Softchoice builds IT asset management toolset

Toronto reseller Softchoice Corp. is branching out into application development by offering customers of its consulting business tools to help manage their IT assets.

The three tools include PiNG, an agentless application that can help generate an inventory of software assets, a software categorization library and SQLizer, which can monitor licences of Microsoft’s popular SQL Server database. Softchoice will not be selling the tools as separate products but rolling them into consulting contracts with Canadian and U.S. clients.

Edwin Jansen, the company’s services manager, said the tools are intended to aid those companies that struggle to figure out how many licences of a software product they actually own, how many they are using and whether they need to purchase more.

“It’s definitely not our primary intention to be developing software, but sometimes you have to go where the need is,” he said, adding that the tools were developed after reviewing hundreds of IT assessments done on behalf of Softchoice’s customers. “On average, 95 per cent of software titles are over- or under-licensed. If only five per cent of software titles are (being used properly), there’s something broken in the process.” Softchoice services development manager Dean Williams, who helped lead development of the tools, said SQLizer repurposes data that’s normally used for performance monitoring and puts it into an asset management context.

“When we popped the hood on SQL as an issue, there was so much valuable data that has relevance in a management conversation,” he said. “Normally this was just tech talk for DBAs, but we were able to look at much more than compliance – are they right buying for their kind of usage, are they able to uphold licensing terms and conditions. We can even get into hardware sizing.”

Sherry Irwin, who leads the Canadian IT Asset Management Users’ Group, said that resellers and consultants have tried to offer such tools before, but many of them have since been bought out.

“There is considerable experience and knowledge that is needed to understand asset management as a business and then to deliver the products and solutions,” she said, however, “Softchoice is actually doing reasonably well with their offering.”

Williams said being close to customers gives the company an advantage that traditional asset management providers might not have.

“You don’t need to manage Office the same way you manage SQL Server,” he pointed out. “There’s a tendency for all software to be treated the same by a traditional IT asset management approach.”

The IT asset management space is already well served by Symantec’s Altiris, Alloy Software, LANDesk and others, but Williams said Softchoice has no intention of competing with those firms.

“Our goal is not to replace these tools, but to have an offering for customers that are resistant to having a tool in place. We want to be there to augment existing offerings,” he said.

Jansen said the demand is there. “I was talking to a customer with more than 50,000 PCs and when we talked to them about these things, they said, ‘Where were you three years ago when we were Googling all these applications?’” he said.

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