By Rebecca Mack
Part 1: Discovery, Inventory, Software Identification, Normalization and Rationalization
Today I’d like to talk briefly about some of the recommended steps to take to gain control of your software estate. Many organizations are overwhelmed by the number of applications in their environment and have a difficult time delineating between commercial, freeware, and component applications. Part 1 of this blog series will cover the steps required to gain visibility into your software estate.
Discovery and Inventory
One of the first steps we recommend is to implement a hardware and software discovery and inventory tool and make sure the inventory agent is on all of your machines. You will want to wrap a policy around keeping the agent on the machines and perform quarterly audits to make sure you are capturing everything you own—for both hardware and software assets. Many organizations already have multiple discovery and inventory tools deployed, and in that case, one of the critical needs is to have a software asset management (SAM) and license optimization solution that can aggregate the data from multiple sources.
Software Identification and Normalization
Once you have the raw inventory data in-hand, you need tools that can accurately identify the software installed on each device—ideally this means you determine the publisher, title, version and edition of the software product. This requires an “application recognition library” that contains rules to identify hundreds of thousands of applications from thousands of software vendors. Your SAM tool should also be able to distinguish the commercial applications from the freeware and have the ability to recognize suites and bundles. Another part of this process is normalization of the data so that all of the identified assets use standard naming conventions to uniquely identify that hardware or software. For example, the naming convention could be “Microsoft Office Professional 2010” rather than “Microsoft Office Pro 2010” or “MS Office Professional 2010”. Normalization ensures that you are getting accurate counts of each of your unique software titles.
These first three steps (Discovery & Inventory, Software Identification, and Normalization) give you good visibility into what is installed in your IT environment.
The fourth step is standardizing the set of applications in your IT environment and removing the applications you don’t need, either because they are redundant or because they are no longer useful—a process called rationalization. Once you have a solid understanding of what is in your environment you will want to start standardizing your applications and getting everyone on the same version. An application packaging and compatibility testing solution is very helpful in this regard. You could even lock down the machines to keep employees from installing rogue applications on their computers. As you are managing your applications you can categorize them into black list, white list, and grey list and then you can easily pull reports to show who is in compliance with your policies and who has applications in the environment that should not be there.
Implementing a hardware and software inventory tool, understanding what is installed in your environment, and locking down your machines will really help you manage what is being installed in your environment. As you are standardizing your applications it will be easier to establish an accurate license position and true up your license counts at the end of every year, as required by certain vendors and license agreements. When software is properly packaged for deployment, it reduces help desk time to support these applications. It also reduces remediation issues when you have everyone on the latest version and you have tested out your applications against your gold image.
The next blog in this series will discuss the process for managing and optimizing your license entitlements.
To learn more about optimizing your software estate, please read our white paper: What Does it Take to Achieve Software License Optimization?