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IT infrastructure tracking software puts CIO in business

IT asset tracking software quickly inventories what's on your network and promises "actionable" databases that will help cut costs and improve security.

What's on your network? It's hard to know, according to BDNA Corp., an IT asset tracking software maker in Mountain View, Calif. Which isn't good. To wit: Using asset tracking software, a CIO of a large manufacturer, for example, discovered that 15% of the company's mission-critical applications were running on unsupported operating systems. Another CIO found that 10% of the company's laptops did not have the required hard drive encryption software activated. A global financial services firm ponied up $6 million in "true up" fees for a single application.

In a volatile economy where every dollar counts and the e-suite bosses are demanding transparency, CIOs had better know every inch of their IT infrastructure. BDNA, founded in 2000 and fueled last year by a $20 million infusion of second-round financing, is betting that CIO "surprises" like the ones cited above drive home its own reason for being: You can't manage if you don't measure.

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Software negotiating expert Eliot Colon, Miro Consulting

 The software maker has released a new version of its Insight product, an IT asset tracking system that promises to give CIOs, well, insight into the scope and state of their IT infrastructures.

The Insight system uses high-speed "agentless" discovery tools to inventory everything and anything that is connected to a company's network, servers, clients, IP telephony, storage area networks, etc. But that's not the wow factor, says Ray Homan, CEO of BDNA.

"Anybody can collect the raw data," Homan said. Insight promises to turn that raw data into an actionable document by meshing it with BDNA's FactBase, a catalog of technical, financial and compliance facts on the products of major vendors -- more than 100,000 records. The software gives CIOs a comprehensive and analytical view of their IT environment, including maps of virtual environments as well as time-based comparisons of what systems looked like last year or month or week, compared with the current outlook.

"Companies have a data deficit," when it comes to an accurate picture of IT infrastructures that can run up to 300,000 items, Homan said. BDNA clients include global enterprises such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Motorola Inc. and the U.S. Army. The analytical capabilities of the BDNA software address questions that bedevil CIOs.

"Who has the information going into the audit or the negotiation? Do I have control or does the vendor? Which applications are growing in deployment, and are they the ones IT wants to standardize on or the rogue ones? When does the data center run out of power? This is the kind of information a CIO needs to be a full member of the executive staff," Homan said. Instead, CIOs are often in scramble mode, clueless as to the big picture because IT is focused on getting projects out the door.

Asset-tracking conundrums

Consultant Nels Marin, a former managing director of global infrastructure at Credit Suisse Group and other big companies, including Citibank, said the biggest factor in keeping control of IT assets is knowing what you have and where they are. "Very few companies can say they know that," Marin said.

After CIOs make sure the infrastructure is stable and does what it needs to so the company can make money, the next order of business is shaving cost. "The reason BDNA contributes significantly to that is it gives an agentless means of doing that, so you don't have to dispatch a lot of people to do it and it can be done in a matter of weeks," Marin said. He added that he also likes that the company is independent, with no hardware to sell, and cheaper than calling in an IBM or BMC to help you get a handle on stuff.

Anybody can collect the raw data.

Ray Homan, CEO, CEOBDNA Corp.

Avanish Sahai, vice president of marketing at BDNA, explains why putting your finger on stuff can be so confounding. Take the task of tallying up the database instances of Oracle or SQL for a major audit. Over the past three years, Sahai said, vendors have changed their licensing from pricing models based on number of servers to by CPUs, to by cores. "Companies can take four months preparing an audit for a large database company, talking to every DBA for information that is not available," Sahai said. The BDNA FactBase is up to speed on the pricing models, nomenclature and all the other info required to hold your own during a big audit.

But wouldn't taking inventory of all of a company's software and hardware, and uncovering what's underneath all those biz-critical applications, affect network performance?

Homan says the software is "lightweight" on the client network, asking only those questions the network is used to being asked, and requiring only nonadministrator access and a user account. "If we don't have permission, we don't force it," Homan said. BDNA offers a trial run, doing a two-week test to prove the accuracy and effectiveness of the software.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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