The ITAM Review

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Aspera SmartTrack for Microsoft License Management

logo_50x180This is an independent review of technology for managing Microsoft licensing and agreements.

Also participating in this review:

A full comparison and Group Test results can be found here: https://www.itassetmanagement.net/2014/10/02/microsoft-license-management/

Executive Summary

Elevator pitch Aspera has SKU catalogue-centric license management offering called SmartTrack.  Aspera SmartTrack has extensive capabilities for managing Microsoft license models, agreements types and managing the nuances and complexity of Microsoft Licensing across desktop, datacentre and virtual environments.
Strengths
  • Best in class license management features for reducing risk and supporting efficient spend in large Microsoft estates
  • Extensive capabilities for managing license models, agreement types and the nuances of Microsoft licensing on the desktop, datacentre and virtual environments.
  • Priced per qualified desktop. No complex pricing for different publishers.
Weaknesses
  • Global presence and partner network not as extensive as competitors, being addressed by Aspera
  • No in-house inventory, but exhaustive list of inventory sources and enterprise data sources to connect with.
Primary Market Focus
  • Size: Medium to very large global enterprises
  • Use:  License Management for larger enterprises with complex and disparate environments.
  • Environment: desktop, datacentre and virtual

Commercial Summary

Vendor Aspera
Product SmartTrack
Version Reviewed 3.6.1
Date of version release April 2nd 2014
Year founded 2000
Customers 140 with average size of 31,000 qualified desktops.
Pricing structure Qualified desktops in use.

Rating

Microsoft License Management Features

Rating

General features that aid Microsoft license management

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Microsoft software recognition

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Microsoft product family and suite recognition

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Management of Microsoft licensing types

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Efficient Microsoft spend (low risk, low waste)

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Microsoft contracts management

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 Key to Ratings

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Strong

Market leader

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Good

Well executed and competitive offering

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OK

Adequate, meets requirements

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Weak

Poorly or partially executed

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Absent

Missing key requirements

Independent Review

Aspera has SKU catalogue-centric license management offering called SmartTrack.

Aspera SmartTrack has extensive capabilities for managing Microsoft license models, agreements types and managing the nuances and complexity of Microsoft Licensing across desktop, datacentre and virtual environments.

We liked the fact that Aspera simply charge per qualified desktop. Some other suppliers competing in the license management for large enterprises charge per publisher blade or vendor. Software Asset Managers are investing in License Management tooling to help them with some of the heavy lifting and make things easier – not further complicate things!

The heart of SmartTrack is the ‘Master Catalog’, a SKU catalogue and license intelligence database which takes the raw inventory feeds and varied enterprise data sources and combines installation data with procurement history. SmartTrack uses SKUs as the unique identifier and best way to marry the diverse languages of configuration and procurement. Aspera was a pioneer in the use of SKUs for maintaining SAM accuracy and now has a strong catalogue updated by the Aspera team. Learn more about SKUs here: “How SKU catalogues save time and money”.

The use of the Master Catalog within SmartTrack allows organizations to identify the product use rights and licensing rules that are applicable for every single Microsoft line item in their estate such as second use or parallel usage rights, Affinity or virtualization rules, user based licensing such as MSDN, upgrade and downgrade rights, client access licenses, software assurance and so on.

The immediate business benefits of this are two fold:

  • Ensuring organizations are operating within the terms of their agreements with Microsoft and
  • Ensuring they are squeezing every last drop of value out of every product use right and entitlement they own.

SmartTrack includes a ‘Price Assistant’ that provides an average price for line items depending on purchase history – particularly useful for forecasting future demand and negotiating Microsoft agreements.

The ITAM Review particularly liked the ‘Optimization and Simulation Module’ (OSM) within SmartTrack that allows Software Asset Management and IT Procurement professionals to identify potential strategic changes in Microsoft licensing. For example organizations can explore changing the license metric used for Microsoft SQL in the datacentre and simulate both the financial consequences and impact on product use rights. This is particularly useful for those organizations that have reached sufficient maturity in their SAM function to converse with the likes of Enterprise Architects and IT planners to identify optimal long-term strategies for licensing with Microsoft.

SmartTrack also has a Contracts Management Module (CMM) that is ideally suited for managing the multi-tier, multi-country nature of Microsoft contracts, enrolments and agreements. The CMM module includes a number of important Financial Management features such as budgeting, forecasting and internal cost allocation of Microsoft spend – very useful during a Microsoft true up.  Software Asset Managers and Procurement professionals can also be notified via email of major milestones of software contracts e.g. expiration, notice periods, auto-renewals and so on.

License Management is never a point and click exercise, for this reason Aspera offer a variety of managed services to support implementation and efficient spend with Microsoft. Aspera Managed Services were reviewed as part of our SAM Managed Service providers review back in January 2014: “SAM MSP Group Test – The Results”.

It should be noted that Aspera has no in-house inventory sources but instead uses an exhaustive list connections to existing inventory sources and configuration data necessary to satisfy audit requirements with Microsoft. Whilst Aspera can highlight to organizations where their inventory sources may have holes using SmartTrack, ultimately a SAM tool is only as good as the data you put in it. So whilst Aspera is a strong offering for Microsoft license management organizations will need to ensure they have inventory of sufficient quality to support use of the solution. There is no point putting a Ferrari engine on a scooter.

Overall The ITAM Review considers Aspera a leader in the field of license management.  SmartTrack is a strong solution for management of Microsoft licensing for large organizations with no significant shortcomings. One weakness to mention is not a technological one but related to implementation partners; competitors to Aspera typically have a broader partner channel and global presence. Aspera are addressing this with the opening of a US office to further expansion in the Americas.

Screenshots

In their own words

“SmartTrack is designed to manage all types of software licenses based on clients, as well as server-, virtual- and cluster-environments including (but not limited to) Microsoft products. A vital part is taking contracts into consideration as product usage and commercial article data alone are not enough to calculate the effective license situation e.g. regarding true-ups, secondary copy rights CALs, Microsoft Enterprise- or Select Agreements etc. in combination with possible organizational / geographical constraints. SmartTrack enables your company to manage all of these situations – and even optimize them on top of the actual situation.”

Further Reading

About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.

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