Archive for the ‘Software Asset Management’ Category

Corporate SaaS app stores ready to go? VMware Horizon App Manager

May 24, 2011

Does your company consume any SaaS apps, yet? We do. Due to the success of Softcat and the speed with which we have grown, we recently invested in a new HR system – somewhere to track holidays, expenses, training and development etc. It’s great – I now have zero need to use a pen in a work context at last (still have to use them to sign birthday cards, but that’s it!). Unfortunately, the usernames and passwords are not (yet!) aligned with our AD – so there is no single sign-on. Being the awkward ‘user’ that I am, I of course forgot my username…

So I was thinking about this in readiness for this post, and you know what? We already consume a load of SaaS apps that I hadn’t really thought about in those terms. In fact, this is one of my ‘pet hates’ for this industry. Every vendor we deal with – Microsoft, VMware, HP, EMC etc – has a portal, full of really useful information, tech specs, knowledge bases etc. Really handy – but each one requires a different login – and usually a different password policy. Needless to say, there is no identity integration for any of these, so it is a management nightmare.

Over time, I think we will see more and more of this stuff – portals masquerading as SaaS apps (hell, the VMware one is driven by Salesforce.com) and pure SaaS apps, as organisations pursue a hybrid strategy – a mixture of maintaining infrastructure and applications for core services, and bringing in services from outside where that makes more sense.

VMware have for some time been talking about ‘Project Horizon‘, which was planned to address these issues. Well, the first stage of this is now live, with the launch of VMware Horizon App Manager. HAM, as I’m sure it won’t be abbreviated to, extends your corporate identity into cloud services, enabling single-sign on to services such as salesforce.com, Webex etc.

The end goal here, I think, is a ‘corporate app store’, a self-service portal whereby users can gain access to apps hosted both on internal infrastructure and delivered from ‘the cloud’. IT will be responsible for a service catalogue from which the business can select the relevant applications for their needs. Wouldn’t this be better than running around with a CD installing stuff?

There are a few future developments planned already, listed in the press release. There are a few extra I would like to see:

Workflow for requesting applications including line-of-business sign-off.

Metering – who is using what apps? This is an element of Software Asset Management, really – making sure that the software (or Software as a Service!) you have paid for is being used.

Automated de-provisioning of accounts triggered by an HR process – this strikes me as really important in the world of ‘cloud’. If someone leaves your organisation, how do you make sure they don’t still have access to your SaaS apps?

I’m sure we’ll see a profusion of identity services in this space, and I look forward to the day of any app on any device: secured, managed and catalogued by IT…

More from the always-insightful Brian Madden here.

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Microsoft updates cloud licensing

March 30, 2011

The ‘cloud’ industry had some great news today – Microsoft are making their licensing rules significantly more cloud-service friendly.

Up until now, organisations taking cloud services using Microsoft software had to have their licensing covered through something called the SPLA model – the Service Provider Licensing Agreement. This specifically permits, in the EULA, delivery of services to a third party – something which is precluded under ‘traditional’ licensing. There were two issues with this – firstly that customers had frequently already invested in ‘on-premise’ licensing and were therefore having to double-purchase, and secondly the complexities around managing two models of licensing.

As of the 1st of July, Microsoft will issue updated Product Use Rights, which will grant customers with active Software Assurance (SA) the right to deploy certain server workloads (including Exchange, Lync, SQL, SharePoint and CRM) either on their own infrastructure or in ‘the cloud’. This means that the choice of how a customer consumes Microsoft technology is no longer constrained by a customer’s existing licensing investment (assuming they have SA, of course!).

An increase in customer choice can only be seen as an advantage – both for those customers, and for cloud providers who can now novate customers’ existing investments to their platform. Well done Microsoft!

The only downsides I can see are that desktop appears not to be included – so no hosted full desktop as a service (such services are available, but typically based on session-based desktops) and of course that access to these ‘license mobility enhancements’ is restricted to Software Assurance customers. But despite those two small downsides I applaud Microsoft for a forward-thinking move (and it is more of an incentive to include SA).

I can see our Software Asset Management Team will have to introduce a Cloud Licensing Mobility Readiness Assessment in fairly short order!

Why SAM is about more than compliance

January 31, 2011

I was moved by this article in the industry press about how most Software Asset Management (SAM) work is in response to the threat or actuality of a vendor or enforcement body audit. I can’t deny that a significant number of our SAM engagements are driven by fear of audit. What I would add, however, is that a lot of organisations are starting to realise that good SAM is a matter of good financial stewardship and that the benefits extend far beyond simply the avoidance of a fine or bad publicity in the event of a forced audit.

SAM is a significant opportunity to save money, through the rationalisation of software titles in use, the ‘harvesting’ and redeployment of installed and licensed software which is not being used, and the cancellation of maintenance contracts for software which has been retired (often missed). Significantly, accurate knowledge on your existing license situation can enable you to negotiate from a ‘point of strength’ for licensing purchases and contract renewals.

Access to network audit data about installed software is a powerful aid to your helpdesk in diagnosing issues. Audit data about hardware can help you plan for and cost upgrades, such as Windows 7. It’s even possible to calculate probable carbon footprint and deduce possible savings, a service which Softcat can provide.

For me, an important part of SAM is making the most of the software you have paid for. Many organisations have subscribed to annuity-based agreements, such as the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, or Open Value Subscription. These agreements give you access to a range of software – some of which is pretty powerful and has real potential business benefit. Obviously there is effort involved in rolling out this software – but surely if there is a business need there it is sensible to look at software you don’t have to pay any extra for?

If you need any more information on saving money through good management of your software assets, have a look here where you can view our guide to Software Asset Management.

Next Generation Desktops?

December 8, 2009

It seems me that there is a bit of a ‘perfect storm’ around desktops at the minute:

  • The ‘credit crunch’ means that everyone is looking at reducing costs, and desktops are always under the spotlight.
  • The ‘credit crunch’ has also meant that many people have put off upgrading devices for some time
  • Whilst VDI might be the latest industry buzzword, it has at least reignited conversations around server-based computing
  • And of course there’s a lot of fuss around Windows 7 (hey, we’re halfway through rolling it out internally at Softcat!

The upshot of all this is that there are a lot of IT departments who want to, or need to, upgrade their desktop estates – but who don’t want to do it the same way again!

Perhaps this could best be referred to as delivering ‘desktops as a service’ – or provisioning users rather than physical devices. The basic premise is managing desktops through separation of the hardware, operating system, applications, profile and data. Today the options for ‘doing desktops differently’ are primarily based on some form of desktop virtualisation (I’m not talking about pure hosted virtual desktops, rather encouraging people to look again at the desktop and application delivery technologies available) or through the use of a client management tool such as AltirisFrontrange, SCCM or KACE. I’m also following with interest the developments around client hypervisors (Brian Madden writes intelligently about this approach here) – that could be the best of both worlds and a simple approach to deploying desktops in a very straightforward manner.

How are you going to be ‘doing desktops differently’ through 2010, Windows 7 and beyond?

Update (19/3/2010) we are running an event on exactly this subject. Registration will be available shortly here.