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Don’t be beguiled by figures: less can count for more

Many Software Asset Management and Inventory solution providers claim software recognition leadership.

But do you fully understand the information being presented by them? In this blog post, I’m going to take a more granular look at software recognition numbers and provide advice on how to determine what you really need to know.

It makes sense, of course, that the more software you have visibility of, the better you can manage your software estate and license compliance. 

But what are the keys to accurate software recognition in the real world? To date at Snow we’ve recorded more than 275 million software signatures. These have been inventoried and imported from across our international customer and partner base into our Software Recognition Service (SRS) which recognizes new and unknown applications across all major enterprise IT platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, UNIX and Linux.

Of these 275 million, naturally many are duplicates as many customers install and use the same software (just think about two readily known vendors – Microsoft and Adobe – and consider how pervasive they are). At this level though, the number of software signatures isn’t all that useful (as impressive as the number might sound).  

What we really want to know the actual number of unique application executables (exes) that can be recognized in the SAM solution’s software recognition database. In Snow’s case, filtering out all the duplication brings the volume of applications down to roughly six million unique software titles or exes.  

Again, it’s an impressive figure, but I’d argue that even now this is not the most important figure.  From an inventory point of view, it can be important to have fully-granular detail on the exact version of software installed across the network. However, in terms of license management and optimization, this granular information usually adds complexity that is detrimental to efficient SAM processes.

Presenting highly granular data on versions, including all those minor ones, usually doesn’t let you map licenses against the software you bought. After all, did you buy Microsoft Visio version 15.0.4420.1017 or did you buy it under the name Microsoft Visio Professional 2013?

So there is one further stage of software recognition necessary before the data is optimized for Software Asset Management: cleansing and normalization.

Once cleansed and normalized, the list of identified software in the Snow SRS global catalog (as of January 7, 2015) stands at 234,300 apps from 35,727 (normalized) software publishers.

We believe this normalized figure is of most value to Software Assets Managers.  Only at this stage can you easily map the software you bought against entitlements and make sense of your licensing position, which you would be unable to do with unique exe recognition alone.

Constantly evolving software recognition

From the moment a new application is discovered by Snow’s Software Recognition Service and all data has been reported, it is mapped and set up so that it will always be recognized in future and will be included in the recognition library typically within a matter of days.

Every night our Software Recognition Service is actively adding new applications to the database.
Indeed, over the past three months, the SRS global recognition catalog has grown by 12,382 applications.


In this way we have created a Software Recognition Community – we capture, analyze and validate all new unrecognized files from customers and SAM partners, process them more quickly than any other SAM vendor and automatically – and anonymously – share the data through nightly updates with all those using the Software Recognition Service to the benefit of all.

Therefore if you install new, yet to be recognized software, our Software Recognition Service will add the application and it will be recognized henceforth if any other company were to install it too.

This way you are assured that your software estate will be covered, even when deploying niche applications, as we aim to be as accurate as possible in recognizing all commercially available software. As you can hopefully now appreciate, making sense of the numbers of applications in a software catalog is crucial for SAM.  We believe that the figures that are really meaningful are the 234,300 normalized applications and 35,727 manufacturers. 

Others may lay claim to recognizing hundreds of thousands, even millions of applications, but ask yourself what their figures truly represent - why would you want a separate listing for every minor version enhancement, surely it’s the ability to map the licensable entity that actually matters.

We and our customers recognize that in this case less is more, and we have no trouble in claiming to be the leader in Software Recognition as sensible stats and dynamic updates are what our ever-growing community appreciates.