One of the thornier problems that companies have is that they have no idea what equipment they actually own. I know that sounds strange, but when someone needs a disk drive in an organization, he simply goes and buys it. Few companies account for how many disks they own, how many are deployed, or what storage capacity is out there on their network. The waste is astonishing.
For network assets like servers, switches, clients, and deployed software, the accounting ranges from poor to non-existent; and over time as companies grow and equipment and resources are depreciated and removed from service, or new ones added, network managers can have a hard time assessing their company's situation. The task of network asset management is one that benefits greatly from the deployment of asset management software.
There are different categories of asset management software, and which one you may want may be dictated by your current deployment. For example, if your company uses a network framework like Computer Associates Unicenter TNG, HP OpenView, BMC Patrol, or IBM Tivoli, then you will find that these vendors offer asset management software designed to snap into their frameworks and make use of their framework assets. You should check with your solution provider to see what software it offers.
Here are some tips on evaluating packages. The first important capability is the quality of the auto discovery feature. Find out what information can be collected, and what limitations it might have. Ideally, the software you buy should identify equipment such as clients and servers, switches, routers, and other devices. Asset management often contains a function that actually maps your network and shows the different connections. As network managers are responsible for maintaining software-licensing requirements, you may need this function to be part of your asset management software. Often, asset management packages not only collect licensing information but will actually deploy new software and upgrades for you. Some software packages will also come with policy engines that inhibit or allow certain behaviors.
Asset management packages are major software acquisition with high costs. But they promise fast payback in the form of reduced future purchases and lowered administration costs. Make sure that you thoroughly investigate any package that you intend to deploy and the group that will be deploying the software for you.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.
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