October 2010 E-newsletter
Economics drive organizations to use technology in inventive ways to increase operating efficiencies and reduce expenses. Although there are many obvious benefits to deploying systems that automate processes and improve collaboration, the immediate result often is a complex and unwieldy IT environment. Even the smallest schools can be overwhelmed by the diversity of their hardware and software resources.
To take control of these assets and manage them throughout their lifecycle, organizations of all types and sizes are ramping up their investment in IT asset management (ITAM) solutions.
School districts traditionally have relied on ITAM primarily to track hardware inventory and monitor licensing agreements. But many systems support every phase of the lifecycle – from planning and procurement through deployment and maintenance (including license management, usage monitoring, software distribution and automated patch management) and finally, end-of-life retirement. Some even offer financial management capabilities that simplify procurement, regulatory compliance and vendor contract negotiation activities.
“Asset lifecycle management has really taken over,” confirms Lisa Erickson-Harris, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. Today, she says, organizations are looking for more from their ITAM products than just inventory management, instead seeking out solutions that can consolidate all monitoring and management functions throughout an IT asset's lifecycle.
Like many school systems, the Boulder Valley School District contends with serious personnel and IT resource limitations. With 55 schools spread across 500 square miles in north-central Colorado, the district supports 28,500 students, 4,200 employees, 7,600 workstations and 2,300 notebook computers used by students and staff. With that scope, not surprisingly, come a number of obstacles.
Having a single T1 line to each school proved problematic whenever the IT department had to issue security patches to all of those desktops, for example, clogging the network and consuming countless man-hours, says Jesse McCoppin, the district's LANDesk engineer. As a remedy, Boulder Valley expanded its use of LANDesk Software's IT asset, systems lifecycle management and endpoint security solutions to include computer imaging, software distribution and security patch management.
Thanks to LANDesk Management Suite, which combines inventory, power, system and server management tools in a single interface, and LANDesk Patch Manager, the district now automatically deploys security patches using a targeted multicast feature that consumes less bandwidth than traditional manual methods. The system sends the patch to a single desktop at each school or administrative building, which then issues the patch to other computers on its local network.
Boulder Valley also uses LANDesk to distribute operating system images to 29 different computer models and to automate the deployment of new software to district workstations and notebooks.
McCoppin credits LANDesk with saving the IT department thousands of hours of work. When the district transitioned its printers from a public IP to a private IP network, for example, it needed to update desktops with the printers' new IP addresses. Using LANDesk, McCoppin's team converted the PCs quickly and seamlessly, without affecting end users, and saved countless man-hours in the process.
Effective IT asset management practices can drive down total cost of ownership for IT resources by 15% or more. The biggest reductions come from procurement (160%), disposal (60%) and operations (44%).
Given LANDesk's comprehensive feature set, McCoppin recommends IT managers take the time to familiarize themselves with all of its capabilities. “LANDesk is [incredibly] powerful,” he says. “Great power must be treated with thorough planning and responsibility.”
The Greater Latrobe School District in Pennsylvania faced similar challenges as the volume and diversity of its supported devices expanded in conjunction with its one-to-one computing program. Finding an automated system to successfully manage the environment had become mission-critical.
According to Network Specialist Matt Snyder, the district's IT staff, which once supported a single image on 1,200 workstations, now oversees 18 different computer models and 5,000 workstations. To track all those hardware assets, deploy images and issue patch updates, they turned to the Novell ZENworks suite of systems, configuration and endpoint security management products.
The implementation has worked wonders, helping the district cut computer imaging time in half and save as much as 75 percent in annual travel costs related to configuring workstations and installing new applications.
There are nontechnical hurdles to address, however. District officials currently are working to overcome the decentralized mindset and improve cooperation between departments.
And because IT asset management has so many moving parts, Snyder believes it's important to get a suitable level of backend support from the manufacturer. “We find companies that will sell you the moon and stars, but when something goes wrong they can't help,” he says.
Happily, with Novell, they're getting exactly what they need.
A comprehensive and well-executed IT asset management program should support many objectives throughout a resource's lifecycle, including:
- acquiring the most beneficial IT assets at the lowest possible price;
- maximizing value throughout its term of use;
- optimizing performance;
- disposing of an asset when it's no longer cost-effective to maintain;
- complying with vendor requirements or other governance issues.