Use Automation to Better Manage BI Software Licenses and Versions

Swapnil PawadeOctober 13, 2015

Managing the license and version information of your business intelligence (BI) software may not top your list of priorities, but it should. According to a 2013 Software Audit Industry Report, 53 percent of firms surveyed said they were audited within the past two years. What’s more, business intelligence (BI) software providers like Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM topped the list as three of the five most frequent auditors.

While the cost of non-compliance can be high, it’s not the only risk you face with expired software licenses and outdated versions. Insufficient software management can lead to overspending, lost time and productivity, and even malicious attacks from hackers looking for a way in to your system. Yet most software packages have complex licensing structures and come in numerous different versions, and as your organization grows, your software can proliferate quickly across 100 or more servers. Under these conditions, manual license and version tracking requires intense legwork to understand what licenses are on what server, who is using them, when they expire, and whether they are running the most updated version.

What’s the solution? Most BI administrators rely on manual tracking, but this method is complicated, time-consuming, and error-prone. At InfoCepts, we consider automation a top solution and have devised ways to automate license/version tracking for our clients. Below, we share the many benefits automation can bring and how we approach it.

Automated license and version tracking: the advantages

BI administrators have a lot on their plate, which explains why BI software management often falls by the wayside. Automation, however, makes it faster and easier to get the information you need to make important software decisions. In particular, automation can:

  • Reduce non-compliance — Automated license tracking helps you manage compliance of your BI tools by aggregating your information about software licenses and versions for you to review in a single report (or a series of reports). This, in turn, can help you avoid the devastating fees that can come with non-compliance. In 2013, for instance, Apptricity won a $50 million lawsuit against the U.S. Army for software piracy — they were running the software on a lot more servers and workstations than they had paid for. While the error may not have been intentional (it rarely is), the mistake was extremely costly.
  • Cut costs — With automation, you can identify under-used or obsolete software by generating data on what licenses you have, if they are being used, and by whom. Your team can then use this information to remove or reallocate underused software licenses and cut down on overhead  costs associated with unnecessary software. Likewise, the time you save by eliminating manual tracking can also decrease your costs. Consider, for example, that it takes a single person approximately 20 minutes per server to retrieve the necessary license and version information for four BI tools. Assuming this activity needs to happen once a month on, say, 100 servers, the time saved automating the process reaches around 33 hours a month — or 396 hours a year.
  • Boost productivity — When software licenses expire, your team can get hit with unexpected downtime. Instead of working on a critical project, users may find themselves unproductively waiting for software to be renewed and updated. It’s not an ideal situation, but one that automation can help you avoid.
  • Stay secure — Security remains a constant threat for companies of all sizes, and running outdated versions of BI software only increases the vulnerability. Even if you’re not currently running a specific software, any software residing on your system poses a risk. While many companies think network security is enough, the reality is that your network is only part of what you need to secure. Software is now a prime target, with 84 percent of all cyber-attacks in 2015 happening at the “application layer,” a Forbes article reports. So you want to do everything you can to keep your BI software secure.

Our approach to automated tracking

These benefits sound good, but automating license and version information tracking isn’t easy. At InfoCepts, we’ve created a flexible automation framework that users find simple to use and navigate. How does it work?

The automation uses a central script execution process that is compatible with all versions of the Windows operating system. The script runs on a single server, with the ability to scan more than 100 servers in approximately three hours. It’s also highly scalable and can function remotely, without manual intervention. Meanwhile, light weight code helps keep the resource utilization footprint small.

Currently, the automation script can track and manage license and version information for MicroStrategy, IBM Cognos, Oracle 10 G and 11 G, and Pentaho Kettle. However, because it’s built on a robust framework with a flexible architecture, the solution is designed to easily accommodate the tracking and management of more BI tools in the future.

So, if you run multiple BI tools across many servers, staying on top of license and version information manually just isn’t feasible — both from a manpower and a management perspective. Automating the process, however, makes it simple to gain fast access to the information you need to remain in compliance, stay secure, lower costs, and keep your organization operating with utmost efficiency.

Want to learn more about how InfoCepts approaches automation and BI application development? Reach out, and let’s find a time to talk.