Jul 01, 2019

What to Watch for in Your SAM Tool’s Software and SKU Management Catalogs

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in April 2018 and updated in June 2019 to reflect new functionality and capabilities for Aspera’s Software and SKU Catalog, CatalogPlus.

When evaluating a software license management tool, one of the major components of any solution is the Software and SKU Catalogs. There are many catalogs in the industry, and it’s not possible to compare catalogs in an apples-to-apples sense in most cases, particularly with regard to the size of the catalog.

When you think about it, the same concept applies to restaurants. The restaurant with the largest menu is not necessarily the best. This holds especially true in the Software Asset Management industry. When it comes to accuracy and coverage, largest is not the best, and ‘largest’ is not the same as ‘most complete’.

Focus on software license quality, not quantity

Where do I start? What do I have, and what can I do with it? Don't get fooled by focusing on what you have as software inventory. The real topic is focusing on your software licenses, the risk of spending too much money, and the problem of making sure you stay compliant with your product usage rights outlined in your contract and entitlements.

Remember that compliance is about figuring out what you’re allowed to do with your licenses, and then seeing if your inventory matches that—not the other way around.

Entitlement Centric Catalog

Aspera is recognized as having the most complete SAM catalog in the industry. What this means is that we delivered the industry’s first – and only – entitlement centric catalog. It remains true today that our CatalogPlus offers the largest SKU management catalog in the industry. This means our catalog provides full software compliance for more products and vendors across the industry.

As the SAM industry’s first Software and SKU Catalog, it’s been solving IT headaches and automating tedious tasks and manual spreadsheets for over 15 years.

How it works: Attributes with action

Think of a bowl of jellybeans vs individual jellybeans with a variety of flavors, colors and sizes. Many Software and SKU Catalogs bring in product attributes as one big "candy bowl" group of information.

This structure limits what can be automated and requires a lot of manual work for product recognition and identification.

Ideally, you want your Software and SKU Catalog to bring all the product attributes in as separate items or jelly beans. This structure lets you group or ungroup the attributes, activate or deactivate them, or type in a custom name and details.

Scrub your data with powerful normalization

Clean data is the foundation for successful Software Asset Management. And that data scrubbing depends on a complete database. Look for a Software and SKU Catalog that does deep data normalization, and tracks the data trifecta:

  • Data gathering (discovery)
  • SKU level purchase data
  • Product use rights

In doing so, you get built-in software recognition that identifies every piece of software and license data to provide a clear, consolidated view of your assets. Then your software license management tool can filter out what you don’t need, so you only work with reliable data that’s been fully scrubbed.

CatalogPlus tracks your essential data

Stock Keeping Units (SKU)Unlimited use rightsPoint value & point category
License metricLimited use rightsMaintenance type
License modelAlertsMaintenance timeframe
Update/full versionData normalizationMaintenance via contract
Downgrade rightsRule based mappingSignatures and synonyms

More coverage for your key vendors

We can assume that 80% of your software spend is in 20% of your vendors. So when you’re shopping for a Software and SKU Catalog, it’s important that your key software vendors are covered.

Look for a Software and SKU Catalog that connects directly to your software license management tool. For instance, CatalogPlus is integrated into the Aspera SmartTrack tool and ships with data records for over 1 Million researched product use rights, 145,000 licensable products, 10,000 product families, 3,000 vendors, and more than 50 fully optimized vendors.

This is more coverage that any other SAM provider in the industry. Aspera can ensure full coverage of your entire software estate, regardless of the number of manufacturers or products in our CatalogPlus compared to others in the industry.

The Aspera CatalogPlus is a living technology that is constantly growing. It ships with dynamic, future-proof features such as:

  • Over 80% out-of-box normalization of a typical software inventory
  • Over 90% out-of-box matching of your software to the correct SKUs
  • Data records for more than 10,000 product families
  • Data records for 1 million+ researched product use rights
  • Data records for more than 145,000+ licensable products
  • Data records for 3,000 vendors, 50+ fully managed & optimized

Get unbeatable, out-of-box vendor coverage

Integrated data coverage, unbeatable data quality

In the SAM industry, having a larger “software” catalog is only useful to identify installed software, but within a SAM process this is only the first item needed for software license management and software license optimization.

Look for a Software and SKU Catalog like CatalogPlus that identifies your software products automatically. This helps cut down on user error and ensures high data quality. When our SmartTrack platform imports raw product data, CatalogPlus organizes each identifying attribute so SmartTrack can see every product detail and tracks the relationships between products. This means that you can choose to get an overview of all your grouped products or drill down into separate fields by vendor, product family, version, edition, platform, metric, language, and more.

Once the software is identified using SmartTrack’s hundreds of thousands of signatures and recognition rules, SmartTrack maps raw discovery data to normalized catalog products and can easily determine what is licensable software and stores their usage rules.. The normalized software inventory then goes through a process known as Metric Engine calculation which applies the appropriate license metric and terms and conditions of that software that is installed.

This is how a Software and SKU Catalog should automate your software recognition, protect against compliance risk, and simplify the Software Asset Management process.

This process delivers Aspera at the top of software license management tools in regards to data accuracy and complete coverage of your software estate. The SKU management catalog is often a separate purchase per manufacturer with other tools. No other SAM tool has a more extensive SKU library to identify entitlement information, and then apply those rights to your deployed software.

More metric engines

The Aspera's CatalogPlus contains more metric engines and license types than any other catalog, as well as full MSDN, Office365, and Adobe creative cloud bundle logic. Aspera SmartTrack contains all known license types and metric engines for customers to determine appropriate demand for licensing for all software in any environment.

A deeper level of recognition happens with CatalogPlus for software suites. For example, in order to create rules that distinguish standalone installations of Photoshop from deployments of Creative Suite Design Standard or Master Collection, the catalog combines multiple signatures across types (Add/Remove Programs, File, MSI, etc.), and operators (Includes, One Of, Excludes, etc.).

Only “open” catalog in industry

Aspera has the only “open” catalog in the industry, which allows customers to extend their catalog. This is needed because most organizations have specific product usage rights negotiated with many of their vendors. The Aspera CatalogPlus is open architecture, allowing you to adjust the product usage rights within the user interface, or add additional vendors or products that may be specific to your company.

It’s really important to understand that many SAM vendors may have a software catalog known as “black box” catalog. This black box technology means that you aren’t able to view SKU information, or search for information regarding incomplete procurement information. This is a major issue for organizations that have incomplete procurement records, as you are unable to search the catalog for the appropriate information.

Discovery tool agnostic

It’s important to find a Software and SKU Catalog like CatalogPlus that is discovery tool agnostic and does not require you to replace your discovery tools in order for your SAM process to properly identify your software. Without a discovery-agnostic technology, customers may be asked to replace their current discovery tools with their chosen SAM tool provider’s discovery tool in order to make the software recognition work. If you purchased a SAM tool based on the “largest” software catalog, you now may be struggling with an inability to produce Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM compliance after 1-3 years because your catalog is not discovery-agnostic.

Automatic tracking of end dates

Another critical capability to look for in your Software and SKU Catalog is fully automated maintenance versioning. This refers to using licenses to define the time period in which you can use the newest version of a product. At its end date, you can extend the maintenance or continue to use the older version. For example, using CatalogPlus data, the Automatic Versioning Assistant can compare the product properties of the last version within the maintenance period, and determine if your end date is reached.

Get unbeatable, out-of-box vendor coverage

Topics: SAM 101, SAM Education, SmartTrack