Unknown data center risk: What it is and how to avoid it
Learn how to identify data center licensing pitfalls - and get top tips to prevent, manage, and remediate them.

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You’ve architected and implemented the ideal data center strategy. You’ve made all the right technical decisions, procured the right hardware, and negotiated a great deal. So, you’re thinking: What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot.

The problem lies in siloed or incomplete decision-making. IT is thinking about how to be more efficient (by, perhaps, weighing the pros and cons of moving to the cloud), procurement is thinking about sourcing the right hardware and software, and finance is thinking in terms of cost.

But is anyone considering the licensing implications from what are mostly architectural decisions?

When companies decide to make environmental changes (in this case in the data center), they usually focus primarily on functionality and hardware costs. The software costs are vastly unconsidered, and thus become at best ‘known unknowns’ and, at worst, ‘unknown unknowns’. And an unknown risk can quickly snowball into a negative return-on-investment, or even worse.

Read on to learn about potential warning signs of risk ahead, and top tips on preventing, managing, and remediating unknown (and known) risk in the data center.

What is Unknown Risk?

An unknown risk is one where you have no opportunity to mitigate the risk before it becomes an issue that will have a monetary, business application, or capacity risk. IT leaders accept a certain level of known risk every day, but it’s with the unknown risk that the real problems lie.

The dynamic aspect of IT makes this an ongoing issue for IT leaders. One architectural change can create a high likelihood that licensing implications are introduced.

Warning Signs Ahead

Risk comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, outsourcing all or part of your data center hosting could lead to unknown risk because you may not be aware of all the changes your provider is making or has made. This could possibly expose you to unknown risk.

Another example revolves around the fact that IT leaders tend to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about business enablement and keeping the lights on. They are also under intense pressure to reduce costs and drive efficiencies. In some cases, the risk is due to the organization not fully understanding the contract terms and entitlements contained within their enterprise license agreements.

IT environments are more complex than ever. It takes in-depth knowledge and licensing expertise to properly interpret license entitlements and the various licensing scenarios and dependencies. It is very rare that a customer would have the requisite skills in licensing, data quality, systems engineering, and SAM expertise in-house.

4 Tips for Handling Unknown Risk

Tip #1: Build mature SAM practices into your hosting strategy and architecture decision-making processes

If you are developing an architectural or hosting strategy with future implications in mind, you’ll want your SAM program to be a part of that strategy, as you’ll need to understand the implications and costs from a licensing perspective.

For example, moving to the cloud might save on hosting costs and provide flexibility, but it can cost you in licenses. A centralized SAM practice supported by a detailed understanding of the licensing metrics can help provide insight on licensing cost containment strategies and licensing implications. Organizations need to be communicating to catch how any decisions might be creating risk.

SHI can help you build a mature SAM program with a complete strategy that includes governance. This way, the entire system mitigates risk. Before you embark on a transformational initiative such as a cloud migration, SHI can perform an audit of your license compliance to establish your current position.

Tip #2: Mature your SAM program so you’re able to react quickly to mitigate or resolve issues as they arise

This might seem like a reactive step, but it’s not. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to foresee or predict every possible issue before they arise. Therefore, it’s never too late to mature your SAM program to the point that it alerts you to a problem, allowing you to react quickly when, for example, a re-engineering of your virtual environment creates a licensing compliance issue.

This is where having the right people, processes and technology in place is critical. Partnering with a Managed Service Provider (like SHI!) for a SAM Managed Service will ensure your environment remains compliant and optimized for the long haul. An experienced MSP will also be able to support you through migrations and upgrades, and ensure your licensing and architecture are in lock step to achieve your desired outcomes.

Tip #3: Integrate SAM processes into your IT value chain

ITAM can be the glue that holds it all together, ensuring all the moving parts are aligned, visibility is high, and unknown risk low.

For many organizations, investing in an ITAM or SAM tool is seen as a leading priority. Yet, up to 75 percent of organizations feel their tools under-deliver on expected value. That’s because they underestimate the importance of ITAM processes and the in-depth licensing knowledge required to implement and govern them.

This is where an ITAM or SAM Process and Maturity Assessment can be instrumental, as it will identify any gaps and risks associated with your ITAM processes and policies and ensure they’re aligned with your organization’s business objectives and requirements.

Engaging a skilled ITAM partner can help you uncover gaps, root causes, and deficiencies in your processes. It can also help you redesign policies and processes to address them.

Tip #4: Consider potential software licensing implications BEFORE making architectural decisions

Most companies don’t think to go review their software contracts before making an architectural decision. Best practice is to consider software implications before making any hardware decisions. Establishing an Optimized License Position for your key data center software publishers will proactively identify potential audit risks and any security threats posed by older applications. An OLP can even save you up to 30 percent on your software licensing.

An effective SAM program with ongoing IT Discovery and Inventory across your entire environment will likely catch the problem, but don’t rely on it. Stay ahead of it by communicating ahead of time and staying compliant from the beginning.

In summary, it’s entirely possible to do a great job managing your license compliance. But if it’s not integrated appropriately with the other components, you are limiting yourself to simply remediating the issue rather than preventing it in the first place.

Full disclosure: Even if you’re already working with SHI, you need to open up about your architectural goals and plans. Start by establishing a baseline of your data center licensing position and working with an experienced provider to support you.

Don’t leave your data center exposed to potential risk. If you think you might be dealing with unknown or known risk in your data center, then it’s time to speak to an expert.

Schedule a complimentary one-hour consultation with an ITAM expert today.