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Inventory and Discovery Tools Group Test

An Independent Review and Competitive Comparison
By Martin Thompson, Founder and Analyst, The ITAM Review

November 2011


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(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 5.7MB, 63 Pages)


Inventory Tools Review

Inventory Review Index

Summary – “The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed Inventory products, highlight the key differentiators and innovation in the inventory tools space and give readers of The ITAM Review impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.”


INTRODUCTION

Trustworthy inventory information is fundamental to a successful IT Asset Management practice and underpins many different IT projects.

In a recent article I explained ‘6 Ways to Build a Business Case for Inventory and Auto-Discovery’. These ranged from defining IT strategy, financial management and supporting projects through to network security, support analytics and compliance. All of these projects rely on accurate inventory information that all stakeholders can trust.

The concepts of Inventory and Discovery go hand-in-hand. Inventory provides a global view of all IT assets the company owns and discovery enables the inputs and outputs to be factored into this global view. The goal is informed decisions based on up-to-date and accurate information.

  • Inventory:  A dynamic list of IT Assets available to the business (which maybe networked or stock). This may include the configuration details for each asset, a history of changes made to that asset and any relationships the asset has with other aspects of IT.
  • Auto-Discovery: The process of discovering all assets on the network to ensure Inventory is accurate and includes all items. Auto-Discovery will help find new assets on the network, identify changes and ensure a network-wide view.

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed Inventory products, highlight the key differentiators and innovation in the inventory tools space and give readers of The ITAM Review impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

In particular, I am keen to highlight that innovation in this space is alive and well. Accurate and reliable inventory data is the cornerstone of any IT Asset Management practice and inventory should not be viewed as a commodity item. These technologies show how organizations can build and maintain an accurate view of their estate which will lead to many downstream benefits.


SUPPORTING ARTICLES & RESOURCES


MARKET POSITIONING

The table below provides a high level summary of the market positioning for each vendor.

The positioning refers to ‘Primary’ market sectors. This does not mean that vendors work in these sectors alone, but rather this is my opinion of where their key focus lies. For example iQuate are predominantly focussed on the datacenter but also discover desktops if required. Similarly FrontRange have many Enterprise level customers but their core market is Mid-Market.

Key Market Sectors are as follows:

  • Desktop or DataCenter – Which environment is the primary focus for each vendor?
  • Mid-Market – Organizations between 250 and 10,000 assets
  • Enterprise – Organizations with greater than 10,000 assets


COMPETITIVE OVERVIEW

The next table provides a high level overview of competitive differences between the tools.

  • In a nutshell – A brief description of each technology
  • Primary Purpose – Each technology may be used in different ways but this is the main purpose of the technology.
  • Strengths – key positive points highlighted during the review
  • Weaknesses – key negative points highlighted during the review


CUSTOMERS

Approximate number of customers for each product (as of Autumn 2011):

  • BDNA ~ 200
  • FrontRange Solutions Discovery ~ 2500
  • HP DDMI ~ 500
  • iQuate iQSonar ~ 30
  • Nexthink ~ 170
  • Numara ~ 900
  • ServiceNow Discover ~ 150

DATABASE

Back-end database used for each vendor:

  • BDNA – Oracle
  • FrontRange Solutions – Microsoft SQL
  • HP – MySQL
  • iQuate – Microsoft SQL
  • Nexthink – In-memory data SQLite. Web reporting PostgreSQL
  • Numara Software – Microsoft SQL, Oracle, or PostgreSQL
  • ServiceNow – MySQL

COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATORS

The table below includes some specific competitive differentiators between the different vendors. These features have been chosen specifically to demonstrate the different approaches, scope and methodologies for each vendor.

  1. Green IT – Some tools provide information to support projects to reduce IT power consumption.
  2. Physical Location – The ability to dynamically track the physical location of a device dependent on it’s relationship with the Switch it is connected to. This is an automated process in some tools, a manual process in others.
  3. End User Interactivity – For some countries it is a legal requirement to be able to interact with the audit process (See also ‘Software Usage Monitoring and Work’s Councils – It Can be Done!’).
  4. Inventory Methodology – Deploying an agent to each device or interacting via the network (See also ‘Agent vs Agentless’)
  5. Software Usage Monitoring – The ability to track whether software is being used. This only applies to tools using an agent, since it requires ongoing monitoring (See also ‘Software Usage Monitoring’).
  6. Software Recognition Database – Comparison of what is found on the network to an internal database for interpretation (See also – ‘Software Recognition – What’s the Big Deal?’).
  7. Relationship Mapping – The ability to present visual maps of the relationships and dependencies between assets.
  8. Meta Data – The ability to append additional information to assets. This is especially important if an additional asset management tool is not being used. For example the ability to store purchase information or references to other systems.
  9. Alerting – Some tools offer point in time analysis (What did things look like on Monday? what did things look like on Wednesday? Let’s compare the difference.) and some tools offer an ongoing dynamic view of the estate and alert to changes.
  10. Migration Support – Some tools offer scenario modeling which forecast compatibility with future platforms or builds. For example show me which assets in my estate are suitable for Windows 7.
Differentiators

 


BEST IN CLASS

Of the seven technologies reviewed I was particularly impressed with the following vendors:


Inventory Review Index

Further details for each vendor can be found by using the links below:


Video Overview ~ 25 Mins

Inventory & Discovery Tools Group Test [The ITAM Review]


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITAM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.