Can Asset Management be automated?

Asset Management is basically about control over assets and intangible products that are part of the day-to-day operations of a company. In the IT department Asset Management is therefore about physical devices, licences and software, and in the task of supporting the business demands in a hectic workday, Asset Management is often given low priority.

Occasionally an employee may get control of it for a short period, but over time the task goes silent again. It often requires technical insight to figure out if assets are, for example, still in use, if they are part of a migration in progress, or if the device is placed in a network and forms a potential risk if it cannot be supported any more.

This makes the task even more difficult for a student assistant, without the help of a strong technical resource. So, we return to the day-to-day priorities.
Often the task gets resolved when resigning the annual service where particularly the financial aspect motivates the review of the asset list. This is definitely better than nothing – but is it good enough?

  • How to do we ensure that we are always in control of our assets?
  • How do we ensure that our operating costs are correct?
  • Are we exploiting the potential of software that is purchased?
  • How do we ensure that an SLA always corresponds with the risk profile that has been set?
  • How do we ensure that we know about devices that are no longer supported and thus represent an operational risk in case of a crash?
  •  Can the number of potential crashes be avoided before they occur?

All these questions are motivated by one overarching objective: The desire for stable and reliable operations at the right price and with no surprises.

Overview, overview and overview

The rules from the manufacturer drive another important motive when IT audit comes knocking: For example, compliance, licensing rules, software upgrade agreements and property rights must obviously be upheld, and it is important to be aware that the rules differ from one manufacturer to the next.

On this point, Cisco is no different. At http://cisco.com/go/terms you can view a comprehensive document compendium which addresses rights and policies for both cloud and on-site installed software.
Conscia’s 100 largest customers have on average 6,400 hardware assets registered, and of these 1,455 are linked to an annual service cost. This does not include cables and other non-relevant devices and therefore only includes devices that are crucial to daily operations in some or other way.

Obtaining an overview of a product’s life span, number of software versions in operation and vulnerability becomes proportionally more difficult by the number of assets.

When Conscia joined the Cisco Partner Service Program many years ago, it quickly became clear that handling our customers’ many assets is a major task.

To secure optimal flow in fault finding hardware assets must be correctly registered at the customer, partner and supplier. Optimal fault finding for software or hardware faults requires access to patches, software, fault finding databases and escalation to the supplier. This is if registration is correct according to the manufacturer’s rules for equipment and software.
We thus launched our digitalisation project with the service portal Conscia Network Services (CNS).

Registration creates transparency

This project has since gone through many phases, and development is ongoing, so today we offer our customers an automated Asset Management Platform, CNS.
The solution has been developed with data straight from Cisco’s Contract Center, which secures customers full transparency. All basic data is registered and corrected directly with Cisco, meaning that wenever create our own copy of the reality.

A direct result of this is that any faults are also registered in our customer portal – our customers see the same thing we do. A transparency that perfectly suits our access to the entire service operation: With visibility, honesty and open communication we reach our common goal of resuming normal operations as soon as possible in the event of a problem.

At the same time, the many years of intensive work we have done with assets and Cisco’s service programmes has created a high level of competence in service in Conscia’s organisation. Therefore, when it comes to Cisco’s rules and processes, our organisation on a whole are ”subject-matter-experts”.

This is of course to the benefit of the customers when we advise on secure handling of all assets. The customers’ service strategy is reflected directly through the range of services available in the portal – no more no less.

More complex and even more important

Our application is under constant development, and we are in ongoing dialogue with Cisco. We are closely following their transformation toward being more software-oriented. In connection with this we are seeing an increase in assets.

Hardware and software are being separated to great benefit for you as the customer. You can move licences between products, and software, in many cases, is regarded as a “pool” of resources that your products consume from, lending greater agility to the implementation and better exploitation of the investment.

A consequence of this will be that the number of licences will grow in line with migration to new hardware, and in turn the total number of assets will increase. Central controllers will be an important part of the implementation and operation of the network, but the total overview of assets, both hardware and software, will still lie in CNS with information on lifespan, vulnerabilities and threats. This means that Asset Management will become more complex – and at the same time, more important!

The latest addition to CNS is access to data via API. The API uses the newest standards for data communication and makes it possible to integrate data directly in the business application. This could be CMDB, Service Management Tool or even the ERP system, where assets make up a critical data source.

You can search the status of a given serial number and keep CMDB updated by searching a range of dates. In this way, information on new devices we have registered in Cisco is secured with the relevant information on, for example, SLA and installation address.

We are thus very close to automated Asset Management!

Asset Management will always be based on a certain amount of human input. You are the only one who knows if an asset is planned to be taken out of operation – next weekend, for example. But, fundamentally the heavy lifting is now automated.

If you are a Conscia customer, we know that you are already well on your way.

By Mikael Juul, Product Manager, Service Applications, Conscia
Mikael Juul is a product and development manager for Conscia’s customer-oriented digital strategy. He is also one of the primary forces behind the development and further development of CNS. He has previously worked in presales and therefore has in-depth knowledge on products, software, licences and service. He has been involved in the infrastructure industry since the late 90s. Certified Scrum Product Owner®