EA helps mind the money

Return on investment starts with asset management

Intelligence is an imperfect science. Just ask CIA or the 9/11 Commission. Or EDS Corp., the contractor tasked with wrangling thousands of legacy systems into the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. When EDS started the job, the Navy thought it had about 5,000 applications to integrate. EDS found more than 100,000.

Enterprise architecture and consolidation have become government IT priorities, but IT departments often don't know all of the systems they're running, how they're configured, what applications they deliver or what services they support.

Without investing the time and money to develop a system to discover and maintain an accurate inventory of assets, IT managers cannot gauge the breadth and depth of effort required to support an infrastructure. And as IT infrastructures grow in complexity, the need to effectively manage IT assets also grows.

Establishing an asset management system delivers real return on investment.

IT consultancy Forrester Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., estimates that with an effective asset management system in place, organizations can save 15 percent to 30 percent on software licenses.

Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said that systematically managing IT asset lifecycles could cut costs annually by 5 percent to 30 percent.

The process starts with an inventory of what the enterprise owns. But IT asset management software should also include usage and performance monitoring, remote configuration, software license management and patch management.

Recently, asset management software has expanded its resource handling capabilities to focus on underlying services, something BMC Software Inc. of Houston and others refer to as business service management.

Instead of looking at all the servers in a data center, the software can discover automatically which servers, applications, storage and network connections are used to deliver a particular service, such as e-mail.

Another challenge in the evolution of IT asset management has been the fracturing of management responsibilities, with each splinter group defining its own policies and procedures, said Dennis Drogseth, vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, Portsmouth, N.H.

Further diffusing IT asset management is the proliferation of tools, often from different vendors, to store, analyze and visualize data.

Each of the tools may meet the narrow needs of the person who installed it, but rarely do they integrate with one other for an overall network and systems view.

"You have 2,001 agents collecting data, conflicting data stores and conflicting views of the world," Drogseth said. "It's an expensive, redundant way to work."

Led by Computer Associates International Inc., which mandated integration between its own tools and the wide range of IT tools it began acquiring in the 1990s, the situation has improved. But adopting the Information Technology Infrastructure Library best practices plus the shift to service-centric asset management offer the best opportunity for bringing all assets into a common management structure.

The ITIL calls for organizations to create a Configuration Management Database, or CMDB, which offers a common data source for use by all groups in implementing IT tools and functions.

The ITIL doesn't specify a particular architecture for CMDB. It describes its functionality and lets vendors or organizations create their own design. Dozens of vendors have implemented versions of CMDB in their products.

Establishing a CMDB and an effective asset management infrastructure is a multiyear project. Not only must the organization's culture and procedures evolve, so must the tools.

But starting down that road now will deliver real, measurable benefits in reduced workload, better asset use and lower costs, all the utopia of enterprise architecture.

Drew Robb of Glendale, Calif., writes about IT.Return on investment starts with asset management

Intelligence is an imperfect science. Just ask CIA or the 9/11 Commission. Or EDS Corp., the contractor tasked with wrangling thousands of legacy systems into the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. When EDS started the job, the Navy thought it had about 5,000 applications to integrate. EDS found more than 100,000.

Enterprise architecture and consolidation have become government IT priorities, but IT departments often don't know all of the systems they're running, how they're configured, what applications they deliver or what services they support.

Without investing the time and money to develop a system to discover and maintain an accurate inventory of assets, IT managers cannot gauge the breadth and depth of effort required to support an infrastructure. And as IT infrastructures grow in complexity, the need to effectively manage IT assets also grows.

Establishing an asset management system delivers real return on investment.

IT consultancy Forrester Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., estimates that with an effective asset management system in place, organizations can save 15 percent to 30 percent on software licenses.

Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said that systematically managing IT asset lifecycles could cut costs annually by 5 percent to 30 percent.

The process starts with an inventory of what the enterprise owns. But IT asset management software should also include usage and performance monitoring, remote configuration, software license management and patch management.

Recently, asset management software has expanded its resource handling capabilities to focus on underlying services, something BMC Software Inc. of Houston and others refer to as business service management.

Instead of looking at all the servers in a data center, the software can discover automatically which servers, applications, storage and network connections are used to deliver a particular service, such as e-mail.

Another challenge in the evolution of IT asset management has been the fracturing of management responsibilities, with each splinter group defining its own policies and procedures, said Dennis Drogseth, vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, Portsmouth, N.H.

Further diffusing IT asset management is the proliferation of tools, often from different vendors, to store, analyze and visualize data.

Each of the tools may meet the narrow needs of the person who installed it, but rarely do they integrate with one other for an overall network and systems view.

"You have 2,001 agents collecting data, conflicting data stores and conflicting views of the world," Drogseth said. "It's an expensive, redundant way to work."

Led by Computer Associates International Inc., which mandated integration between its own tools and the wide range of IT tools it began acquiring in the 1990s, the situation has improved. But adopting the Information Technology Infrastructure Library best practices plus the shift to service-centric asset management offer the best opportunity for bringing all assets into a common management structure.

The ITIL calls for organizations to create a Configuration Management Database, or CMDB, which offers a common data source for use by all groups in implementing IT tools and functions.

The ITIL doesn't specify a particular architecture for CMDB. It describes its functionality and lets vendors or organizations create their own design. Dozens of vendors have implemented versions of CMDB in their products.

Establishing a CMDB and an effective asset management infrastructure is a multiyear project. Not only must the organization's culture and procedures evolve, so must the tools.

But starting down that road now will deliver real, measurable benefits in reduced workload, better asset use and lower costs, all the utopia of enterprise architecture.

Drew Robb of Glendale, Calif., writes about IT. Just ask CIA or the 9/11 Commission. Or EDS Corp., the contractor tasked with wrangling thousands of legacy systems into the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. When EDS started the job, the Navy thought it had about 5,000 applications to integrate. EDS found more than 100,000.

Enterprise architecture and consolidation have become government IT priorities, but IT departments often don't know all of the systems they're running, how they're configured, what applications they deliver or what services they support.

Without investing the time and money to develop a system to discover and maintain an accurate inventory of assets, IT managers cannot gauge the breadth and depth of effort required to support an infrastructure. And as IT infrastructures grow in complexity, the need to effectively manage IT assets also grows.

Establishing an asset management system delivers real return on investment.

IT consultancy Forrester Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., estimates that with an effective asset management system in place, organizations can save 15 percent to 30 percent on software licenses.

Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., said that systematically managing IT asset lifecycles could cut costs annually by 5 percent to 30 percent.

The process starts with an inventory of what the enterprise owns. But IT asset management software should also include usage and performance monitoring, remote configuration, software license management and patch management.

Recently, asset management software has expanded its resource handling capabilities to focus on underlying services, something BMC Software Inc. of Houston and others refer to as business service management.

Instead of looking at all the servers in a data center, the software can discover automatically which servers, applications, storage and network connections are used to deliver a particular service, such as e-mail.

Another challenge in the evolution of IT asset management has been the fracturing of management responsibilities, with each splinter group defining its own policies and procedures, said Dennis Drogseth, vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, Portsmouth, N.H.

Further diffusing IT asset management is the proliferation of tools, often from different vendors, to store, analyze and visualize data.

Each of the tools may meet the narrow needs of the person who installed it, but rarely do they integrate with one other for an overall network and systems view.

"You have 2,001 agents collecting data, conflicting data stores and conflicting views of the world," Drogseth said. "It's an expensive, redundant way to work."

Led by Computer Associates International Inc., which mandated integration between its own tools and the wide range of IT tools it began acquiring in the 1990s, the situation has improved. But adopting the Information Technology Infrastructure Library best practices plus the shift to service-centric asset management offer the best opportunity for bringing all assets into a common management structure.

The ITIL calls for organizations to create a Configuration Management Database, or CMDB, which offers a common data source for use by all groups in implementing IT tools and functions.

The ITIL doesn't specify a particular architecture for CMDB. It describes its functionality and lets vendors or organizations create their own design. Dozens of vendors have implemented versions of CMDB in their products.

Establishing a CMDB and an effective asset management infrastructure is a multiyear project. Not only must the organization's culture and procedures evolve, so must the tools.

But starting down that road now will deliver real, measurable benefits in reduced workload, better asset use and lower costs, all the utopia of enterprise architecture.

Drew Robb of Glendale, Calif., writes about IT.

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