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Considerations/Benefits of Enabling Software Usage in FNMS Agents - Datacenter

My second post today - I'm on a roll!

I have recently learned that Flexera default behavior on agents, and recommended practice by our consultants, is *not* to enable the software usage features within our deployed agents.  So, those data fields in our UI appear with blank values when we look at the "Raw Software Usage" report in the Discovery menu.

After 8 years of supporting this customer, however, there is a fair amount of "abandonware" detected as installed applications in our environment.  Having visibility to how long ago an application was used would seem to be valuable in driving conversations around retirement of licenses as well as identifying installations that may require licensing - even if the product is not in use.

While our consultant advised that, in a datacenter environment, this feature doesn't work in the same way that it would in an EUC/client environment, he immediately backtracked and considered the example of a licensed product like WinZip where the usage on "jump servers" could really have consequences from a licensing perspective.

So, how does one go about assessing the cost/benefit of enabling this feature?  In our case, it's unclear that we could make the change at the beacon level.  We'd likely have to stand up a new project to redeploy and reconfigure the 1.5K or so agents in our environment - meaning time and money.


(4) Replies

Hi Mathias,

It's probably nice to "be on a roll" 😄?

For enabling the usage tracking, you don't have to redeploy agents or reconfigure agents individually. This feature can be enabled or disabled remotely by using the FNMS 'Target' feature.

Basically, you:

  1. Go to 'Discovery & Inventory > Inventory > Discovery and Inventory Rules'
  2. On the 'Targets' tab, use the 'Create a target' button for configuring a new target
  3. Give your target a name and use one of the options under "Define machines to target" for selecting target computers. Using 'Site or subnet' usually is a good choice.
  4. Under "Application usage options", select 'Allow application usage tracking on these targets'

There is no need for using this target in a rule in FNMS. 

As with the other options that you can configure for a target, usage tracking will be enabled on a device if:

  • At least one target matches the device where usage tracking is allowed.
  • No target matches the device where usage tracking is denied (Do not allow)

Keep in mind that applications are tracked if they are being used interactively only.

In a datacenter, you probably have servers running applications like Oracle databases or Microsoft Exchange. These server applications are used by connecting to them over the network. This sort of 'usage' will not be tracked.

Thank you.  Does the target approach depend upon our "managing subnets"?  We stopped "managing subnets" at the point we went from zero-touch inventory to using the deployed agents (years ago).

Yes, we already get "used = y/n" information for Oracle products - I presume that is a result of the deeper Oracle introspection performed by the agents.  But your observation about Exchange, etc., mirrors what our consultant advised.  And that advice came to me when I observed that enabling the usage tracking returns not only usage and uptime but also the tracked users.  I was ready to jump up and down with joy over user tracking, but the consultant weighed in at that point and warned me not to get my hopes up too high.

So the bucket or category that I need to keep in mind is (to quote you) "applications are tracked if they are being used interactively only"?  That would explain why WinZip on jump servers reports usage and user, but not MS SQL Server?

Back to cost/benefit.  What do I potentially lose, if I enable - other than blowing up (further) the size of my back end databases with the additional detail?

Best, David

No, for defining a target in FNMS, you don't have to manage subnets. You can use one of the alternatives that can be selected when you configure a target.

However, you might be confusing different ways for monitoring software usage:

  1. Collecting usage data for applications that are used interactively is done by a background task. On Windows, this task is a Windows service named "Flexera Inventory Manager security service" that is running permanently. This Windows service will track usage for applications that are used interactively only.
  2. Collecting usage data specifically for Oracle database products relies on the Oracle introspection performed by the Flexera agent - using the Oracle GLAS (LMS) SQL scripts - as you suspected. This is relevant for licensing, as Oracle rules define that certain database Options like 'Partitioning' are licensable only if they are installed AND used.
  3. Usage for Microsoft server products including Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server is based on the Flexera Agent evaluating Microsoft Client Access (CAL) connections to the server. This is a third - independent - way to collect application usage data that can be used for certain Microsoft server products only. Technically, the Flexera agent looks at LOG data on the server that track client access. This CAL tracking feature can be enabled or disabled by configuring a target in FNMS only, you cannot switch it on when installing the Flexera agent.

Costs for tracking usage data in terms of additional database/disk usage is low.

Keep in mind that for countries with "challenging" legal restrictions like Germany and France, you typically need approval from the 'Workers Council' before switching usage tracking on (using option #1 on the list above).

Yes, CALs are another concern entirely.  We were looking at CAL tracking but were informed there is no point until all Win Server 2K8 is flushed out of our environment.

So far our scope is limited to 3 US DC's, so the European tracking concerns you outline are not yet relevant (to the best of my knowledge); but we will do due diligence before proceeding.

I will share this conversational exchange with our consultant.   It's likely that you two are in agreement and he will patiently explain that what you have shared is what he previously tried to share with me.  😉