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21 Oct 2019

The IT asset management industry, like most other areas of IT and, indeed, global professions, has many facets.  You can be a specialist in process, strategy, commercial and procurement management, hardware management, software licence management, audit defence...the list goes on.  Every one of those specialisms has their own knowledge set that, whilst not necessarily a mandatory requirement, do make your role a whole lot easier to execute.  For example, a process specialist may be expected to have knowledge of business process engineering, value stream mapping and ITAM strategy.  Following that logic, one of the things I constantly beat the drum about in the industry is the importance of understanding the technology hosting your software.  If you are working in the industry, particularly if your role includes some form of software licence management, knowledge of datacentres and their constituent technologies or cloud platforms, can really boost your understanding of software licensing.  I would go so far to say it's a critical, if highly undervalued, skill.

Why do I say undervalued?  Because in many of the end user organisations I've worked with, managers rarely put a premium on these skills.  IT asset managers are often people who wanted a career change to do something more challenging, were in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time or, very often, had their role scope altered to include ITAM.  As for me, I originally got into SAM because I wanted a role that would allow me to work from home occasionally...but that's another story.  I've been fortunate enough to speak at a couple of ITAM conferences in different parts of the world and, when I'm discussing technology, I often get questions asking to explain elements.  On one memorable occasion, I was delivering a VMware licensing training course when one of the candidates asked me, early on, to explain the difference between a physical CPU core and a virtual CPU core.  Now that particular candidate was completely blameless in this scenario - they had been given a challenging role, including licence management on a VMware virtualised platform, and had not been prepared or supported for it in anyway.

I'm quite lucky in one sense, in that I come from a technical background in IT.  When I've been called upon to learn something new in technological terms, I can usually manage it very well because of my IT experience prior to working in ITAM.  When I was a brand new (lone) SAM analyst, working on a major financial services account for a global IT services provider, one of the first jobs I was given by the account commercial team was to produce an IBM licence position for the client's current use, to enable them to negotiate the novation of IBM licences from the client to us, as a provider, using as accurate a position as possible.  IBM's Licence Metric Tool was, at that time, in the process of being deployed and so provided virtually no data of value.  The client was also an IBM house of some significance with multiple mainframes and in excess of a thousand IBM logical partitions hosted across multiple IBM POWER systems in their UNIX estate.  I won't bore you with all the details, dear reader (if, indeed, you are still reading at this point!), but I will share one crucial lesson this experience taught me - the value of understanding your technology.

Datacentre vendor licensing methodologies can vary wildly according to the platform on which you install the software.  Just take a look at Oracle's Partitioning Policy (it's not just about VMware, believe it or not), or the many documents IBM produces telling you how to count licences on different platforms for its Processor Value Unit metric.  Then add in to the mix that different vendors apply different meanings to words that, on the face of it, you would think have fairly standard meanings.  Processor, for example.  To some vendors, a processor is a physical socket CPU chip.  To others, it is a processing core embedded into that physical chip.  If you use Oracle Database it can be either, depending on which edition of the software you have installed!  And, just to add to the confusion, there are virtual processors and logical processors.  At Cortex Consulting, we believe in simplifying SAM; we also believe in supporting others with understanding technological concepts they might encounter, which will make their jobs easier.  In fact, we're using this blog to announce the first in a new series called "Two Minute Tech Tips", in which we'll explain technical concepts that may impact on licensing.  Pop on over to our You Tube channel for the first one - we hope you enjoy it and please do let us have any feedback.