Virtualization Technology News and Information
Automation is Disrupting Software Asset Management as We Know It


Article Written by Ben Eagling, Marketing Manager of License Dashboard

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are all set to eliminate repetitive tasks at work. Artificial intelligence is being adopted across businesses in manufacturing, transport, utilities, facilities, operations, and IT. Forrester predicts that by 2025, 16% of US jobs will be replaced by cognitive technologies such as robots, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, with new roles such as "robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators".

Organizations that are embracing automation are enjoying improved productivity, time saving, and cost cutting. It is evolving quickly into business intelligence applications, and in IT specifically, opportunities to apply automation in procurement and maintenance look to offer major disruptive potential.

The IT department is crying out for automation

Automation in IT speeds up operations. It standardises the execution of tasks, reducing errors and discrepancies, and improves governance and security. Although some human intervention is required to monitor performance (an automated error has the potential to snowball far more quickly than a manual one!), automation means the IT team can assign resources to other tasks, which are often more beneficial to the department, or organisation as a whole.

Whether it's something simple like running daily reports, or more complicated tasks with multiple steps combining multiple scripts like moving and backing up files; automation will save IT time if it's a task that is performed frequently.

Automating SAM to free up internal resource

Larger organisations especially, can better accommodate an investment in an internal SAM solution compared to a smaller company with perhaps a reduced budget or team.  License Dashboard found that 73% of SAM Managers spend most of their time on transactional license management tasks. Gathering, consolidating, and normalising software install and usage data, and cross referencing that with license entitlement - it doesn't matter how big the IT budget is; it's difficult to justify the fact that almost three quarters of the resource assigned to a task are unnecessary, when it could be completed in less time, and more accurately, through automation.

Automation in managing User Based Licenses

Using automated functionality inside its chosen SAM solution, the IT department keeps a record of installed software on each device on their network, plus an inventory of all software purchases - they should have a good handle on keeping the company compliant.

Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions, permit the installation of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 on up to five PCs or MACs, five tablets, and five phones. Tracking these devices when multiple users have access presents a challenge for the IT department in tracking the instances of Microsoft Office that are covered by the Microsoft Office 365 subscription, and understanding how many separate Microsoft Office device licenses are needed - achieving compliance, and maintaining it, becomes far more complicated.

Complexities may arise where a user with a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 has the equivalent version of Office installed on their laptop, on their desktop PC, and on their tablet, the Office 365 admin portal reports the subscription, but the network discovery tool is asking for a license for each of those three installs.

Similarly, with Microsoft Developer Network, a developer is able to deploy multiple products to multiple devices under one subscription, however, the network discovery tool sees full deployments of the applications like SQL Server, Exchange Server, Windows Server etc, and therefore asks for a license for each.

User based licensing can be extremely cost-effective, but reconciling each user to their multiple aliases, and then allocating a single license across a user's set of devices is a hugely time consuming yet business-critical task. Performed manually, it would be a huge drain on internal resource to gather and process the data, and then to maintain it. It would also be susceptible to error. Performed automatically, it would take a fraction of the time, a fraction of the resource, and it would produce accurate, reliable data to the benefit of not only the Software Asset Managers, but also other stakeholders in the organisation from HR, to procurement, finance, and the business itself.

Managing SAM flexibility with artificial intelligence

A data centre offering an online catalogue service for retail products needs to cope during busy periods through the day, and seasonal peaks in demand. Additional compute resources should be allocated to cope with the increase in activity and ensure business-as-usual. Software licenses for products in a data centre are complicated, and do not always support unplanned changes, such as an increase in capacity requirements, which could lead to unexpected costs for licensing.

Artificial intelligence learns through historical data, and is able to predict trends through the business as a result. Using the previous years' information, artificial intelligence will understand when additional capacity is required, and therefore when additional software licenses are necessary. Organisations are fully informed of what is required and of any further purchases, and has a list of recommendations for the coming financial year based on historical performance.

Software asset management for artificial intelligence

How an artificial intelligence system works determines how it will need to be licensed. Traditionally, customers own any and all data entered into a software program, and they own any and all data produced as a result. But in the case of a machine learning model the data produced, is the result of training a learning algorithm which is then applied to the data.

In the case of a perpetual license, for example, the customer has the rights to (and so can use) the machine learning model during the agreed term. After which time, the vendor can destroy the model, retaining the fundamental software and algorithm, but without risk of reusing the customer's model for others.

Artificial intelligence will change SAM as we know it

Automated software asset management processes provide the IT department with much needed support and guidance on managing software assets, but it is still necessary to oversee the process manually through a professional. Without regular intervention, should a machine make a mistake, IT and indeed the organisation itself could run into some unwelcome surprises during any review of their effective license position (ELP).

When negotiating with a vendor regarding an artificial intelligence, machine learning, or automation user agreement, this goes beyond a standard software licensing agreement. There are many more complicated scenarios to consider. Make sure your organisation understands any restrictions on what you're able to do with data output. Your SAM solution must also understand how software for artificial intelligence is licensed.


About the Author

Ben has worked as a marketing professional for nine years, with four years spent in the IT sector. Working closely with software and licensing experts within License Dashboard, Ben produces regular content on Software Asset Management tools, services and market insights.
Published Friday, June 15, 2018 8:02 AM by David Marshall
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