As software deployment options increase and licensing models evolve, these have made software asset management (SAM) more complicated. That said, observers stressed that the extra investments and effort put into SAM will be worth it in the long run.
According to Rohit Partha, industry analyst of ICT practice Asia-Pacific at Frost & Sullivan, software asset management is about better planning and control of a company's software assets to handle technological or organizational changes and the ensuing risks that could be brought about by using these tools.
While this principle remains unchanged over the years, new software delivery methods such as cloud computing and virtual platforms as well as new licensing models have all added complexity to SAM, he noted.
For instance, the benefits of software-as-a-service (SaaS) are realized only if the service is well supported by an organization's IT asset management tools, processes and people, he said. "Without proper control over request and allocation, capacity can quickly be wasted and improper use of software licenses may occur."
"In terms of compliance, companies that use SaaS have to also ensure their service providers and cloud environment meet industry-specific and universal compliance requirements," Partha added.
The analyst pointed out that cloud computing currently lacks a standard licensing management approach. The licensing model is also expected to continue evolving as cloud vendors look for more ways to get a larger share of their clients' IT spend by extending services or bundling add-ons to existing products, he stated.
"The very same benefits of cloud computing that is [now] driving adoption might come back and bite enterprises that are not cautious enough on licensing," he cautioned.
Darryl Carlton, research director of applications strategy and governance at Gartner, agreed that new software delivery models complicate SAM processes.
For instance, if a company created a Web-based application meant for staff, customers and partners to assess, then the number and frequency of users can no longer be reliably estimated. This could lead to complexities if the license agreement is based on the number of users accessing an application, he explained.
Still, one bonus with cloud computing is the simplification of licensing agreements, Carlton noted. He said the "no software mantra" espoused by cloud service providers mean that licenses are for users, rather than the software, so the burden of license compliance and version control falls on vendors instead.
The Gartner analyst added that the trend of mobility within the enterprise arena helps make monitoring software use simpler, too. On mobile platforms, the end-user component of an application is usually freely available or provided through a Web browser, and this makes log-ins and usage easy to track, he said
Reap long-term benefits
The increase of software deployment options and the related licensing issues inevitably mean companies will have to spend more time and money with their software asset management systems, highlighted Partha. However, it is important companies continue to focus on SAM as it helps them meet compliance requirements and manage costs more effectively.
He urged companies to take a long-term view of their investments in such asset management systems and understand that, if done effectively, will help bring about cost savings and preempt any legal and financial risks.
Roland Chan, senior director of marketing for Asia-Pacific at Business Software Alliance (BSA), added that software asset management is ultimately meant to enable companies to utilize their IT investments to the best of their abilities.
The SAM model would have taken into account the best software needed and the delivery option that will satisfy the organization's needs across a period of time, rather than piecemeal or immediate needs, he said.
"[As such,] it doesn't matter what delivery model a company chooses, because the planning and subsequent implementation in itself would be managed in a systematic way," he stated.
SAM, therefore, ensures that a company achieves maximum productivity and security through its IT utilization, which in itself is definitely a worthwhile investment, Chan concluded.