Dots Connected #1: Inventory Quality (part 1): fresh, exhaustive, relevant.

First of an 18 post series, this “Dots Connected” didactic article will give you the keys to high quality inventory that is the first key to SAM Success. Inventory and purchase data are the two legs of Software Asset Management… compliance / optimization is the head. To win in the race of SAM, be better than the Publisher that audits you… perform your Microsoft True Up with sharp eyes, you’d better have strong legs… starting with inventory!

2/3/20245 min read

“Installed applications trigger license liability and risk”. This is straight forward, simple and intuitive!

Oh, by the way, installed applications… are they recognized? Are they up to date?

Where are they installed? The same installation of Oracle Database Enterprise can trigger a USD90K liability for a 4 cores physical server… or a USD9 million for the same 4 cores configuration… on a VM in a 400 cores cluster… or 22.5K on a 4 core LPAR in a 0.5 core capped pool of an IBM AIX host. You need to understand the full stack (VM, Host, Pool, Cluster) to understand the license consumption of most server applications (Oracle db and options, Microsoft Windows & SQL Server, IBM PVU or VPC applications…).

The questions a SAM Manager should be able to address before thinking about compliance and optimization are the following (blue ones being addressed in this first post)

  • Is my inventory up to date?

  • Do I have false positives with legacy inventory sources?

  • Did I catch correctly my virtualized architectures, with VM, linked to hosts?

  • Are my applications fully recognized?

  • Am I using the right inventory tool?

  • Do I have technical issue that could impact my application inventory quality?

These apparently simple to ask but hard to answer questions are some of the many topics addressed by the SAM Operations Hub, released in 2023.

During 7 years as a consultant, I have focused 60% of my time, not on doing License positions, but answering this stupid question: “can I trust the complex data that will be the foundation of the license consumption and optimization calculations?” Challenging SAM data with a critic mindset is the healthiest and best approach to success.

Hearing customers stating: “I don’t trust this tool”, I created, 1, 2… 20 advanced SQL reports that analyze the data, look for corner cases… These reports are articulated in the SAM Operations Hub. To hear more about this KPI driven dashboard, you can access the April 2023 SAM Best Practice Webinar. To check the 24 others webinars, please access the SAM Best Practice Hub in the Flexera Community.

Good news, the first 8th KPIs are focused on this inventory quality analysis. Let’s go down the list that starts with the big elephants.

How do you get to the SAM Operations Hub (and its two siblings: the SAM Optimization and the SAM Publisher Hub) ? Follow the screenshots below if you are and Flexera One ITAM Cloud customer, or an on premises one.

This is the SAM Operations Hub… if it is globally red and yellow, you need to read to the end of this post…

If it is green, you should read it too to understand why you can trust your Inventory data!

Let’s go line by line. Each screenshot is what you see when clicking on the KPI name.

Up to date inventory

Are your imports running ok?

Timeout, issue with imported data, issue to access the source (SCCM db down), there are many reasons why your import may fail (and your inventory data become obsolete).

The first “Failed tasks” KPI will lead you to the “system tasks” screen, showing in the last 30 days, which system task failed (a task with some errors will be considered has successful). Fixing a failed tasks will require checking the log available in the screen and fixing the issue (open port to inventory source that shows a time out etc.)

Are there aging or disabled inventory sources?

Would you like that a USD600 installation of Visio Pro removed from a laptop 6 month ago still shows on this device in ITAM? That’s exactly the issue (+3000 others) you will get if you had multiple inventory sources and stopped refreshing one.

Let’s say you transition from SCCM that was available at the beginning of the project to Flexera Inventory agents and stop importing SCCM when Flexera coverage is good.

You need to DELETE the connection with clicking on the “expend” triangle, then click on the “delete connection” link. A nasty stored procedure will start and delete all the invisible data that is merged for building computers informations (ImportedComputer, ImportedInstalledInstallerEvidence etc. tables) and will cleanup all data related to this connection. No more false positives.

Is there aging Inventory?

Do I have more than 30 days old inventory that I should decommission?

If no proper change management process is in place aging inventory may create irrelevant license consumption. You need to ignore the device or fix the inventory import issue.

Relevant inventory

Is my vCenter information correctly collected?

No need to insist on the fact that Cluster / Pools / Host / VM links are critical for accurate server applications license consumption.

In large organizations you may need to inventory tens of vCenter. The vCenter Inventory Troubleshooting report will provide you with all details (VMWare Discover date, Inventory date, last error log, oldest and most recent ESX server inventory date…). The comment will summarize found issues…

You can then fix issues with opening a port, configuring the VMWare user password in the beacon, ignoring the aging ESX that has been decommissioned…

Do I have active computers “under the radar”?

You may have good reasons to ignore some devices that were aging inventory… but also re-active computers that are ignored and recently came back! Or you will underestimate your license consumption.

Do I have on premise “orphaned” VMs?

This is a visible sign of vCenter inventory issues or issues in change process: if a VM is no longer reported by a vCenter (or has never been reported linked to a Host), license consumptions for applications installed on this VM may be wrong/

Fix it with ignoring orphan VMs or fixing the VM’s vCenter inventory.

Are my beacons transferring correctly inventory files and performing correctly their active inventory activity?

Beacons are critical elements of the Flexera architecture. A beacon that stops reporting or connecting to the Application Server to catch the “InventorySettings.xml” that contains all policies and inventory logic will cause inventory that is not updated in the database. It needs to be fixed as soon as possible!

Possible causes are: A port needs to be opened, the Beacon Engine Windows Service is down, the Web Services (on the beacon or on the application server) are down or have authentication issues.

Is my Inventory exhaustive?

The Awaiting Inventory VMs KPI and report is catching from vCenter (or other virtualization technologies) information which allows to understand the VM inventory gaps. You just need to deploy agents on VMs that are in scope of the SAM Project.