I've had the same home PC for more than 4 years, and it's filled with all sorts of discarded documents, homework assignments for the kids, and other files, applications, and games that have been installed and then forgotten. I do a reasonable job of uninstalling programs or deleting files I don't need when I start running out of disk space, I back up important files semi-regularly, and I keep my endpoint security program updated with the latest virus definitions. But ask me for a complete list of what is on that computer and where it's located, and I couldn't tell you without spending a few minutes looking for everything.
Many (if not all) businesses and enterprises have the same problem with data and applications on their corporate networks. There are literally millions of outdated documents, installed programs, unused applications, photos, PDFs, and other files clogging up storage space across the network. Disk-based storage has become so inexpensive that it's often easier to buy more storage than undertake the difficult task of cleaning out redundant programs and outdated applications.
There's a darker side to this chaotic sprawl of outdated, unmonitored, and neglected programs in a business setting. How do you know how many applications you have for licensing purposes? And how many of those applications are missing required patches, or are afflicted with a security vulnerability? Solving just that sort of problem has become the mission of BDNA, a company that specializes in helping companies get a handle on out of control IT file and application sprawl.
I recently spoke with BDNA's Chief Technology Officer Walker White, who explained that BDNA's first product was BDNA Technopedia, an exhaustive catalog of hardware and software. Technopedia compiled everything about a product: the name of the company that produced it, the latest version number, all variants of the product name, when it first shipped, vendor support policies, and a myriad of other information points. Walker says that BDNA Technopedia has information on more than 90,000 products and 10 million data points. All of this information is then normalized, and the resulting data can be used to help senior IT managers more effectively manage their IT infrastructure.
"Using information about the wattage and physical dimensions of servers, IT leaders can start planning out the dimensions and power requirements of their data centers," White says. "They also have access to information about where the servers are made, how long the warranties are, and so on. All of this information is valuable."
While BDNA Technopedia is useful as an information source, it becomes much more powerful when combined with a discovery tool that can help IT managers find, identify, and categorize all of their IT assets. BDNA Discover is just that sort of product, and it can quickly (via an agentless software approach) comb the far reaches of the company IT infrastructure, detect what hardware and software available, normalize the data, and provide that information to the IT manager. This type of information can be invaluable to determine how many PCs are running across the enterprise, what OS they're running, what their hardware specs are, etc..
While BDNA Discover had some success as a stand-alone product, White says that BDNA eventually realized the benefit of working with existing discovery and management platforms such as Microsoft's System Center product family. BDNA Normalize was born, a product offering that relies on SCCM to do the data collection work, but then integrates those results with BDNA Technopedia to provide an accurate report of what IT resources are available.
White stresses that this discovery, identification, and normalization of information can drive real cost-savings, and used Oracle as an example. As a result of frequent company acquisitions, Oracle often found itself with a surplus of redundant server hardware spread across multiple locations. Using BDNA Discover, Oracle was able to consolidate those additional and unneeded servers into larger datacenters in Austin or Salt Lake City, saving them a small fortune in power and management costs.
White also mentioned that a BDNA Normalize for SCCM plug-in should be available by the end of May 2011. For information on BDNA Discover and BDNA Normalize, visit the BDNA website.
Do you worry about undiscovered and unmanaged hardware and software in your IT environment? Let me know what you think by commenting on this blog post or following me on Twitter.