License, Please: Altiris eXpress Compliance Toolkit 5.5
Staying on top of your organization’s software licenses will keep you gainfully employed and out of court.
Part of keeping in line with licensing requirements involves maintaining
an inventory of what you have installed compared to the licenses you’ve
purchased for your software. The Compliance Toolkit from Altiris is designed
to capture a detailed hardware and software inventory for your organization,
but even more importantly, it has the ability to perform application metering,
which is an analysis of your software usage. Now that could be a real
money saver for an organization.
Imagine this scenario: You have a thousand licenses of Microsoft Office
for your company. After performing your inventory, it’s reported that
you have 1,250 copies of Office deployed within your organization. Your
initial reaction might be to purchase new licensing to be compliant with
Microsoft requirements. But with the Compliance Toolkit, the software
usage results indicate that only 900 users have actually used the Office
products that are installed on their systems. So, rather than spend the
money on the new licensing, you can actually delete the software off of
those systems that aren't using it to put you back under compliance. In
fact, you may decide to lower your sights when purchasing the next round
Sound a bit like what you get with SMS? It has similar functionality
but nowhere near the robust features of SMS (which companies don’t always
need), nor the hefty SMS price tag (which is unnecessary if inventory
and application metering are your goals). What makes the Compliance Toolkit
different from SMS is that it includes support for Unix clients, can track
disconnected systems (like laptops that check in once a day) and has a
smaller client-to-server package than SMS—not to mention a really cool
Web interface with a bevy of graphical representation choices for your
collected data. And it’s less expensive: $13 per node for 10 nodes or
$9 per node when you reach 2,000 nodes.
How well does it work?
I found the installation and initial configuration a nightmare.
The documentation left me stranded and the Web site’s knowledgebase was
a dead end. Without the help of knowledgeable technical support staff,
I would have been dead in the water. This software is difficult to pick
up and use. So plan to take a class from Altiris on deploying and configuring
its software. Although I didn’t have that advantage, I was able to figure
out most of the settings on my own, but it was tricky. In some ways it
felt like there were too many options; in other ways there were some options
I wished the documentation had elaborated on, especially on the more intriguing
report features, like "Cost Analysis by Location" and "Usage by Location."
Once you get the hang of it though, the Compliance Toolkit works well.
You can push the client down to your systems and begin a metering of what
apps they have installed and which ones users are working with. The hardware
inventory is quite impressive too, even indicating how many empty memory
slots your system has. The pre-configured reports help you to view your
inventory and determine changes that need to be made, including possible
costs. The charting features are handy and flexible.
| The Compliance Tookit provides handy charts to help
you determine installations vs. usage across your network. (Click
image to view larger version.)
I’d give this product a thumbs up. The documentation was sorely lacking
and configuration options a little fuzzy; but the technical support was
praiseworthy and the end results excellent.
J. Peter Bruzzese (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Messaging) is a longtime contributor to Redmond, an InfoWorld journalist and the Exchange 2010 instructor for Train Signal. You can reach him at email@example.com.