How to evaluate software asset management tools

IT asset management or ITAM solutions provide comprehensive management of hardware and software assets, both on-prem and in the cloud.

How to evaluate software asset management tools
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The vulnerabilities of the Apache Log4j logging package—and the attacks they’ve drawn—have made one thing very clear: If you haven’t yet implemented a software inventory across your enterprise, now is the time to start evaluating and implementing such tools.

Actually, a software inventory, or software asset management, is just one small subset of the overall space of IT asset management or ITAM. ITAM solutions provide comprehensive management of both hardware and software, including cloud and on-premises servers and endpoints. They track where these assets are now and when they were last seen active across your network, and include reports about all computing assets: servers, switches, routers, communications lines, storage devices, desktop systems, mobile devices, copiers, scanners, and so on.

ITAM systems been around for decades. I recall testing one of the earlier products, Landesk, which is now a part of Ivanti, back in the early 1990s. Since that point in time these tools have become much more sophisticated, capable of tracking assets through their entire lifecycle. Today they assist with patch management and license auditing and have become integrated with service/help desk operations and other common IT administrative tasks. Many of these tools have expanded their scope beyond traditional IT gear to cover all kinds of network-connected devices such as smart speakers and TVs. They can discover cloud-based software too.

Before you dip into this space, realize that there is no consistency on what it is called. Forrester calls this space “enterprise service management” and lists ServiceNow, BMC/Remedy Helix ITSM, Atlassian’s JIRA Service Management, Ivanti/Landesk Neurons, and IFS Asset Manager as leaders in its latest Wave report. Gartner lists 20 different software-only asset management tools such as Snow, Lansweeper, Flexera’s FlexNet Manager, and Zoho/ManageEngine Asset Management.

To add to the confusion, many of these tools also support a configuration management database (CMDB), which also means different things depending on the context. The CMDB is a central repository of all sorts of asset information. Some of the richer collections from BMC/Remedy and ServiceNow have become industry standards that are supported by other asset management tools. To get a sense of the range of offerings in this space, you might want to read this post on CIO.com about 12 IT service management tools.

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