NEWTON, Mass. -- IT administrators have been managing desktop PCs since the first word processing computers landed in business offices in the 1970s and '80s. By now, desktop administration should seem simple, and yet it's anything but.
Behind the scenes, desktops rely on a complex web of contracts, licenses, software inventory, compliance rules and more. To ease this burden, organizations can use IT asset management (ITAM) tools to make sure all of its endpoints and their software are properly deployed, tracked and updated.
One such tool is Ivanti's IT Asset Management Suite, which the company discussed here at its Boston Connect Event for customers. Popular systems management provider LANDesk merged last month with Heat Software and rebranded itself as Ivanti after a spate of other acquisitions.
Asset management is important for several reasons. For one, it helps IT keep track of information that may be required in software and hardware audits. Organizing that data is critical because the average software audit can take up to about 194 hours of IT department time, according to online magazine The ITAM Review.
'We can't account for software'
Patricia AdamsITAM evangelist, Ivanti
Mapfre Insurance, an international company based in Webster, Mass., is currently dealing with an audit that's already lasted for several months. IT analysts from the organization, which uses some LANDesk services, said they would find Ivanti's ITAM tools valuable for audits. They are currently tracking information manually using Microsoft Excel documents, said Mapfre analyst Rick Lapointe.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping track of which devices connect to virtual desktop sessions and what's on the company's Citrix virtual desktops, Lapointe said.
"We can't account for the software that's on them right now," he said.
Ivanti's platform runs in the cloud or on premises and handles virtual and physical desktops, cloud-hosted resources, mobile devices and data center assets. It also provides warehouse stock inventory data, so companies can use a barcode scanning feature to collect information about and then view what hardware they have available to spin up. Lapointe's department has one person in charge of manually locating and entering information about hardware into spreadsheets.
"It would be so much easier to take your phone and scan it in," Lapointe said.
Configuration management, IT asset management need to be integrated
To align configuration management and asset management processes, ITSM expert Derek Lonsdale says start with the data and use an integrated tool set.
Why adopt ITAM?
If IT doesn't keep inventories of hardware purchases, software licenses, vendor agreements and more, it makes it more difficult to do migrations, such as moving to Windows 10. ITAM helps admins catalog what machines it has, where they are, which ones should migrate, and other key data such as serial numbers, warranties and configurations. Migrations are also a good time to review licenses to make sure IT isn't overpaying for any underused hardware or applications. IT asset management tools provide a comprehensive view of all that information.
Without clear insight into endpoints and applications, organizations can also fall victim to shadow IT without even knowing it. That can cause licensing, security and compliance issues, said Patricia Adams, ITAM evangelist at Ivanti.
"A lot of business units in companies have their own budgets and go out and buy whatever cloud app they want," she said.
Keeping track of licenses can also help organizations identify money-saving opportunities; for instance, running a certain application in the cloud instead of on premises, or vice versa, could present the opportunity to adopt a cheaper licensing model. But licenses are notoriously tricky to keep track of.
"There's no consistency across software providers as to how they license software," Adams said.
Ivanti's platform this month added a new License Optimizer feature for managing particularly complex server-based software licenses, such as those from VMware, Oracle, IBM and other providers.
Ivanti ITAM also offers asset lifecycle management, which is key when onboarding and offboarding employees. For instance, if an employee is leaving the organization, the tool can ensure that the necessary applications are removed from any devices they're taking with them and that they return any corporate-owned endpoints in their proper form before departing.
"Without a standard offboarding process, you're exposing the organization to risk," Adams said.
Get to know ITAM best practices
Hardware management tips for the channel
How to choose an ITAM platform