It is often very tempting to see the collection of IT inventory (or call it audit, if you prefer) data as a routine and mundane task that requires little thought or quality assurance. But to fall into that temptation is to risk undermining any IT Asset Management (ITAM) initiatives across the organization. When it comes to auditing the physical attributes of different types of hardware, it’s fair enough to say that the task in hand is pretty much black and white – the processor type is (for the most part!) what it says it is.
Likewise for the disk space, serial number, BIOS and memory information. In the same way, the data collected about the files installed on the target machine are also pretty much clear cut. For example, if a file named ‘winword.exe’ exists on a machine, most tools will reliably report that ‘winword.exe’ has been inventoried on the device. But managing software and software licenses isn’t so easy. Knowing that ‘winword.exe’ is installed on a machine is just a small part of the challenge.
For Software Asset Management (SAM) to be effective, the IT team needs to know the following information:
- What actual software does that file relate to (no-one buys ‘Word.exe’, do they)?
- Who is the software publisher?
- What version is the application?
- What category of application is it?
- Was it installed as part of a bundle or suite, or as a standalone application?
- What type of licenses is suitable to cover this installation?
It’s easy to see that merely reporting what files have been found on a target device is not enough when it comes to actually managing the software inventory.
An effective Software Asset Management solution needs to be able to take the ‘bits and bytes’ data from the inventory (and sometimes automatically combine multiple bits of information) and then turn this somehow into meaningful information – what we at Snow like to call ‘actionable intelligence’ – for the software asset manager.
This is where many inventory solutions fall short. It’s as if they assume that the user will have some inert ability to read a rapid flow of raw information and make sense of it, as per the characters in the Matrix films. Snow takes a different view. While inventory is important. It’s what happens to the inventory data after the initial collection phase that’s far more important.
That’s why Snow has developed something it calls the ‘Software Recognition Service’ (SRS) and why the SRS is designed to work not only with Snow’s own inventory technology but also the most popular third-party audit solutions such as Microsoft SCCM, Altiris, LANdesk, HP DDMI and FrontRange Discovery. All software files (regardless of source) are subject to a multi-stage process designed to provide software asset managers with the most comprehensive and reliable information of what’s installed on the PCs, servers and other devices around the network. The process is illustrated in the infographic below:
Let’s walk through the Software Recognition Service process step-by-step:
A full software inventory is imported into Snow License Manager from the source audit tool
- The software inventory is automatically reconciled against an in-product database of software publishers and applications (as of writing, the Snow SRS supports around 32,000 software publishers and 210,000 applications out-of-the-box). a. The in-product SRS will attempt to recognize all the information outlined in the requirements 1-5 above b. Snow will also calculate the most appropriate license(s) that can be used to cover the installation (note the actual reconciliation process comes later)
- The successfully-identified software is imported into the Snow License Manager software repository, with the publisher name, application name, version and other information all verified and normalized. For the vast majority of software identified on the network (it’s difficult to give a firm figure, as each network is different, but think 95%+), that’s all there is to it. The in-product software recognition engine in Snow License Manager does all the hard work with no manual intervention from the software asset manager. For any files that cannot be automatically recognized, a clever process kicks-off automatically:
- The unrecognized file is uploaded automatically to the Snow SRS portal
- A dedicated team of software recognition experts review the file information and work to identify the publisher, name, version number etc.
- When the team is happy with the recognition, it updates the Global recognition database
- The new recognition information is then automatically downloaded by ALL Snow License Manager local installations within 24 hours*
- The unrecognized files are now recognized and imported into the software repository, complete with all the publisher, application name and version information
- The SRS difference If that sounds a little different to what’s offered by other SAM and ITAM solution vendors, that’s because it is. No other vendor offers the same mix of automated and manual processes required to provide the customer with 100% recognition of the commercial software on their network. Other SAM tools may boast of 95% recognition out-of-the-box, or claim to audit 100% of all software on the target device. Well, that’s great, but what about the 5% of apps that vendor 1 can’t recognize? Or what if vendor 2 can only provide ‘audit’ information rather than actionable intelligence. For software asset managers that enjoy playing detective, vendor 1 and 2 might offer acceptable approaches. But for the majority of SAM professionals, who have more than enough on their plates already, only Snow’s SRS provides an effective solution. What’s more, any work done for one customer benefits all Snow users.
Because the work done by the SRS team at Snow is uploaded daily to the Global recognition database, it is available to all customers within 72 hours. So the chances are that any new software on your network will have already been installed somewhere else and thus will have been processed by the SRS team before you perform your inventory.
The Snow Software Recognition Service is an annual subscription service offered to all Snow License Manager users.
New files on Windows and Mac machines are typically recognized within five working days. The service also supports Linux and UNIX software.
* The actual schedule for update downloads can be determined by the customer, but the default setting is 24 hours.