Plug-ins Review Index
In a previous life the company I worked for used to sell ‘Claret Crunching’ as a service. A highly specialist skill whereby you interpret, filter and clean up the raw output from a Microsoft Claret report and crunch through all the data in order to determine the license entitlement for a company (The Claret is now better known as a Microsoft License Statement or MLS).
The ability to interpret License Statements is a rare and valuable skill;you need an encyclopedic knowledge of licensing programs;an eye for detail, a memory for historical changes over the years and the war-wounds of experience.
Unlike most SAM offerings that might of evolved as a natural extension of inventory and auditing tools, it is evident that ‘License Manager’ from License Dashboard developed from Claret crunching. It demonstrates all the hallmarks of a great software auditor yet in an automated fashion. It meticulously combs through the evidence as a licensing specialist would and presents an auditors picture of both compliance and usage.
There are three core components to the License Dashboard offering:
- ‘License Manager’ – an entitlement centric license management solution that works independently of inventory source.
- ‘Discovery’ – Inventory and Discovery tool (with agent-based and agent-less options)
- ‘SAM Portal’ – Browser based platform for delivery of all aspects of the software lifecycle (software request, catalogue, approval etc.)
Talking with Microsoft SCCM
License Manager uses an external connector to read data from the SCCM database. As with other products in this review this is a one-way export of data into the License Manager application, which runs in isolation from SCCM.
The License Manager product is divided into seven workspaces as follows:
- Dashboard Summary – a visual summary of installs, compliance, surpluses with drill-down to further analysis
- License Inventory – Import License Statements and Vendor purchase history
- Contract Inventory – Manage more complex contracts and agreements
- License Entitlements – provides an aggregated summary of true entitlement
- Data Cleanse – Walks the user through the recognition process
- Software Usage – If SCCM metering has been enabled users can harness the data within License Manager
- Reports – various summaries and vendor centric reports for generating compliance summaries or true-up statements
I believe the real strengths and differentiators of this offering are threefold:
1) The ability to provide a workbench for a number of sources
License Manager can import and aggregate multiple inventory sources as well as SCCM data. From the other side of the entitlement equation it also provides an automatic import of license statements from software publishers or other purchasing databases.
2) The transparency of the recognition process
License Manager imports a number of layers of SCCM data: the details of MSI packages, software executables, hardware and, where appropriate, software usage details.
It then guides the user through the software recognition process. If necessary, users can lift up the hood and see a deep dive of how data has been processed and see the logic behind the decisions. With transparency comes trust. You can see how things have been interpreted understand the process – important if you want to have real faith in the data.
3) The intelligence it adds to the license import process
On the basis that if you put junk in you’ll get junk out – License Manager does not just pump the asset database with crooked data;it defines which transactions it will process, those it can’t and the reasons why. Vendor statements are rarely definitive. Anomalies or discrepancies crop up. It walks the user through the process as if an auditor were looking over your shoulder.
ROUTE TO MARKET
As with other solutions in this review, License Dashboard offers a mixture of products and services depending on the requirements of the customer. Ranging from complete outsource of the SAM function to stand alone product sale with occasional handholding when required. For the purposes of this review we looked at the ‘License Manager’ offering but License Dashboard also offer a workflow engine which aligns to the whole software lifecycle so organizations can explore outsourcing SAM in it’s entirety.
From the brochure:
License Manager achieves the most accurate and advantageous reconciliation between software usage and license entitlements by automatically:
- Importing and validating license entitlements from multiple sources (Microsoft Licensing Statements, Vendor and Reseller reports, individual license documents)
- Calculating downgrade and cross-grade rights according to purchased items
- Importing and cleansing software audit data from any inventory solution (includes connectors for SCCM, LANdesk, Altiris etc)
- Reconciling usage against entitlements to calculate the most advantageous Effective Licensing Position (ELP) for the organization
- Reporting on software installations, licensing position and more
License Manager comprises interfaces for both the administration of software license management and reporting tools for IT and business managers across the organization.
License Dashboard License Manager is available as a stand-alone solution or as an integral part of both the Enterprise Suite and Small Business Edition solutions.
- Leeds Partnership NHS Trust
- Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
- North Lincolnshire Council