LICENSED FOR DISTRIBUTION

Market Guide for Software Asset Management Tools

Published: 08 November 2016 ID: G00294469

Analyst(s):

Summary

Software publishers have increased the complexity of software license structures and cloud-based offerings, requiring specialized tools to establish compliance and optimize costs. Selection of SAM tools by I&O leaders will largely depend on vendor capabilities across six distinct activities.

Overview

Key Findings

  • Complex software licensing options increase software license compliance audit risk and cost uncertainty.

  • Evolving deployment models, including physical, mobile, virtual and cloud platforms, have made managing software licensing more cumbersome.

  • The use of software asset management (SAM) tools has overtaken that of monolithic IT asset management (ITAM) tools.

  • The SAM tool market can be confusing, complicated by the fact that some vendors focus on specific SAM activities, while others provide a broad-based approach.

Recommendations

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders responsible for IT operations optimization:

  • Compare SAM tools against required capabilities defined in this document to produce SAM tool requirement lists.

  • Leverage existing IT data sources and tools as appropriate. Augment existing IT operations management (ITOM) tools if they do not provide the quality and extent of information SAM maturity demands.

  • Invest in SAM tools that establish and automate software license position and meter software usage across major software titles and vendors, and that integrate with adjacent business and operational tools.

Market Definition

Software asset management tools automate many of the tasks required to maintain compliance with software licenses and to control software spending (see Note 1). SAM tools facilitate in-depth analysis of software license position by automating software data collection, evaluating software license entitlement, and highlighting opportunities to minimize risks and optimize costs.

I&O leaders and their teams need SAM tools because independent software publishers, such as Adobe and Microsoft, are evolving increasingly complex software license usage and distribution models. This complexity makes it easy to get out of compliance, and as such, some publishers are also increasing the rate of their auditing activities. The risk of being out of compliance is now so great that it is virtually impossible to establish a defensible audit position, or to optimize license usage and costs without a specialized tool. 1

"In any audit, the party with the best paperwork wins." — Victoria Barber, Gartner Research Analyst

Those software publishers who use SaaS-based approaches are already gathering the data required, even without an audit. While the risk of audit may be reduced, it is replaced by risk of costly unused and unnecessary subscriptions. SAM tools play a key role in better managing SaaS usage and expenditure.

SAM tools use details about product-use rights, vendor SKUs and contract terms to automatically determine — and optimize — license position against discovered software. SAM tools have rapidly become the tool of choice for managing software entitlement, in lieu of using spreadsheets, due to the rising complexity of software-licensing schemes.

SAM tools are rapidly evolving, and offer a broad spectrum of features and functionality, making it difficult for I&O leaders and their teams to classify vendor offerings. To aid in this categorization, Gartner breaks down SAM into discrete activities. SAM tools span one or more of six major activities, as illustrated originally in Gartner's Tool Decision Framework for SAM, seen in Figure 1 (see "Use Gartner's Tool Decision Framework for SAM to Create Your Roadmap" ).

Figure 1. The Six SAM Tool Activities
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (November 2016)

Market Direction

SAM is rapidly evolving and growing in importance because of increasingly complex software licensing schemes. SAM falls within the remit of IT asset management. However, SAM tools need deeper connections with core life cycle management processes, and more data about physical, mobile, virtual and cloud platforms, than broad ITAM tools. As illustrated in Figure 2, SAM is evolving to address the increasing risks and costs to encompass the switch from fixed, physical assets to mobile and virtual assets. This shift is necessary since, as depicted in Figure 2, the risk and complexity of managing virtual assets increase. Finding these software assets is more challenging; it requires greater automation, and therefore use of tools. Likewise, the proliferation of software on mobile devices creates additional challenges. And with the increased risk comes increased cost of managing and purchasing the additional licenses.

Figure 2. SAM Market Direction Effect of Shift From Fixed/Physical to Mobile/Virtual Assets
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (November 2016)

SAM tool vendors continue to enrich their feature sets, adding support for data center software publishers with complex licensing schemes, such as SAP, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft. Complex licenses based on the platform require hardware attributes (such as cores, processors and virtualization policies). This means understanding increasingly complex hardware configurations, such as IBM subcapacity and processor value unit (PVU) optimization (see "IBM Customers Who Count Their Processor Value Units Achieve Software Savings and Avoid Noncompliance Audit Fees in the Millions" ).

As independent software vendors (ISVs) move toward licensing models to support SaaS, virtualization and mobility, complexity will only increase, and enterprisewide licenses may not be the most cost-effective for customers. A subset of SAM tool vendors can now establish effective license position (ELP) for browser-based SaaS and web applications, such as Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce or Workday. These applications often require agents to monitor user activities and access to the relevant cloud services, and to establish ELP, because there is no installed software or "footprint" to discover, as there is with traditional disk-based software.

SAM tool vendors continue to evolve past establishment of ELP for compliance to deliver optimization of software licensing. Many vendors in this market show possible cost savings; for example, they may make recommendations to remove or reduce licenses based on observed usage patterns across the enterprise. License optimization is now a requirement for enterprise-class SAM tools, and providing an enterprise app store for closed-loop license management is close behind. Several SAM tool vendors have acquired mobility and app store tools for integration into core SAM product offerings. Others integrate with IT self-service portals from IT service support management (ITSSM), enterprise mobility management (EMM; see "Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Mobility Management Suites" ) and service catalog tool vendors (see "Market Guide for IT Service Catalog Tools" ). Other SAM tool vendors now offer granular understanding of user activities and software consumption, which is useful for optimizations beyond cost. Some can also suggest enterprise architectural improvements based on software consumption analytics.

The depth and scope of SAM tools will continue to grow. As SAM vendors move to support cloud, virtualized and mobile software, new approaches will evolve. Investment in a SAM tool comes with risks related to the swiftly changing nature of software licensing, the increasing diversity of platforms and the immaturity of many vendors. IT tool vendors that do not offer robust SAM capabilities are starting to establish relationships with SAM tool vendors, create partnerships and add new product features to fill SAM automation and optimization gaps in their solutions. As a result of these trends, Gartner expects both partnership and merger and acquisition activities to continue as SAM-specific tool vendors look to expand opportunities and larger ITOM suite vendors look to add this functionality.

Market Analysis

No single SAM solution exists for all software licenses or mixes of infrastructure. Effective solutions often require one or more tools in a layered architectural approach that leverages existing investments where possible. The major SAM tool activities, previously highlighted in Figure 1, are:

  • Platform discovery

  • Platform and software inventory

  • Inventory normalization

  • Reconciliation of external information

  • Optimization of license position

  • Information sharing

The primary target markets for these tools are I&O and procurement departments within midsize and larger enterprises. In many cases, buyers are I&O leaders looking to add SAM capabilities that leverage existing ITSSM solutions (see "Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools" ) and configuration management database (CMDB) solutions. In all cases, license model requirements establish SAM tool selection criteria (see the Market Recommendations section).

Specific attributes for each tool activity are defined below.

Platform Discovery

Discovery is the act of interrogating TCP/IP networks to identify network-attached physical and virtualized platforms upon which software executes. This is foundational to many IT functions, including SAM, ITSSM, security, networks and ITOM. Many I&O leaders considering SAM projects want to leverage their existing investment(s) to address their software license compliance and optimization requirements. I&O leaders must ensure their discovery approach includes cloud-based platforms and services sufficient for their SAM goals. Vendors with full functionality will also be able to discover cloud platform applications.

Platform and Software Inventory

Inventory is the act of capturing platform configuration information, and extracting a list of all of its software and software consumption. Identifying the software installed on or executing upon a platform (as in the case of instance-based software licenses) is foundational to SAM. Understanding all the ways enterprise and data center software OEMs license their software is critical to comparing SAM tools. Inventorying hardware configuration is also important to SAM, as many licenses define specific hardware configurations of CPU, cores, physical-virtual mappings and so on. Some inventory approaches gather detailed software-usage metrics that are often required to optimize software spending. This is also critical for software that isn't installed on user devices per se, such as web apps, cloud SaaS and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Vendors with full functionality will include consumption analytics, discovering and inventorying SaaS applications and support of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 19770-2 standard for software identification (SWID) tags.

Inventory Normalization

Normalization is the act of consolidating multiple discovered inventory datasets and other data to resolve duplicated or conflicting information. The primary benefit is an accurate, organized and categorized inventory across different datasets. For example, one inventory dataset might record a filename as "coolproductv5," while another records it as "Cool Product." While there are two unique descriptions, there is only one licensed executable. This also applies to hardware attributes, as a processor from one dataset may state it has "more than four sockets" while another dataset may report it as "eight sockets."

Many approaches to normalization use databases to classify, categorize and standardize naming of discovered inventory. For example, normalization includes the ability to distinguish software that is part of a suite versus software deployed as stand-alone. Some tools use international recommendations, such as the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC), to categorize results even further.

Reconciliation of External Information

Reconciliation is the act of harmonizing contract, purchase and entitlement information with normalized inventory data to establish an ELP — the balance of licenses purchased to actual license consumption. ELP forms the basis of compliance management, risk-reduction, audit defense, contract (re)negotiations, license "true ups" and software spending optimization. Reconciliation merges normalized data with related information from other, often external, sources. This can include procurement data, vendor SKUs, license and entitlement details, and organizational information. Some reconciliation approaches also contain or can access databases of application end of life (EOL) and end of support (EOS) dates, as well as OEM software vendor APIs for entitlement verification.

Reconciled data is very useful for planning, modeling and dependency mapping — functions core to SAM and license optimization. It is also very useful to other IT functions (such as security, or an ITSSM team looking to develop a CMDB). Including rich contextual asset information enhances overall asset performance and supports key SAM goals, such as enterprise value and vendor management.

Vendors with full functionality will help provide an ELP for at least three of the following publishers: Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe (desktop), SAP (data center), VMware and IBM. Furthermore, leading vendors will support or have active engineering development efforts to support the ISO 19770-3 standard for software entitlement schema by the end of calendar 2017.

Optimization of License Position

Optimization is the act of tracking changing software license structures, improving vendor management and balancing software spending with usage. It enables appropriate reductions in the number, type and expense of licenses needed and in use. A typical approach to optimization models reconciled data to examine software, its entitlement, environment and actual usage to recommend the appropriate license type. This shifts the focus from "What do I have?" to "What insight can SAM provide to improve IT business decisions?" Such modeling can result in dramatic cost reductions and avoidances. Some approaches identify unused software licenses and recommend license harvesting and reassignment to reduce the number of new licenses required.

Vendors with full capability will provide this functionality within the native application, while others may integrate with third-party offerings. In addition, leading vendors will be able to optimize desktop and data center titles for at least three of the following: Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe (desktop), SAP (data center), VMware and IBM.

Information Sharing

Sharing is the act of consuming and producing data and information for use in other domains. A central system of record for IT assets enables the enterprise to effectively manage vendors and software assets throughout their life cycle. Implicit is the need for an integrated workflow and data persistence that requires a mechanism for data aggregation and analysis to store and make available the results of activities. Core requirements of a persistent repository often include the capability to maintain asset costs, depreciation, chargeback, contract terms and conditions, vendor service levels, asset maintenance, ownership, entitlements and previous entitlements.

Comprehensive visualization tools, data import and export, and robust APIs bind together a SAM implementation. People need access to robust data analysis and reporting abilities that can produce tax, ELP and compliance reports. Adjacent toolsets in functions such as IT operations (such as CMDBs, app stores and service catalogs), business units (for example, HR for ownership information, and ERP for software procurement data) and security also need programmatic access to SAM data.

Vendors with full capability will provide app stores or portals accessible from mobile devices, tablets, laptops and desktops for enterprise employees and functions, including IT (developers, onboarding, operations and so on).

Representative Vendors

The vendors listed in this Market Guide do not imply an exhaustive list. This section is intended to provide more understanding of the market and its offerings.

Table 1 lists representative vendors by market segment and Gartner Tool Decision Framework for SAM activity, as described in the Market Analysis section of this Market Guide (see "Use Gartner's Tool Decision Framework for SAM to Create Your Roadmap" ). What binds them together is a core focus on SAM activities pursuant to automated establishment and optimization of license position.

Table 1.   Core SAM Capabilities

 

Discovery

Inventory

Normalization

Reconciliation

Optimization

Sharing

1E

X

X

X

X

X

Aspera

 

X

X

X

X

X

BMC

X

/

/

/

 

/

CA Technologies

X

X

X

X

X

X

Certero

/

/

/

X

X

X

Cherwell Software

X

X

X

/

/

/

Concorde

X

X

X

X

X

/

Eracent

X

X

X

X

X

X

Flexera Software

X

X

X

X

X

X

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)

X

X

X

X

X

X

Landesk

X

X

X

X

X

X

License Dashboard

X

/

X

/

X

X

Open iT

/

X

X

X

X

/

Scalable Software

X

X

X

X

X

X

ServiceNow

/

/

/

/

/

/

Snow Software

X

X

X

X

X

X

Symantec

/

/

/

/

/

/

Key: X: available (full availability of activity); /: limited (partial availability of activity); a blank space indicates the activity is not available.

Source: Gartner (November 2016)

Market Recommendations

The SAM market is still emerging, but evolving rapidly as vendors sharpen their focus through product enhancement, collaboration and acquisitions. Vendors continue to support more software licensors and titles, and are expanding to include SaaS providers. Still, choosing an automated SAM tool is a complex task. I&O leaders and their teams should consider the following recommendations for SAM tool selection:

  • Establish selection criteria based upon the platform, consumption and license requirements of major enterprise and data center software licensors and titles; be sure to take into account costs and risks around compliance and entitlement.

  • Leverage where possible existing ITAM tools, ITOM tools, client management tools (CMTs) and ITSSM tools. Augment or replace existing discovery tools if they do not provide the level of functionality required.

  • Choose or add tools to accommodate disk-based, cloud-based and browser-based software, as well as desktop and server virtualization and mobile devices.

  • Invest in staff augmentation and training, as these tools all require significant license management knowledge and expertise beyond basic tool administration to meet expectations. License complexity is such that some buyers need even deeper subject matter expertise (see Note 2).

Evidence

1 "Survey Analysis: Software License Audit Surveys Show Shift in Focus and Intensity in 2014." Audit management workloads are increasing dramatically: "Since we started tracking audit levels in 2009, when 54% of respondents were audited, the percentage of respondents indicating one or more audits in the past 12 months has risen to this year's record high of 68%."

"Market Guide for IT Asset Management Repository." Key Findings: "The adoption of new computing paradigms, such as bring your own device (BYOD), software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), is requiring ITAM tools advance faster."

Note 1
Definition of SAM

Software asset management, or SAM, is a framework and set of processes that strategically track and manage the financial, physical, licensing and contractual aspects during the life cycle of software assets. SAM plays an important role in the acquisition and life cycle management of software, including strategies to identify and eliminate underutilized software, the consolidation of licenses or the move to new licensing models. The SAM discipline aims to create a dependable account of software asset costs and risks, providing support for software strategy, architecture, service management, funding and sourcing decisions.

Note 2
Support for SAM Tools

Support for SAM tools spans a wide range of skills and experience. Many of the vendors in this Market Guide offer consulting services to provide implementation and operational support assistance. Third-party IT consultancies, such as Siwel Consulting , or some specialized by ISV, such as Version 1 (Microsoft and Oracle), License Consulting (Oracle), Madora Consulting (Oracle) and Miro Consulting (Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle), often provide SAM or license management services as part of a range of services to support a chosen vendor's technology. Others may focus on the desktop space or data center, and some, such as Livingstone , offer end-to-end SAM services for all software vendors and products. See "Software Asset Management: Understanding the SAM Services Market for Effective Third-Party Support."