Obviously, this doesn’t mean that cloud services or storage can’t be managed as an asset. There is already an existing framework for this kind of service; SLA and software management pretty much perfectly fits the bill for tracking SaaS and IaaS. There’s already a number of software platforms with this kind of tracking already baked in, and an increasing number of asset management software providers are incorporating this kind of tracking into their applications.
Still, there’s a fundamental shift in thinking required in order to understand the management of cloud-based assets. This is particularly relevant for mission-critical software or infrastructure assets that would traditionally be managed in-house, but in many cases, they are far more cost effective when offloaded to a service provider. Whether it’s the latest cloud-based SaaS subscription for an Adobe product or critical network database backups held in an off-site cloud storage facility, these kinds of assets need the same careful tracking and planning as a traditional on-site asset.
Making this jive with ITAM is an important step in incorporating a cloud-based service into your technology strategy. Cloud-based services make a ton of sense for a lot of business from the small 10-man operation all the way up to the enterprise level.
You don’t need to redefine an asset to fit cloud-computing into your ITAM strategy
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the term “asset” is pretty wide-reaching in scope. Pretty much anything with a smidgen of computing power, or that runs on a smidgen of computing power, can be deemed an asset and tracked as such. This includes the obvious entries, like computers, printers, and networking equipment, but will often extend to less obvious workplace tech like phones, projectors, and media storage.
This premise extends to software as well, with licenses, applications, and code all becoming valid assets in a CMDB or its equivalent. Traditional software assets are a great way to categorize a large number of SaaS implementations.
When we start to think of a cloud-based service as just another asset, its integration becomes a lot more fluid. Using a cloud storage service can easily be tracked and managed as a traditional hardware service with some basic caveats and additional information. Most cloud storage providers are ready and able to conform with standard ITIL framework requirements in order to make their service play nicely with existing infrastructure tracking. This same courtesy gets extended to SaaS applications, making their addition to an existing asset management structure fairly straight-forward.
The perfect solution… right?
Some of the headaches related to information technology are even removed in these kinds of situations. It’s one of the main selling points of a cloud-based platform. You don’t have to handle security updates, routine hardware maintenance, or version-tracking. All of that is handled on the end of the service provider, with your company reaping the benefits of their existing personnel and infrastructure. It’s a significant contributing factor for the cost-effectiveness of a cloud-based service.
The financial advantages here are two-fold. Less personnel needed to service equipment or software that doesn’t exist because it’s no longer being managed on-site. Take the deployment of a cloud-based help desk asset management software. Being able to rapidly deploy client applications from the cloud would reduce installation time, and having instant updates across the platform effectively eliminates the need for patching. No more lengthy rollouts, long nights spent on demo platforms, or the risk of service interruptions due to upgrades or patches. The advantages to cloud services are being shouted from the rooftops by industry professionals everywhere, so there’s no way it could ever be problematic, right? Well….
You’re trading control for savings and ease-of-use, and that’s mostly OK
Cloud services are a smart choice for many companies looking to maximize productivity and cost-effectiveness. That being said, there are some clear downsides that require reconciliation with traditional on-premise software or infrastructure.
The most glaring problem comes from direct control, particularly over software or firmware updates. It’s not entirely unheard of for a major software patch to completely break certain systems or setups. That one specific file format your company uses suddenly becoming completely unusable in a brand-new software update could cripple workflow or cause interruptions in service.
It’s not impossible to find cloud services that give a small amount of control over software updates or rollouts, but most are going to do the things that make the most financial sense for their business model. That’s usually going to include rolling out the latest updates all at once, effectively limiting your access to whatever version of software or hardware is currently being used. This is largely a SaaS issue, but can in some cases extend to IaaS as well.
The ongoing cost of cloud usage can also make strictly defining RoI, lifecycle tracking, and other metrics that traditionally fall within the broad scope of ITAM more difficult to quantify. Finding a method of comparison for these metrics is a critical component of making the cloud work with your existing technology model.
This risk is still outweighed in most cases by the effectiveness of cloud services. If there are some specific use cases that would absolutely necessitate no chance for interruptions in service or accessibility, it’s possible an on-premise solution is the only option. For a huge majority of cloud adopters though, using cloud services is more than worth the trade-off in control.
Making cloud services work with ITAM is a future necessity
This shift from on-premise systems to cloud services does require an assessment of several factors from an ITAM perspective. This kind of organizational change can take time and resources but is going to be beneficial for many companies. The integrated ability to track cloud assets in most management software can help ease this transition and make reconciling the difference between cloud service and traditional in-house assets much easier and less stressful.
For many users, it’s definitely worth taking the time to look at which services could be offloaded to a cloud provider for cost savings and efficiency benefits. The necessity for change in asset tracking is a real concern, but it’s one that can be overcome with some forethought and ability to compromise on complete change control.
Cloud services are here to stay and their widespread use is already being adopted by many businesses. Making cloud services play nicely with asset management and tracking isn’t a 100% care-free process, but is worth the extra consid