AI-Driven IT Asset Management.

Oct 14, 2021. By S V Aditya

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AI-Driven IT Asset Management

IT Asset Management plays a critical function in an enterprise and is yet often neglected - both in terms of team sizes and budgets. Effective IT Asset Management can save on IT costs, cut down on vulnerabilities, and align corporate use of assets with enterprise goals. In this blog, we discuss the challenges of IT Asset Management teams and show how AI-driven management potentially turns these challenges around

IT Asset Management is one of the critical functions of any enterprise's IT team. It involves managing both hardware and software assets and driving compliance to IT policy. It is a field with immense potential and usage that is often overlooked and overshadowed by higher management in favor of DevOps and SRE. This is despite the fact that effective IT Asset Management stands to gain the enterprise huge immediate savings and significant long-term hardening. To understand why let's examine some of the goals and the challenges of IT Asset Management as it is today.

IT Asset Management(ITAM) teams act as a single, verifiable source of all hardware and software assets owned by the enterprise. In addition, they are responsible for ensuring that these assets are used in line with the enterprise's goals. Effective ITAM teams also track the Total Cost of Ownership of all IT assets and aim to reduce it while not impacting the enterprise's business goals. They also focus on cutting down on waste of assets through underutilization and expensive purchases. Finally, they enforce compliance with organization policy across all teams using the IT assets. That's a huge list of responsibilities for a team that is already short-staffed in most organizations (Source: Gartner Research).

Trends and Challenges of IT and Software Asset Management

One of the key trends in 2021 is that Enterprise IT is increasing its reliance on PaaS and IaaS services more than ever before, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. This has greatly increased enterprise flexibility when it needed to contract or expand its products without tying itself to physical hardware. This brings new challenges to ITAM teams like bringing the ITAM policies into a cloud governance model. Moreover, they also have to manage the costs of this transition. PaaS and IaaS services tend to be frequently unused, underutilized, and overprovisioned. Tracking this across a distributed environment that is split between regions, teams, and business services is a gargantuan task.

Another key trend is Software Spend. Software Spend roughly accounts for over 22% of the entire IT budgets of organizations (Deloitte Research). These are massive costs that scale linearly with growth plans of the enterprise and growth in employees. Frequently, licenses given to users remain unused. Sometimes the licenses are for a higher-tier subscription when the employee just needs the basic tier. These elements are hard to track and often left to the team managers who have other concerns than the license tier of an application. When an employee leaves a company, their licenses simply remain unused, wasting even more subscription costs.

Licenses aren't the only source of ITAM woes. Quite often, managers and teams use their budget to procure software without keeping IT teams in the loop. This results in them bypassing issues like permissions and allowed applications. Several applications and addons (like extensions in browsers) do not even require administrator permissions, making it a very weak control mechanism. From the user perspective, it is simply more expedient to bypass IT protocol when business is at stake. This is also a bigger problem now due to greater remote work preferences.

All of these factors combined have increased the level of dissatisfaction with current IT Asset Management tools used by enterprises. There is simply a large gap between expectations and the reality of delivery. How can this be addressed?

AI-driven IT Asset Management

At Algomox, we believe AIOps should have four elements - Observe, Engage, Act, and Govern. Govern addresses the challenges in IT-related governance using the power of Artificial Intelligence. In IT Asset management, AI brings a lot of direct improvements that address these very challenges faced by ITAM teams. Let's see how an AIOps driven system would address them.

First, an agent sitting on node systems can discover all software assets instantly and create an automated inventory. It can also provision any IT asset that has an IP endpoint. This AIOps Action Agent can check against a policy manager that is centrally created by ITAM teams and act as the policy enforcer for all assets. These agents will be driven by Automated workflows to trigger necessary actions. Let's see how that works with a couple of examples.

Consider that an IT Asset Management Team has a list of allowed applications for its assets. This list is tagged to the assets in a Compliance Manager portal. The agent regularly runs checks for installed applications and updates this portal. Whenever an unwanted application is installed, this will show up as an alert in this portal. This instantly triggers an automated workflow that directly signals the agent to uninstall this application and send the user an email.

Similarly, consider a situation when an IT team regularly wants to update software components on various nodes to harden them against vulnerabilities. If something goes wrong at the remote end - e.g. insufficient disk space, or lack of dependencies, such updates can fail. This requires the team to look into the issue manually and create a fix for it, which is extremely time-consuming when we are talking about thousands of remote machines. On the other hand, a Deep Reinforcement Learning based model can do exactly that - by exploring its options through different actions and responding smartly to system state changes. The entire I.T hardening can be handled by an AIOps Agent and Automation Engine powering these workflows while IT Asset Management teams simply define these policies, saving them immense amounts of time.

These are just some sample examples. With a simple Compliance Management portal and an Automation Engine running behind it, an IT Asset Management team can power automated asset management use-cases like software license recycling, I.T hardening, policy enforcement, utilization tracking, and much much more. To know more about AIOps solutions for IT Asset management, please visit our Algomox AIOPs Platform

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