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Would Your Business Comply with a FAST Software Audit?

Filed under: Uncategorized — emitaliablog
Posted on April 20, 2010 @ 6:06 pm
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Introduction

The world has changed over the last twenty five years out of all recognition. With the opening up of the World-Wide-Web there has been a massive revolution in communications and the way in which populations manage their lives. However with the introduction of computers and databases, banking on line and free exchange of information throughout the world, there is also the criminal aspect to go with it. The virus and hacking into sensitive sites is a goldmine of opportunity for people intent on fraud and illegal activities. So naturally there is a neced for the public to be protected and have total security so that they can use the facilities without harm. Such Website security and email protection systems have now become big business. As companies become more acutely aware of the dangers and risks of illegal activities they are investing in security solution technology to do something about it.

Software Security

One such company has combined the provision of secure networks, data and applications with the processes and technology involved in making sure that data is managed effectively. The service includes ensuring that bottlenecks are minimised on the network and speed is maximised; minimising data destruction and loss of productivity from spam and browsing that contravenes corporate policy and helping organisations use the technology to uphold corporate policies and comply with regulatory requirements.

During these financially challenging times you would expect companies to be economising on computer hardware and software, but instead many organisations have gone ahead investing in IT as a way of restructuring their businesses to create opportunities, thereby gaining competitive advantage. I have a theory that downturn in business is generating more illegal activity so there is more need for security technology and some companies are benefiting as a result. Every cloud has a silver lining.

The Modern World of Software Licensing

As the recession continues to bite many companies do have had to cut costs resulting in less to spend on IT and unfortunately there have been a number of bankruptcies, but that does not tell the whole story. More recently as the IT business grows ever more massive, the management of all the software and monitoring of all the licensing of software is becoming a minefield. For a large organisation where everything is run on computers with its associated software, the cost in licences is huge. There has been a fair bit of news recently about how much it has cost for UK and European businesses to bring their software licensing up to date as a result of a software audit. It seems that the federation against software theft (FAST) claim they can audit any company as they see fit. The cost of just having to reconcile license fees could tip the balance and financially cripple a business. What with the security costs of protecting your computer systems and the licensing fees and keeping up to date with new ideas, large organisations can find their IT costs spiralling out of control.

And you thought licensing your software in a physical environment was complicated, well the game has changed! Over the last three years, there has been an increasingly widespread adoption of x86 server virtualisation which has significantly affected the information technology landscape. No longer is a server workload tied to the underlying hardware as more than one workload can run on a single box. This has quite astonishing benefits in terms of high availability and disaster recovery, not to mention significant cost savings from the reduction in hardware requirements. The automatic inventory of hardware and software delivers a realistic snapshot of the IT infrastructure and provides, among other things, a reliable data pool for license management, allowing any company to dramatically optimise its license situation.

With malware increasing in both volume and sophistication and no foreseeable slow down in sight, we believe it is now more important than ever for companies to have a comprehensive web security solution in place. Over the years it has been shown that service delivery models and benefits vary greatly and that tight integration of services at the provider level is critical. In the case of e-mail this means security, archiving, continuity and policy management.

There is a rising number of companies benefiting by way of security software which is currently turning out to be serious business.

Some Interesting Facts Have Emerged:

Although most IT directors would claim to know exactly how many PCs they have on their network, the reality is that more than two-thirds of organisations have a discrepancy of up to 30% between expected and actual inventories. This discrepancy poses obvious problems. How can businesses accurately budget and plan if they don’t know what they already have, and indeed out of what they do own, what is actually in use? In theory the idea of effective Software Asset Management is that organisations can direct IT assets in order to support business goals, enabling cost controls, strengthen security and improve corporate governance, all while minimising risk. Keeping track of the hardware in a large organisation is very time consuming, but then doing the same for all the licensing of software for each piece of hardware can be near impossible.

SAM and Virtualisation

Traditionally, licenses have been allocated to the physical hardware on which the relevant software is running. With the increased demand on budgets IT departments are looking for ways of reducing| shrinking| cutting} costs. Organisations have recognised for some time now that their internal data centres are extremely inefficient and have looked for more efficient approaches to give them better control over their applications and service levels, while having increased choice in the way they support their operations. Reducing cost is one of the key drivers behind virtualisation, a technology which is having a truly transformative effect on the IT landscape. There is both a growing realisation and an acceptance that the economic viability of virtualisation and cloud computing in one form or another, will represent the next big transformation in corporate computing.The expectations are huge; banking analysts say that cloud computing will be a $160 billion market within the next five years, and every major IT company is jumping on the bandwagon.

Whilst there have been concerns expressed around complexity, and “how to get started” these are becoming dispelled, as many organisations specialising in SAM, such as Softcat, have educated customers on the process and priorities and how to make it economical. According to the analyst firm Gartner, SAM helps organisations save up to 30 % of their IT budget, so it is little wonder that it’s rapidly rising up the Chief Information Officer’s (CIO’s) agenda, despite the concerns around complexity.

One example of saving on costs is where the Telegraph Media Group bought in an effective SAM strategy which helped the company gain complete control of their IT assets realising savings of £100,000 from over expenditure on unnecessary licenses. Although initially the senior managers need to be aware of the whole SAM process, there are some aspects, such as discovery and license management, that are quick and simple to implement and can deliver a much more immediate business and financial impact: lower costs, greater security, decreased risk and improved corporate governance. These initial steps will also set organisations on the road to achieving full ISO 19770-1 compliance when the time is right.Space is at an all time premium, electricity bills ever increasing, budgets shrinking, and while virtualisation is helping us fit more servers into a limited space it does not necessarily mean that the storage solutions being used are any better provisioned or utilised to their full capacity.

The vast majority of our clients pay a great deal of awareness to licence compliance to make sure that they definitely deploy legal software. Together with the continual and expanding threat of audits by vendors and regulatory bodies, a number of vendors seem to be taking full action to identify these efforts being made by customers – such as: simplifying license programmes, free education and maximizing the ethical debate to the actual clients of using non licensed equipment.

Presently there will most certainly be many companies in the market place providing software solutions designed for the computing needs for enterprises.

The Future Trends in Computing.

Under increasing pressure to deliver superior results for less cost, IT managers are considering new options to maintain the functionality of their vital resources such as e-mail management and web security. One of the latest ideas to emerge is that of cloud computing. This term describes any scenario where computing resources are accessed over the Internet and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) makes up one of the largest elements of cloud computing. The SaaS vendors provide a service where the customer does not pay for the software itself, but rather for using it. This takes care of the complexity of licensing and asset management for the IT department allowing the company to concentrate on their contractual work. The process of cloud computing helps customers to reduce the cost and complexity of web and e-mail management and security, so they can focus on their core business by eliminating unnecessary distractions.

Some compare the cloud computing revolution to that of electricity a hundred years ago when companies stopped generating their own power and plugged into the newly built electrical grid. It was more cheaper to outsource the production of electricity leaving the companies to focus on their core operations. Today a similar revolution is underway. Hooking up to the Internet’s global computing grid, massive information-processing plants are pumping into our businesses and homes. This shift is already reinventing the computer industry. The heavily publicised topics of the increased activity around all things “virtualised” and companies being audited, Software Asset Management (SAM) is becoming a key talking point of the latest products and services available.

Cloud computing models will prevail with Software as a Service (SaaS) along with Platform as a Service. I believe hosting companies will be at the cutting edge of this evolution and will lead to industries becoming more service based. This will range from mobile/GPS/PRS hand held services, consumer services, services targeted at SMBs. We see this as a huge market as these guys don’t want to invest in their own technology per-se, they just want a service. Large enterprises are already embracing cloud computing and it is having a significant impact, as a way to manage their costs and deliver services to both their external customers and internal employees. In fact this move to a hosted delivery model, where the technology or application is simply made available when and where you need it, will drive a new market. We won’t be talking about Software as a Service; or Hardware as a Service… soon we’ll have a new definition – Everything as a Service.

Analyst firm, Gartner agrees that some of the biggest benefits of clouds computing “are the built-in elasticity and scalability, which not only reduce barriers to entry, but also enable these companies to grow quickly.” In the case of ScanSafe, modifications can be made from a web interface from anywhere in the world and modifications are made active in seconds. Furthermore, an SLA provides a financially backed guarantee about service availability and effectiveness. Embrace storage resource management solutions, commit to thin provisioning, actively employ duplication and start using intelligent archiving you will not only save money, time, and reduced your company’s environmental footprint, you will have taken your challenges head on, controlled them and overcome them.

The ability to utilise applications such as web security on a pay-as-you-go basis will be a perfect strategy for businesses seeking greater flexibility and control over costs. According to global market intelligence firm, IDC, “The cloud model offers a much cheaper way for businesses to acquire and use IT – in an economic downturn, the pull of that cost advantage will be greatly magnified. More and more of the focus now is moving to service based models, and managing OP-EX (Operational Expenditure), whereas discussions previously were focussed on CAP-EX (Capital Expenditure). This argument is even truer in today’s economy.

What’s New in Microsoft?

Microsoft has announced the launch of the next wave of Microsoft Office and related products. At a time when an organisation requires its communication tools to be cost-effective and flexible, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is able to achieve new levels of reliability and performance by delivering features that simplify your administration, help protect your communications, and with greater business mobility. Exchange 2010 delivers new, integrated e-mail archiving functionality-including granular multi-mailbox search, item-level retention policies and instant legal hold-making it easier to address compliance and discovery issues. Administrators get centralised control of all archives while users get direct access to their archived mail, including a familiar archive experience that does not disrupt the way they run their inboxes every day. Exchange Server 2010 actively helps protect your communications through built-in defences against viruses and junk e-mail and support for an array of third party security products.

Having software assurance, running your company IT estate can end up being easier as well as providing a stronger return on investment.

Microsoft Exchange, enables rich and productive collaboration among its users and can help achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration and compliance. The latest release of Exchange 2010 delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, that combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available in a simplified way to help keep e-mail continuously available for the user. With new deployment and storage options, enhanced inbox management capabilities and e-mail archiving built-in, Exchange 2010 helps you lower costs and enhance business outcomes.

Allied to cloud computing, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is another area where a model is emerging that has enough advantages to become main-stream. VDI will cause a fundamental rethink for Microsoft in terms of its operating licensing system. The current licensing model, where device and software license were inexorably tied together, in years to come won’t be the case and Microsoft is already adapting to accommodate the new ideas. The ability to provide a unified service eliminates the need for multiple interfaces, reporting and policy management – therefore reducing management workload.

Licensing the Virtual Environment

If the link between software and hardware is broken, that model doesn’t work. To their credit, the software vendors, led by Microsoft, have recently started to make changes to their licensing models to match the abilities of the technology – however, whilst these changes are on balance positive, the complexity of licensing in a virtual environment is dramatically increased. Our training deck for the SAM Team on virtual licensing runs to 35 slides – something you don’t ever want to be subjected to unless you suffer from insomnia! Intel technologies are continually addressing the complete business needs of the market and Virtualisation is a constant theme. With the recent launch of their Xeon 5500 design of server chips, it is possible to have intelligent power management that can deliver a 90% reduction in energy costs compared with servers of just five years ago. (and not just making chips go faster!)

Softcat have always maintained that good financial stewardship of software assets has the same result – and this is even more vital in a virtual environment. We can help you make the most of the licensing terms available – did you know that licensing a server for Windows Datacentre Edition allows you to run unlimited virtual Windows Servers? – and of course ensure that you are adhering to the terms of the licensing agreement, which is critical to ensure compliance. Microsoft is certifying customers for a whole 12 months after their SAM engagement and ring fencing them from further investigation. Microsoft wants to encourage and support its customers to integrate SAM in their everyday planning and control – working with them to maximise their software investment.

SAM Vendor Programmes

A number of associate vendor partners have instigated SAM accreditation programmes and are taking a more “in partnership” approach, where their intentions are to help and reward customers for engaging in SAM. Microsoft have pioneered this sort of programme, along with the likes of Adobe, and Symantec have also launched accreditations to reassure end user customers they are in safe hands, when engaging with such resellers. The point here is that the vendors want to encourage customers, rather than the previous stance of enforcement. Finally, worth a note with regard to e-mail management, there is the added burden of efficient and effective retrieval and legislative compliance that service providers are able to lighten.

Conclusion

It is amazing how fast technology has evolved over the decades to drive our lives from every angle personal and business. Two extremely hot topics of the last year, have without doubt, been Software Asset Management (SAM) and Virtualisation. The fact is that organisations the world over are analysing their processes and costs to see how they can work smarter. The economic slowdown could be said to have a positive effect as it pushes| forces| nudges companies towards the process of change thereby accelerating the change. With the increased demand on budgets, coupled with the increased activity around all things “virtualised”, these remain two of the most heavily publicised topics and Softcat believes the business case for cloud computing is a compelling one and that certain non-core business functions, that are nonetheless necessary, are best done in the cloud, being more cost effective for the business and, in many cases, provide the most efficient service.




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