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Software Asset Management Technology: Suites vs. Point Products

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In one corner we have the “do-everything” enterprise asset management suite that competes based on its heavyweight status—dripping with functionality and desktop management features that boxing glovesaccompany its software license management capabilities. In the other corner we have the slender, agile point product that delivers swift punches with a narrower set of capabilities. So who wins the match?

I will start this post by saying that I’m biased. This blog exists to accomplish more than to satisfy my desire for celebrity and to impress my friends. I work for a company that has spent 10+ years cultivating a software license management point product that meets a targeted set of customer needs. But still, I will try to be objective.

There are numerous enterprise suites that boast software license management functionality. They generally come from world-class companies such as Microsoft, Symantec, and LANDesk, who sell top-notch technology and have the resources to back it up. Some developed their license management capabilities themselves; others acquired the technology from other ISVs. Such solutions typically offer a broad range of functionality including help desk, deployment, patch and configuration management, software inventory, and software metering. There are obvious benefits associated with all that functionality, not the least of which is the ability to obtain an overall view of—and thus improve management of—the entire software lifecycle using a single piece of technology. Furthermore, because it’s a “one-stop-shop”, administrators have only one interface to learn, one product to support, and a single vendor to work with for all the combined capabilities. Finally, because these vendors are well-recognized brands that frequently already have a footprint—and therefore a track record—within organizations, their technology is sometimes perceived by decision-makers as less risky, resulting in fewer organizational hurdles to overcome in order to purchase and implement.

Software license management “point products,” on the other hand, have a much narrower focus relative to their more complex counterparts. Such products generally integrate software inventory, software usage tracking, and purchasing information together to reveal license deficits and surpluses. Such products include our own Express Software Manager, FrontRange SAM, and Scalable Software’s Survey. Advantages to point solutions include:

  • They typically have a greater emphasis on software recognition and license reconciliation, resulting in stronger overall software license management capabilities.
  • They generally offer a depth of reporting and analysis that can’t be replicated in enterprise suites for which license management is considered secondary to other functionality.
  • They can usually be deployed more rapidly and require fewer staff and less specialized knowledge to manage on an ongoing basis.
  • They are typically more advanced in their support for other technologies including Citrix, Windows Terminal Server, and virtualized applications.
  • They tend to be less expensive.
  • They are generally sold and supported by smaller, more customer-service-oriented firms, as opposed to less specialized sales reps and resellers.

In short, the contender upon which you place your money depends on everything from your budget to your expertise to your temperament. And fortunately, for organizations concerned with asset management, this match that doesn’t end with a knock-out. If you understand your organization’s goals and do your homework, you’re sure to pick a winner.