Software Asset Management: Cloud or Not?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | April 22, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: If your email, calendar, and apps are all in the cloud, why not do the same with your software asset management tools?

Ken Hess

Ken Hess

Cloud

or

Not

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Not

29%
71%

Audience Favored: Not (71%)

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check

    Are my debaters standing by?

    Readers, thanks for joining. Please note that -- starting at 11am ET / 8am PT --  this page will refresh automatically after each question or answer is posted.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Ready here


    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    Check.


    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, first question:

    In the age of BYOD and cloud apps where traditional software licensing is increasingly becoming an anachronism, explain why Software Asset Management still matters.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Still relevant and will be for some time

    It is true that some software licensing is moving toward a subscription model but not all of it has nor will it for some time to come--years, in fact. Software Asset Management (SAM) still matters because it still matters to software authors and copyright holders. For example, Microsoft still licenses most of its software through traditional methods and those licenses have to be managed and maintained. SAM is still relevant and will be for some time.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    Cloud trap

    It's true that the shift into the cloud has changed the playing field with respect to software licensing and Software Asset Management, but it is important to note that not everything is in the cloud.

    In fact, the move to cloud computing, where usage is carefully metered and logged by the vendor, increases the need for asset management because it is easy to overlook the fact that locally-installed software isn't also being metered by the vendor.

    This is a trap that no big corporation wants to find themselves in.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the biggest risks a company faces if it does not do Software Asset Management well?


    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Perhaps the biggest risk is financial if it's found to be out of license compliance.

    Fines for license violations are stiff--much higher than the cost of the actual licenses. The Business Software Alliance is an advocacy group and an enforcement authority that levies those fines when companies are found to be out of compliance. SAM is an important part of business software license management and is just another cost of doing business. On the other end of the spectrum, businesses risk losing profit by not managing licenses by paying for licenses that they're not using. A good SAM program prevents this "license sprawl."

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    There are plenty of risks...

    ...all bad for the company in one way of another:

    - Running outdated or obsolete software
    - Poor security compliance
    - Poor patch management
    - Impaired worker productivity arising from poor distribution of software tools
    - Having too many or too few licenses
    - Nightmares come audit time
    - Huge fines resulting from non-compliance

    There are no downsides from not keeping track of software – other than the short-term, myopic timesaving gained from not doing it in the first place.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the core principles of good Software Asset Management?


    Posted by Jason Hiner

    The principles are all financial in nature

    I think the core principles of any software asset management program are: risk management, cost savings, inventory tracking, and legal compliance. The principles are all financial in nature. You manage risk to minimize losses due to security breaches and certainly you want to avoid any legal risks by maintaining an up-to-date inventory. The core principles are interrelated and they all really boil down to money. Companies try to retain profits by implementing a SAM program. Squandering money on fines and lawsuits is a great way to drain profits from a business.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    This is a huge question...

     ...but at the core of all Software Asset Management tools should:

    - Be built around the ISO 19770 and ITIL standards
    - Be accurate
    - Have a low network overhead
    - Be built around the twin principals of security and backup
    - Be capable of generating compliance reports compatible with all vendors
    - Be able to create reports for management, IT operations and purchasing
    - Come with a maintenance agreement for when things go wrong

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Good solutions?

    Are there good solutions for Software Asset Management that can deal with the complexities of today's various software solutions, from traditional installed apps to internal web apps to cloud apps?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Yes, I know of one.

    Now, realize that I'm not just talking about license management, when I say yes to this. There are plenty of solutions that can deal with license management. When I refer to SAM, I mean the whole gamut of services from software deployment to license management to patch management and operating system deployment.

    If there's one product that comes very close to meeting all aspects of SAM, it HP's Software Automation (HPSA) tool suite, formerly known as Opsware. It does everything and it does it on a small scale or on a worldwide scale. I have no experience with the product in a cloud scenario but having quite a bit of experience with it in all other aspects, I can't imagine that it has any limitations when applied to cloud scenarios.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    Depends on your needs

    Yes, but rather than recommend a particular company over another, my advice to companies is to request demos and make sure that the Software Asset Management solution does what YOU want it to do.

    Some organizations have simple needs, others are much more complex, and a good solution should be tailored to your individual needs.

    Always remember, it is YOU that is responsible for your software asset management, and it is YOU that will be answerable if things aren't as they should be.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Installed app?

    What are the best reasons for using a traditional third-party installed app for Software Asset Management?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    If you have a smaller environment...

    ...there's nothing wrong with using a traditional application for SAM. The problem arises when you have to traverse multiple networks, the public Internet, or non-traditional software sources. By non-traditional, I mean mobile devices. Most SAM solutions have a practical limit of a few hundred devices because of the number of applications, patches, operating system updates and licenses to manage.

    Before selecting a SAM tool or suite, I'd find out what the practical limitations are (not the theoretical ones) and count up what you have. If you're well below the limit, then you're probably fine to go with a traditional solution.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    While I have nothing against cloud services...

    ...I think that an important task such as Software Asset Management is one that's better suited to a local solution.

    Not only do you have more control, and a greater level of connection and interaction with the software, but you're also in the driving seat when it comes to backup and security. If you're the kind of person that has their ducks in a row with respect to backup and security, then handing over that responsibility to a third party in the cloud won't come easy.

    Again, remember, it is you that is ultimately responsible for your software asset management. Hand that responsibility over at your peril!

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the best reasons for using a cloud solution?


    Posted by Jason Hiner

    More than a few hundred devices

    A cloud solution is for those who need to manage more than a few hundred devices, instances, endpoints or whatever they're being called by vendors these days. Traditional solutions just can't keep up unless you're willing to spend a lot of money to purchase the necessary hardware, software, mainenance contracts and then pay for someone to maintain them.

    Cloud solutions take some of the financial pain away but don't expect miracles just yet on that front.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    The primary reason that people switch to the cloud is price.

    Cloud solutions are touted as being cheaper because it allows organizations to buy in the level of service they need.

    This is how cloud services are sold – and it is not specific to Software Asset Management – but it isn't how it always works out in practice. The only way that you can be certain that taking the cloud route will be the cheapest option is by taking a look at the offerings, carefully assessing your needs, and comparing this to locally-installed options.

    As with everything, don't believe the sales pitch – always put it to the test.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are drawbacks...

    ...of using a traditional third-party installed app for Software Asset Management?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Practical limitations

    You only get so much bang for your buck from a traditional solution before you have to spend more bucks. So, to put it in plain english, scalability is the major drawback of traditional third party SAM solutions. The scalability problem is well known.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    You have to do more work

    The biggest drawback of locally-installed Software Asset Management software compared to the cloud offering is that you have to do more work. Not much more, but there are additional factors that you are responsible for. These include:

    - Security
    - Backup
    - Uptime

    These are things that any system admin worth their salt should already be covering, so adding your Software Asset Management tools under that umbrella should be too much of an effort.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are drawbacks of using a cloud solution?


    Posted by Jason Hiner

    The only one that I can see is flexibility.

    I think that cloud solutions are less flexible than traditional software ones because cloud SAM isn't as mature as traditional solutions are. Frankly, I think companies that use cloud SAM solutions are probably mixing them with traditional solutions.

    I think the day for a 100 percent handoff to a cloud solution is coming soon but companies, especially the larger ones, are still a little reluctant to break with traditional solutions in the short term.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    I've covered some of these already, but can be summed up as follows:

    - Potential for downtime
    - Loss of control over factors such as security and backup
    - The chance that a cloud solution doesn't cover all your needs

    Also, any company that's planning to make the switch from a local solution to a cloud solution needs to think carefully about additional downsides such as migration and data integrity.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Principles of a good cloud choice?

    Is the choice of cloud vs. on-premises software for Software Asset Management similar or different to the general principles of making a good cloud choice?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's different

    If I understand the question correctly, I have to say that it's different. And it's different because you're looking for different features from a SAM solution than those of say, storage or virtual desktops. For example, you might want the "always on" feature of cloud computing but does geographic diversity matter to you for SAM. So, I'd say from that standpoint, the choices are different.

     

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    It's essentially the same.

     In fact, cloud versus on-premises software really boils down to making the right choice for your companies needs. The principals are the same – shortlist a selection of possible solutions that you think might fit the bill, research and test these as extensively as you can, and then pick the one that works for you.

    What I'm advocating is not avoiding cloud services, or banishing them from your shortlist of options, but encouraging you to look beyond the cloud hyperbole and make your choices based on fact, not sales pitches and fantasy.

     

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Finally...

    Sum up your number one reason why a company should choose cloud or traditional installed software for Software Asset Management.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Expense.

    The cloud solution is going to be less expensive obviously. On premise solutions are always more expensive than cloud solutions are. Because you're service is dedicated with a traditional solution and cloud solutions are multi-tenant.

    In other words, when you build your own solution, it's like building your own car--it's very expensive to do that but it probably meets every one of your needs and wants. Alternatively, if you purchase a car that was mass produced, it will take care of 95 percent or more of your needs and wants. It's also a lot cheaper to buy rather than build because the manufacturer has the advantage of volume.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Cloud

    Availability.

    The number one reason is that to choose a traditional, locally-installed Software Asset Management solution is availability. Cloud solutions are great – until the cloud evaporates and leaves everyone twiddling their thumbs or pacing about waiting for it to reappear.

    Cloud downtimes are a pain at the best of times, but imagine that happening during a software audit?

    The biggest problem with cloud services is that when things go wrong – as things inevitably do – there's little we can do other than yell at the service provider and wait for service to resume. It's all out of out control.

    And I for one don't like that.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Not

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thank you, debaters -- and readers

    Please check back tomorrow for our debaters' closing arguments, and Thursday for my final verdict.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

Talkback

14 comments
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  • Cloud is a buzzword

    More than it is a beneficial business strategy. Small to mid-sized business with not benefit from cloud solutions as much as larger business might. Solid sound IT strategy aligned with the business trumps any technical solution every time.
    ammohunt
    Reply Vote I'm for Not
  • The businesses I worked for . . .

    The businesses I've worked for used separate things for purchasing and deploying software. Full SAM as defined by the Wikipedia I haven't really seen yet.

    Scaling was never really a problem - once approved and purchased, I could push software out with a touch of a button. So I'm not really convinced that simply moving to the cloud will solve any scaling issues, as the businesses I've worked for have no scaling issues to begin with.

    "Think about the bandwidth drain for large patches, application rollouts and new or updated OS deployments."

    Moving to "the cloud" would also add the last mile problem as yet another bottleneck.

    "Cloud-based software management can ease network this bottleneck by leveraging the public Internet user's personal broadband connections for delivery."

    Assuming BYOD. Which has its own drawbacks, and is nowhere near as universal as ZDNet claims.

    And it still wouldn't resolve internal network issues, as no business I know of is actually dumping their internal network and throwing away their desktops.


    Ken seems to think "the cloud" is a magical, fix-everything entity that the laws of physics do not apply to. Frankly, I'd like to see solid, specific examples, not this magic-speak.
    CobraA1
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Private cloud, maybe ... public cloud, NO!

    If your enterprise is large enough to move Asset Management to the cloud in order to meet your scalability needs, then it needs to be a private cloud in the organization's machine room. Why? Because asset management is a huge responsibility, requiring meticulous record keeping and 100% access - potentially at any time, 24/7.

    The risks of putting mission-critical information (and asset management can be a mission-critical function) into a cloud managed by an outside interest are high.
    M Wagner
    Reply Vote I'm for Not
  • Cloud cannot be stopped

    Until you've worked for a small organization or a mid sized organization and seen the cost of a server rack's ups going out or the slow downs to users in other parts of the country you cannot comprehend the value of the cloud. Furthermore, everyone is getting sourced in one way or another. Sourcing is far easier for organizations when they adopt a cloud strategy.
    butter44
    Reply Vote I'm for Cloud
    • Right... because it takes a genius...

      To put in redundant power. :rolleyes:
      mikedees
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Cloud

    "The Cloud" is just a variation of client-server networks that have been around for some time. The major difference is who owns the servers. But it does not change who is ultimately responsible for data and data security. It is not an external cloud vendor who is ultimately responsible but the originator of the data.

    The cloud does have uses but one should not blind oneself to one's responsibilities and real needs.

    Another issue with "The Cloud" is ultimately who is really benefiting - the company or the cloud vendor. Many of the "solutions" seem to primarily benefit the cloud vendor not the company particularly in the longer term.
    Linux_Lurker
    Reply Vote I'm for Not
  • these debates are so hopeless

    letting people vote before the full debate is concluded simply polls for existing biases.

    One of the stupider aspects of ZDNet.
    hrlngrv 
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • The argument for a hybrid model

    Unfortunately, there is no simple yes or no answer to whether your SAM solution should be hosted in the cloud. What’s right for one organization will not be right for the next. Here are some initial thoughts on the main considerations around how to manage SAM and whether this should lead organizations toward or away from the cloud.

    What’s in the cloud?
    Most organizations involved in SAM today either use an on-premise solution, where the administration and reporting consoles, and the main repository are all located within the corporate network, or contract a managed service where a third-party takes responsibility for much of the data collection, processing and preparation of reports. In the latter case, the customer usually accesses these management reports through a web browser – and so, in some ways, will view this as a Cloud-based service (regardless of whether the service provider is hosting the infrastructure in their own datacenter or in the cloud).

    In the managed service example, providing there is trust in the model, the customer doesn’t really care whether the data is on-site or in the cloud (obvious exceptions to this include military, police, healthcare etc).

    For organizations managing their own SAM program, they may want to consider alternative models to investing in the necessary infrastructure to host the SAM applications and repository(ies).

    Why Cloud?
    Most organisations outsource their SAM programs, because they lack the internal skills and leadership required to protect, control and maintain the company’s software assets . Outsourcing this task, therefore, is the most reliable and cost effective way of fast-tracking the organisation’s SAM objectives. Combining a third parties qualified software license specialists with an associated cloud based business tool is very appealing to many senior managers, therefore, SAM in the cloud is a serious option for many companies.

    How big is your SAM?
    For most organizations, SAM is not a major consumer of processing power or storage space (or, at least, it shouldn’t be!). As such, the arguments to put SAM into the cloud on these principles are somewhat weak. There are other solutions that will no doubt provide bigger savings or productivity gains to the organization by being moved to a cloud-based infrastructure. In fact, certain elements of SAM such as inventory collection and application deployment are likely to consume more bandwidth and resources in the cloud than they do if present within the corporate network. Inventory solutions, for example, can be difficult enough to configure when audits are being reported within the same domain – reporting up to the cloud will present a number of additional challenges which may well outweigh any supposed gains.

    The argument for a hybrid model
    Rather than choosing just on-site or just cloud based SAM, there is an argument for organizations to pick and choose the model that best suits the individual components of their SAM program (after all, many organizations will use multiple tools to cover inventory, license management, application deployment, reporting etc.). Given that many organizations lack the in-house skills to interrogate and interpret licensing data, this is an example of where the in-house collection of data could then be hosted off-site (potentially in the cloud) and worked on by third-party SAM experts to provide effective guidance and management reports on how the organization can optimize both existing entitlements and make better purchasing decisions.
    Matt_Fisher_LD
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Does you SAM belong in the clouds

    Well, if you're talking Surface to Air Missles, I suppose yes.

    It's where jets work best, or so I've heard.
    William Farrel
    Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • Now that...

      Was funny.
      Royce Cannon
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided