3 considerations for rethinking your IT inventory management approach

Tips on mitigating complexity and maximizing potential

By | 4 minute read | November 18, 2020

What do you do when it’s 2 AM, you’re experiencing an outage on your critical server and you discover that it’s not supported by a service contract? You know what a nightmare this is for IT inventory management. Yet understanding and maintaining inventory control continues to be a challenge for IT leaders. Across large installed bases, your teams juggle multiple vendors, locations and constantly changing landscapes of firmware currency and vulnerability exposures.

With so many moving parts, organizations like yours struggle to keep track of coverage across providers. In fact, between 5% and 8% of teams end up reaching out to support providers on device outages that lack warranty coverage or maintenance agreements.1 Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to meeting your full inventory management potential.

1. Multivendor environments are complex.

It’s hard to prevent and fix problems you don’t know exist. Unfortunately, this lack of visibility is often the case when you have many IT assets without an inventory management system across all multivendor activity. While many products have built-in monitoring, they only provide insights for that single product and data across the products of the same manufacturer. When you have products from several vendors in your data center environments, there’s a newfound inventory management complexity. How do you get consistent and comparable data across all products without having to access many different inventory and device management systems?

The ability to look at consistent and comparable performance data across multivendor environments empowers IT inventory management teams to look at different product details. “Often, you have experts who understand certain products but may lack in-depth understanding or ability to do deeper dives on metrics from others,” said John Bird, senior technical staff member for emerging technologies and innovation at IBM. Regardless of vendor, seeing the code level, serial numbers, where a product is in its lifecycle and more in a single inventory management system helps you better assess overall health, coordinate support service contracts and support budget planning.

2. This complexity compounds across multi-location environments.

Not only is it common to have multiple vendors, but many organizations work with multiple vendors across multiple locations. Already complicated vendor and support contract management becomes even more complex in terms of data collection and device management. To install a certain software or fix, you may need to organize field visits for a variety of vendors to visit several different data centers. And that’s assuming your service provider delivers the same level of service and operates in all of your geographical locations.

Many organizations in the retail sector have a server in every brick and mortar location around the world. They need to be able to quickly identify what each server needs installed and act. This level of consolidated configuration visibility isn’t common, which leads to security and compliance risks. “Some of our regulated clients may be so far behind on fixes that they may be at risk of facing penalties. In that case, visibility absolutely helps them,” said Bird. Visibility across locations empowers your IT teams to make the right updates for your systems at the right time for your organization. An inventory tracking system can provide that visibility, showing the current firmware level for each server as well as what level it should be at.

3. Too little data on assets makes an environment even more complicated.

Moving to a hybrid cloud environment is necessary for organizations to stay current, but it also requires more vendors and locations and increases the complexity of your environment even further. “Now you have new problems … old assets that you’re no longer using and would like to retire, but you don’t know which ones you can pull the plug on. If you pull the plug on the wrong system and a critical solution or application goes out, you’re in trouble,” said Bird. Moving to the cloud requires certain levels of performance redundancy and the right asset configuration to manage dependencies between assets.

An incredibly detailed view across assets through an inventory management solution helps you channel the data, put it in silos and organize it for maximum insights in a way that logs can’t. Logs allow for reactive behavior during root-cause analysis, but data can provide insights that free your time to focus on other strategic tasks.

How can you reach your inventory management potential?

By using an inventory management solution that collects and organizes data into one dashboard, regardless of vendor or location, you can conduct analysis, increase security and compliance, collect metrics and performance indicators, and implement automation in new, powerful ways. Instead of sorting through what systems or code levels you’re running, the right inventory management system can show you and prioritize outstanding maintenance to help your team be more strategic.

Once you have the right balance in place, AIOps is within reach. AIOps is a platform that enables the deployment of cognitive services at scale to help streamline and transform support into a proactive experience. This platform can be implemented within your inventory management system in a hybrid cloud environment and across a broad set of products—not just physical storage products—without increasing costs. “What we’re building is a set of AI for support specifically. There’s a lot of AI that’s built for different things. Predictive analytics is an example. Some predict when you’ll run out of storage capacity, some predict when you’ll have a failure,” said Bird.

1 Based on IBM internal data across 748,707 hardware tickets in Europe in 2019