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Cloud Expo: Article

The Lost Stepping Stone to the Cloud

We propose that ITAM is on the cloud radar and in direct view straight ahead

IT Asset Management, or ITAM if you prefer, is the lost link to the cloud. There, now we've said it, do you feel better?

Before we can decide whether this is true, we need to understand what ITAM really is of course.

Sometimes called EAM (Enterprise Asset Management), the practice of asset management is quite a broad term used to describe the process of auditing and subsequently overseeing the total number of IT assets inside a company.

Encompassing hardware, but predominantly focused (these days) on software, asset management allows IT managers to improve cost control, perform maintenance scheduling, manage upgrades and look downstream towards decommissioning and replacement.

This last element of ITAM, i.e., ‘decommissioning and replacement' probably (more than any other aspect) comes from the traditional view of asset management where software, servers, desktops and mobile devices might be retired once they can be said to be obsolete.

From Retirement, to Upgrade
In the new service-based world of computing as typified by the cloud model we move to a point where retirement becomes a less tangible or visible process as services from our hosting provider of choice are simply upgraded. At the user end, there is often no visible difference (at either the datacenter or the desktop) apart from an improvement in performance.

But asset management goes beyond simple questions of system upgrade. With ITAM we are able to analyze the productive contribution made by every element of our IT stack to a higher-level business algorithm. Inside this calculation we can correlate and cross-correlate every IT asset against a financial model that encompasses contracts, profitability and trading figures right across the business.

...and Then Comes the Cloud
Analyst firm Gartner IT held its second Financial, Procurement & Asset Management Summit 2012 in London this October to discuss the impact of ITAM in light of the convergence of cloud, virtualization and bring your own device (BYOD) technologies.

So the connection starts to become clear. A migration to the cloud should be undertaken in order to improve computing flexibility and agility yes, but it should also be done with a view to optimizing costs and moving to a new virtualized computing framework where buying power is also improved.

Put simply, we have a new way of buying our IT assets in the form of services, so this means that we also have a new responsibility for managing those assets. In this scenario, we need ITAM to get us to the cloud, we need ITAM to manage us in the cloud and we need ITAM to keep us productively and profitably housed within the cloud as well.

What the Industry Says
Quoted on dedicated IT asset management website The ITAM Review, CTO and founder of iQuate Jason Keogh argues that asset management and the cloud must now focus on each other if we are to negotiate this missing stepping stone to virtual computing efficiency. Keogh describes ITAM and its place upon the stepping stones to cloud migration.

"A proper understanding of the risks and costs involved in moving expensive, datacenter and server [level] software into shared services and cloud-based infrastructures will save large enterprises millions of dollars, while reducing risk. If you don't agree strongly with that sentence, let me invert it for you: migrating expensive, server software to shared services and cloud-based infrastructure without a proper understanding of the risks involved will cost enterprises millions of dollars. Do you agree now?"

Cloud vendors and/or hosting providers largely concur and so advocate a diligent approach to asset management analysis to oversee (and help manage on an onward basis) the movement to a services-based computing structure.

"The ability to locate, audit, quantify and qualify the total scope of any firm's IT stack is a critical part of any progressive cloud adoption program," says Garry Prior, senior product manager at Rackspace.

"When firms have a clear understanding what it takes to transition their IT assets to the cloud and move to a utility billing model, there opens up a real opportunity to provision only the resources needed and avoid the future expense of depreciating or upgrading IT hardware. Adapting IT management for the cloud is central to our customers' deployments of virtualized hosted solutions and we welcome the burgeoning and strengthening of offerings in this sector."

Where Can I Buy Cloud ITAM?
Cloud ITAM offerings come in many shapes and sizes with Gartner defining many of these solutions as coming from the so-called ‘megavendors.' HP for its part offers HP Asset Manager software to automate best practices across the IT asset lifecycle and integrate with firms' IT processes.

According to the company's website, "With HP Asset Manager you can implement analytics to optimize the value of IT assets and services. You can improve audit compliance by controlling where assets are and who is using them throughout the life cycle. You can control purchasing and chargeback, and compare the performance of your vendors. HP Asset Manager provides IT service cost information along with the data and governance necessary for all your IT processes to function optimally."

Perhaps the fact that the aforementioned Gartner conference is now only in its second year should speak volumes to us in this space? The analyst firm doesn't need much encouragement to pump out its seemingly limitless market predictions. Equally, the firm can get a conference together to discuss emerging trends pretty fast - but we're only in year two!

We propose that ITAM is on the cloud radar and in direct view straight ahead.

•   •   •

This post first appeared on Enterprise CIO Forum.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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