• 08/24/2011
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IT Management Gets SaaS Options

More management tools are available in the cloud, but drawbacks abound.
A Foot In The Door

As with other services, SaaS-based IT management boasts lower capital investment and easier deployment vs. on-premises software. That can count for a lot, given that 70% of respondents to our survey say cost is their No. 1 concern with enterprise management suites, more than double the number citing deployment difficulties (31%). And the software license is just the tip of the iceberg. You also have ongoing maintenance and support, which can total as much as 20% of the purchase price, and administrators to keep the system up and running, install patches, and other tasks.

Enter SaaS. Subscription pricing reduces the capital outlay, and the provider bears responsibility for maintaining the software and infrastructure that support the service. And you don't have to give up features to gain these cost and deployment benefits. Depending on the provider, you can get a full suite of capabilities from a SaaS provider, including asset and change management, fault and performance monitoring, configuration management databases (CMDBs), and more. Better yet, in many cases, these features are holistic components of the provider's code base, as opposed to how many on-premises products bolt on capabilities acquired from other vendors--often with mixed results.

Online services can also be used to fill gaps in a company's management toolbox. You might not want to run application performance management in the cloud, but an online tool that tracks IT assets and their configurations could fit the bill nicely. For those on the fence, SaaS providers make it easy to pilot their services. Take advantage of these free trials.

Not All Rosy

There are downsides to SaaS in general, and IT management applications are poster children for integration and data management challenges. Consider that most organizations have a multitude of legacy management tools--and their associated data stores--already in place, with many having cost a pretty penny. According to our Enterprise Management Survey, 39% have four to seven tools, and an additional 10% have eight or more. If you want a holistic, service-oriented view of your infrastructure, that requires some level of integration with applications such as fault and performance management or ticketing.

This integration is a hurdle for both on-premises and SaaS vendors. But the remote data storage inherent in a SaaS service presents an additional challenge--without integration, that SaaS application becomes a silo, with critical information locked away inside. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will require some effort on your part. For instance, if your SaaS service uses on-premises collectors, they could potentially serve as integration points, but you have to deal with coding and cobbling to make it happen.

Some SaaS vendors, such as ServiceNow, address this silo issue directly. ServiceNow includes hundreds of integrations to third-party applications and data sources as part of its service, at no extra charge. Its most common integrations are with incident, problem, and change management systems; user administration interfaces; single sign-on; and CMDBs.

Another challenge when it comes to SaaS is data storage. IT management apps generate a lot of data--perhaps the most of any operational support system. IT tends to want to keep fault and performance data around for a while, especially if we offer SLAs. This means the amount of data you store with the provider will grow, perhaps significantly. Depending on how you're charged for storage, you may find SaaS costs rising unexpectedly.

Many IT pros are also uncomfortable with this sensitive data residing outside the corporate firewall.

You'll find a huge variety of vendors in the SaaS-based IT management market; many also offer on-premises suites. AccelOps, Citrix GoToManage, GFI, ManageEngine, Netreo, SAManage, ServiceNow, Spiceworks, and others target different size companies and offer a variety of capabilities. For example, Spiceworks aims primarily at small businesses, while AccelOps is designed for midsize enterprises. Netreo and ServiceNow play at the higher end of the market.

Established vendors such as BMC and HP also target midsize and large companies with the SaaS versions of their products.

Are you using  SaaS-Based Enterprise Management Tools?

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