The past few decades have seen a continuous evolution in the way IT back-end infrastructure is managed. Mainframe servers have given way to client servers, virtualization and now the cloud. With standalone user terminals giving way to internet-connected smartphones and tablets, users are today more than ready to find a solution of their choice on the web instead of solely relying on company infrastructure.
This poses a significant challenge to the way IT assets are managed in an organization and is perhaps the reason why businesses are today investing millions of dollars in upgrading to cloud-based services. According to one estimate, business spending on public clouds is expected to have crossed $23.2 billion in 2017. At the same time, private cloud is expected to have grown to $13.8 billion at the end of last year. This transition changes not only the way IT services are being delivered but also the way IT interacts with the rest of your organization.
Managing IT Assets In The Public Cloud
Traditionally, IT asset management tools are used to handle the various hardware tools, licenses and configuration management. This changes in a public cloud setup where an organization may not have any hardware to handle. Not only this, a public cloud server may not provide the organization with the ability to access the underlying hardware. This is tricky since a lot of software applications are licensed based on the number of CPUs being used and their configuration. It may be challenging to keep these software installations in a compliant state over a public cloud.
While public cloud may seem limitless at the outset, that may not be the case. For instance, if you make use of Microsoft SQL for your database, Microsoft may let you access the virtual CPU data for compliance calculations if you make use of Azure. But access to this may be denied for a business that wishes to use Amazon Cloud, for instance. Such demands may force your organization to choose between a handful of public cloud infrastructure alternatives that may not always be ideal for your business.
One of the biggest issues come with software licensing. It is important for your organization to let their software vendors know that their software shall be deployed over a public cloud. Given the ubiquity of the public cloud today, most software vendors have licenses that allow for public cloud deployment.
The other area of ITAM that needs to be relooked at is contract management. Public cloud providers come with their own SLAs, and this may not always align with the SLAs that you promise your customers. It is important to find a provider who can offer a better SLA than what you promise your customers.
ITAM For The Private Cloud
Organizations that move their infrastructure to a private cloud mostly do it for two reasons – to save on operational costs or to save capital expenses. IT Asset Management in the private cloud is a lot more significant than its role in the public cloud because your organization’s IT is responsible for the cloud hardware. As it is with the public cloud, ITAM is critical for the management of the deployed software. This includes mapping the software versions with their mandated hardware requirements and making sure that your hardware aligns with the software deployed.
This brings us to another critical role played by asset management in the private cloud – resource management. Hardware in the cloud can be easily scaled up or down. This means the infrastructure could be scaled up to larger CPU to meet higher demands. If your software is configured for a lower CPU hypervisor, then an audit could put your organization in trouble although the scaled-up infrastructure would improve the performance for your users. With a proper resource management policy in place, ITAM can make sure that compliance requirements in a software license are adhered to while designing new models and scaling up infrastructure in the future.
There is a much larger role for ITAM to play with respect to resource management. In the absence of unfettered access, users are likely to waste computing resources that they do not need. This may be prevented through chargebacks. Chargebacks are essentially a price tag on the service consumed by each department. While there has been a lot of discussion about the feasibility of implementing chargebacks as a means to curb resource wastage, studies have shown that in the absence of such a mechanism, employees are likely to waste precious resources for which they are not being billed for. The job of managing chargebacks or other forms of resource management rests with the business’ IT department.
It, however, needs to be pointed out that no organization falls strictly into any one category completely. The average business today hosts their applications in private clouds, public clouds, hybrid clouds as well as locally all at once. The rules and policies required to manage hardware and software licenses and contracts thus may not be tied to any one particular type of service delivery and needs to be presented holistically. IT has been in such a transition mode for a few years now and is expected to continue to do so. Your ITAM should account for this while devising its strategy.