Defining big data
The term “big data” is thrown around these days as though it’s been around for a long time – the concept gained momentum in the early 2000s, but the term itself is still relatively new. The act of storing large amounts of information for analysis is ages old, but with the amount of big data being generated and stored growing exponentially day by day, there are three important factors to consider when choosing a big data plan that saves you time and money:
- Volume: Data comes from many sources. Consider where you will collect it from as well as how to store it
- Velocity: The more sources, the more data comes flooding in. Ensure you have the means to deal with torrents of data
- Variety: From structured to unstructured; database to email, confirm you’re collecting the relevant data in all formats
Where does big data sit within IT asset management?
As IT Asset Management has grown in sophistication and ITAM tools have become better at tracking hardware and software assets, the volume of data collected from all the hardware and software deployed within the organization has ballooned significantly. ITAM data can now be considered “big data.” More than systems and software, ITAM data includes storage, the network and all mobile devices and applications. Inventory or discovery tools will provide visibility into what software and hardware assets are installed and which are actively being used to first understand what is installed and used across your IT estate. When this data has been collected, a license specialist will start to reconcile the install information against your entitlement data and bring any areas of concern to the surface. While this is happening, a hardware specialist will examine the hardware across your estate and compare this with your hardware entitlement information, again, bringing any areas of concern to the surface.
Once you have up-to-date information around what assets are being used, you are in a prime position to discuss licensing terms and contractual agreements with your chosen vendors. This is the power of big data in ITAM.
In order to be truly effective, this gathering/analyzing process needs to be on-going as your estate doesn’t sit still. As staff move and new starters join, and new technologies are implemented (whether authorized or not), your compliance position will be exposed to risk. Asset management forms part of the day-to-day management of your IT environment. To keep up with the changes we have to keep improving our gathering/analyzing processes, which will help your organization to mature and manage technical and financial resources more effectively.
The volume and variety of ITAM big data: The data quality challenge
Most organizations have contracts in place with different vendors and understanding what is being used across the board is vital to managing your IT assets. Due to the complexities of some installed software and hardware, understanding what is being used can become as complicated as the install itself! Add to that the use of cloud, mobiles and virtualization, it is clear to see that software usage has become much more fragmented in recent years. Utilizing a variety of tools to reach all the information across your estate is now essential. Active Directory, for instance, will pick up whether software is being run on a machine, even when your inventory tool hasn’t picked up on the machine due to an error.
When information comes from so many variable sources, it stands to reason that there will be variation in its format causing error when loaded into your ITAM tool. The quality of the data will vary from source to source – some tools are better at tracking some vendors than others, and likewise some specialize in tracking specific hardware too. No single tool is perfect. It’s important therefore to take into account any potential compatibility and data quality issues before making any strategic decisions based on the data at hand. In this relationship between ITAM and big data you need a marriage counsellor to cleanse the data to ensure both sides can enjoy a fruitful relationship.
Manage your ITAM big data for a long-lasting and happy relationship
Using ITAM big data to really understand your IT estate, and how it is being used in your organization, will put you in the best position for contract renewals or when vendor audits come into play. But managing your IT estate is critical. You must keep up-to-date with the latest installs and ensure everyone is using their software and devices while conforming to the terms and conditions.
In order to successfully manage ITAM big data, organizations must take a holistic approach to IT asset management. Siloed processes and poor communication leads to fragmented and ineffective ITAM. Organizations must bring together almost all areas – security, compliance, planning, procurement, operations, vendors and IT – and build on their current data. They must strive for complete visibility, accuracy and consistency in order to save money on IT assets and remain at an optimal compliance position.
While it may be a demanding relationship with many factors at play, big data and ITAM is clearly a marriage made in heaven; providing both parties are aware of – and can work with – each other’s flaws. Big data has lots to say, but ITAM needs a translator to understand him. This relationship needs a marriage counsellor; data cleansing. Providing big data and ITAM continue to see their counsellor (the data cleanser), then their marriage will be a long and prosperous one.
This article was contributed by Libby Phillipps, Marketing Manager at License Dashboard – Always looking to make the working lives of her clients that little bit easier, Libby Phillipps is dedicated to helping IT, Finance, Procurement and SAM professionals deliver savings to their organization with License Dashboard. She is also crazy about her pooch Kes and has a love hate relationship with aerobics and running.