S2D didn’t make it into Windows Server 1709, allegedly because it wasn’t meeting quality standards. Microsoft is hoping to add it back to the coming 1803 release.  Storage Spaces Direct spans Windows Server clusters and creates a bus which allows all the servers in the cluster to see each other’s local drives.  S2D was introduced as a feature of Windows Server 2016 and described by Microsoft as “the foundation for our hyper-converged platform.”

In preview build 17074, Microsoft removes the requirement for SCSI Enclosure Services for S2D to be compatible, which “unlocks a new breath of new hardware which was not capable of running S2D,” says a Microsoft blog post.  S2D also now supports Persistent (Storage Class) Memory and supports Direct-connect SATA devices to AHCI controller, also enabling users to run it on lower-cost hardware.

If you are interested in the new features you can read the Zdnet article here: 

Microsoft challenges Chromebooks with $189 Windows 10 laptops for schools

Microsoft is really pushing for schools to keep using Windows. They are launching new Windows 10 and Windows 10 S devices that are priced starting at just $189. The software giant is also partnering with the BBC, LEGO, NASA, PBS, and Pearson to bring a variety of Mixed Reality and video curricula to schools.  Lenovo has created a $189 100e laptop. It’s based on Intel’s Celeron Apollo Lake chips, so it’s a low-cost netbook designed for schools.  Lenovo is also introducing its 300e, a 2-in-1 laptop with pen support, priced at $279.

The new Lenovo devices are joined by two from HP, with a Windows Hello laptop priced at $199 and a pen and touch device at $299.  All four laptops will be targeted towards education, designed to convince schools not to switch to Chromebooks.

Part of Microsoft’s school push is related to content for teachers to use with these laptops. Microsoft is planning to release a new Chemistry Update for Minecraft: Education Edition this spring. It will focus on experimentation like building compounds or tackling stable isotopes. It’s a free update for everyone using the Education Edition of Minecraft.

Microsoft is also tweaking Word for Mac, Outlook desktop, and OneNote for iPad / Mac to include a new immersive reader that helps with reading and writing. In addition Microsoft is making some Mixed Reality content available for both the HoloLens and the range of Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Pearson, the world’s largest education company, will start distributing a new curriculum in March that will work on HoloLens and they will release new apps for students.

Microsoft has announced that students can receive a 10% discount on HoloLens to tempt schools into trying out its augmented reality headset. Windows Mixed Reality headsets will still be the cheaper option for schools, though.

MetrixData360 knows that the education market (and developers, remember that famous Steve Balmer video) were key to Microsoft market dominance in the late 90’s.  For many years, Microsoft lost focus on this market where our kids learn and choose their platforms early in life. It appears Microsoft is trying to reconnect with students and hopefully develop another generation of workers who grew up with and love Microsoft products.  Time will see if this push is to late or if companies like Google and Facebook can break into Microsoft’s enterprise dominance with the next generation of workers.

Meltdown and Spectre (and other news)

This week we will be talking about the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws in virtually all phone and computer chips that has been dubbed as ‘one of the worst CPU bugs ever found’; Microsoft Unified Support Bringing Increased costs for organizations; and automating Azure license assignment in Microsoft Azure.

Meltdown and Spectre

Security flaws have been found in virtually all phone and computer chips as ‘one of the worst CPU bugs ever found’ has been detected.  Security researchers have disclosed a set of flaws recently that could potentially let hackers steal sensitive information from almost every modern computing device containing chips from Intel, AMD and ARM.

This is a very specific bug which relates to Intel, but there is another one that affects laptops, desktops, computers, smartphones, tablets and internet services alike.  Intel and ARM have insisted that the issue is not a design flaw but that it will require users to download a patch and update their operating system to fix it. Phones, PCs, everything are going to have some impact, but it will vary from product to product.

Researchers have identified two flaws; Meltdown and Spectre.  Meltdown affects Intel chips and lets hackers bypass the hardware barrier between applications run by users and the computer’s memory, potentially letting hackers read a computer’s memory and steal passwords. The second; called Spectre, affects chips from Intel, AMD and ARM lets hackers potentially trick otherwise error-free applications into giving up secret information. The researchers have indicated that both Apple and Microsoft had patches already in place for users for their desktop computers affected by Meltdown.

Google said in a recent blog post that Android phones running the latest security updates are protected, as are its own Nexus and Pixel phones with the latest security updates.  Gmail users do not need to take any additional action to protect themselves, but users of its Chromebooks, Chrome web browser and many of its Google Cloud services will need to install updates.

Amazon Web services, a cloud computing service used by businesses, said that most of its internet servers were already patched and the rest were in the process of being patched.

If you need help determining if all your devices are patched, MetrixData360 is able to run our SAM Compass process against your servers and devices to provide you with a report of any machines that need immediate attention.

For more details on the article click here

Microsoft Unified Support Bringing Increased Costs for Organizations

Microsoft Unified Support Plan will be replacing other technical support plans including Premier Support in approximately six months and will most likely result in an increase in pricing.

Unified Support will likely be the only Microsoft support offering for organizations worldwide and has three plan offerings: Core, Advanced and Performance. Core is the “affordable access to problem resolution”, while Advanced is “a balance of reactive and preventive support” and Performance offers “personalized support with the fastest response times” and service-level agreements.

The older Premier Support plans typically tasked organizations with tallying up their available “problem resolution” or “reactive” support hours each year before going to Microsoft to get support. With the Unified Support plans, organizations instead have so-called “unlimited hours.” These unlimited support hours are offered as part of the Core, Advanced and Performance Unified Support plans, according to Microsoft. Unified Support costs are tied to an organization’s Software Assurance payments, as well. Software Assurance typically is thought of as an annual cost guaranteeing software upgrades to the next major release, along with some educational perks. In other words, it’s considered to have a separate purpose from getting support.

MetrixData360 knows that a number of organizations that have had Unified Support proposals and that these proposals are increasing pricing anywhere from 10 to 40% over Premier Support options. If you like to discuss your new support options contact your MetrixData360 rep to set up a call to discuss.

For more information see the Redmond Magazine article here:

Automating Azure licenses assignment in Microsoft Azure

One of the tasks that requires extensive time and attention from the operations team is the process of assigning license when moving users to Microsoft’s cloud; especially because there are a lot of licenses and services involved. Microsoft Azure offers a feature that allows any company to automate Azure licenses based on Active Directory groups.  You can just enable the feature.  There are a few ways to assign Azure license in Azure and Office 365 by using web console, mobile applications, and command line interfaces. MetrixData360’s new Managed Service offering (called SAM Compass) has an option for MetrixData360 to administer and manage this for you.  Please contact your MetrixData360 rep if you have any questions.

For the “how to” click here link and follow the steps.