Whittle down application sprawl

Getting rid of old, unsecured, or unused software is not easy. Do it correctly, though, and you can save IT time and money

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Gordon says he's fortunate to be in the highly regulated financial industry because it forces him to keep tight control over his application portfolio. But even in the span of a year, application sprawl or abandonment can occur.

"We'll suspect an application is going unused and log in to see that it has had 400 patches pending a reboot and all the services have stopped. Yet no one has called looking for the application," he says. Luckily, once unused applications are retired, because the environment is virtualized, all underlying resources, including CPU and storage, can be immediately absorbed back into the shared enterprise pool.

Invoices don't show everything, though, as Gordon found. His employees were using a freeware PDF creator. However, adware started to creep in and degrade the user experience. He explained the performance degradation and the security risk to company executives and received the go-ahead to purchase a licensed software package that does the same thing.

In most cases, AMAG Pharmaceuticals' McBride says, his users will approach him about buying and replacing applications. But as a safety net, he does receive invoices for review and has a close relationship with accounts payable.

If he spots or is alerted to an application he wasn't aware of, he approaches the user or department and suggests that they go through IT to improve the application experience. Benefits of doing business with IT include single sign-on (because IT adds approved apps to its Okta identity-management system), backups on Google Drive to easily save data and IT will often find a corresponding iOS app for simplified mobile access. These carrots, he says, make it compelling to work with IT instead of going around them.

He also doesn't consider applications an all-or-nothing proposition. Sometimes he can enable a department to keep an app, but after evaluating actual usage, reduce the number of seats. "If only two people ever log in, we don't need licensing for 20 seats," he says.

Gordon agrees that IT has to get creative in dealing with application portfolio bloat. He says something as simple as asking marketing if they need a specific font license for a limited time only, or if it's truly required in perpetuity, can save money and storage space.

But he adds there are some battles you just can't win. "Everybody has different ways to do the same thing. Even though we spot inefficiencies, in the end it's not our place to manage other people's productivity. We just have to protect the data going into and coming out of those apps," he says.

This story, "Whittle down application sprawl" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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