Gartner ITAM Core Skills Report shows the needed skills are mostly about license management

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

The role of IT asset management (ITAM) is evolving, and so too are the skills required to better manage software assets and licensing.

Gartner recently published a report called "Core Skills Your ITAM Team Needs Now," saying, "Discussions with Gartner clients on the topic of ITAM are increasingly indicating a lack of the skills required to fulfill ITAM's evolving role." Although Gartner doesn't track software asset management (SAM) and license optimization as a separate research category, the article clearly illustrates that many of the needed skills fall into that area.

When it comes to technical skills, the first thing Gartner mentions is the need is an understanding of license models, software delivery models and metrics. There is a plethora of license models and metrics in use today -- device, user, processor, core, server plus Client Access License (CAL), concurrent, processor value unit (PVU) ... the list goes on. Understanding these models and deciding which model is best for your use case, when you have a choice, is certainly a skill you'll need to avoid over spending on licenses. For example, the new SQL Server 2012 licensing has been changed to offer both core-based licensing and Server + CAL for the Standard Edition.

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Not only do you need to understand these models, but you must also understand and apply the license entitlements that go along with them. Using the SQL Server 2012 example again, the virtual environment use case adds further complexity. If you purchase the Enterprise Edition (core based licensing) with Software Assurance and you license all of the physical cores, you are entitled to an unlimited number of virtual machines (VMs) running SQL Server 2012; in all other cases you have to license every virtual core in every VM where the software is installed. Next-generation software asset management and license optimization tools can help ease the process of managing all of these complex license models and product use rights. 

The report also mentions, "Software as a service (SaaS) and cloud add further complexity, and do not necessarily remove the need to manage licenses." Some major ISVs, including Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, have BYOSL programs -- bring your own software and license -- to allow organizations to use the licenses they already own in a cloud environment such as Amazon EC2. They're still your licenses, even if you are running the software in the cloud, and your organization is still responsible for maintaining license compliance.

The Gartner report also discusses the need for financial skills, noting that ITAM is changing "from an inventory management function to a more strategic financial management role."

The skills required here include the ability to assess the impact of hardware changes on your software licensing. Because of the complexity of software license models, entitlements, hardware and virtual environments, assessing this impact is no small task. And it's not just hardware changes that can affect your license position and therefore your licensing costs. Other changes, such as VM moves and shared processor pool setting changes, may also need to be considered. That's why next generation tools now provide predictive "what if" analysis capabilities to help assess how these types of changes will impact your licensing.

Software typically represents 20% to 35% of an organization's IT budget, so it behooves organizations to take a financial management approach to their software estates. This includes having better contract management capabilities and the information on hand to negotiate better software licensing agreements with major vendors.

Do you know your actual license position, what your software usage profile looks like, what the usage and demand trends are? Can you accurately predict future software needs? If you can't answer these questions, then your organization is likely either over-licensed or out of compliance today and probably will be tomorrow, too.

The bottom line is that the ITAM is evolving into a strategic financial discipline that needs to have a keen focus on software asset management and license optimization to control costs and maximize return on software investment. New software asset management and license optimization technologies enable organizations to more easily make the transition to this new role.

Flexera Software is the leading provider of strategic solutions for application usage management; solutions delivering continuous license compliance, optimized usage and maximized value to application providers and enterprises. For more information, please go to http://www.flexerasoftware.com/ELO.

Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.

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