How to evaluate software asset management tools

The vulnerabilities of the Apache Log4j logging package — and the attacks they made — made one thing very clear: If you haven’t already implemented software inventory in your enterprise, now is the time to start testing and implementing of such tools.

Actually, an inventory of software, or asset management software, is only a small subset of the total IT or ITAM asset management space. ITAM solutions provide comprehensive management of both hardware and software, including cloud and on-premises servers and endpoints. They keep track of where these assets are now and when they were last seen active on your network, and include reports about all computing assets: servers, switches, routers, communication lines, storage devices , desktop systems, mobile devices, copiers, scanners, and more.

ITAM systems have been around for decades. I remember testing one of the earlier products, Landesk, which is now part of Ivanti, in the early 1990s. Since that time, these tools have become more sophisticated, with the ability to track assets throughout their lifecycle. Now they assist with patch management and license auditing and have been integrated into service/help desk operations and other common IT administrative tasks. Many of these tools have expanded their scope beyond traditional IT gear to cover all types of network -connected devices such as smart speakers and TVs. They can also discover cloud-based software.

Before you sink into this space, realize that there is no consistency in what you call it. Forrester calls this space “business service management” and listed ServiceNow, BMC/Remedy Helix ITSM, Atlassian’s JIRA Service Management, Ivanti/Landesk Neurons, and IFS Asset Manager as leaders in its latest Wave report. Gartner lists 20 different software-only asset management tools such as Snow, Lansweeper, Flexera’s FlexNet Manager, and Zoho/ManageEngine Asset Management.

To add to the confusion, many of these tools also support a configuration management database (CMDB), which also means different things depending on the context. The CMDB is a central repository of all types of asset information. Some of the better collections from BMC/Remedy and ServiceNow have become industry standards supported by other asset management tools. To understand the range of offers in this space, you may want to read this post on about 12 IT service management tools.

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