ServiceNow Discovery – Is it right for you?

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Automated discovery is a must-have to quickly find and identify infrastructure components and assist with compliance needs and audit device changes. Discovery’s data is critical to a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). It helps identify infrastructure devices, components, and software, including identifying infrastructure changes (approved and unapproved). Typically organizations use discovery to:

  • Ensure hardware, software, and operating system components are documented
  • Ensure all changes are properly authorized via the change control process. (validates/audits approved changes)
  • Have a holistic, and transparent, view of infrastructure, and their components, within the enterprise
  • Enhance operational management processes (Request management, incident management, change management, release management, problem management, configuration management, IT asset management, software asset management, break-fix/IMAC, chargebacks, etc.)

ServiceNow is certainly a leader in IT Service Management (ITSM) which often translates into a belief that their Discovery is too.  As discussed in my previous blog “ServiceNow Competitors – Are there any?”, existing ServiceNow ITSM customers would be wise to explore other automated discovery solutions and not use ServiceNow’s ITSM market share as an indication of how well their Discovery works.  Just because an investment in ServiceNow ITSM was made, technology teams should not be absolved from seeking “best of breed” discovery options that will work with ServiceNow ITSM.  At Virima, we recommend understanding how the ServiceNow Discovery technology works (prior to purchase), the requirement to manual fine-tuning what it discovers, and whether its capabilities are worth the high expense of the solution.

Discovery basics – What we have seen

Deploying and configuring discovery technologies can be difficult and time-consuming, especially if a solution offers limited discovery options.  Agentless is generally faster to deploy and can discover the broadest range of devices like servers and network infrastructure.   Installable agents are useful for desktops and laptops that get powered down and/or roam off the network but not all devices can take an agent.  Any discovery solution should include both options because one size never fits all.  To ease the comparison, here are some other features to look for:

  • Scanner Type: Agent and Agentless
  • Scan: Servers, desktops, Virtual, Network, Application, Database, Network, VPN, Mobile, Hand-held scanners, Printers, Medical Devices, Cloud
  • Discover: Configurations, Software, OS Patches, Certificates, Relationships, Custom Attributes, Cloud Assets
  • Supported OS: Windows, Mac, Linux, UNIX, Mobile
  • Scanner Scheduling: Manual, scheduled, automated redundancy (if a scan is not delivered)

Deployment and Support Ease

  • SaaS or On-premise
  • Web Interface
  • Out-of-box Deployment Ease
  • Self-install or automated deployment
  • Vendor implementation services
  • Middle server technology required (mid-server)
  • Online help files and knowledge base
  • Ability to call customer support
  • Servers can be hosted on virtual devices

ITSM Integration:

  • Service Catalog
  • Request Management
  • Change Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Configuration Management

Discovered attributes:

  • Device Name
  • Device Description
  • Device Type
  • Manufacturer
  • Model Description
  • Model Number
  • Manufacturer ID
  • Serial Number (if known)
  • Department
  • Location
  • Created On
  • Last Modified On
  • TCP/IP Address
  • MAC Address
  • Last User
  • Device Status
  • …amongst others that are critical to your enterprise

Discovery technologies, like ServiceNow Discovery, require a multitude of discovery servers to support the solution. (e.g. MID server, management server, discovery server) This is not the case with Virima as our web-based solution is designed for deployment ease. Leveraging a virtual “relay” server that sits on-prem, our solution connects directly to a secure AWS cloud. This approach ensures the security of your data within your enterprise and within the cloud.  Plus, unlike ServiceNow, Virima offers an installable discovery agent for complete flexibility, while also offering dependency mapping out of the box.

As discovery solutions are considered, here are a few points that you too may want to include within the search for the ideal discovery tool for your enterprise:

  • The cost of discovery technology deployment. (discovery servers, middle-ware technology needs, etc.)
  • Ability to leverage both agent and agentless discovery technologies
  • Understanding how data is transferred and secured outside of your enterprise
  • The ability to write custom discovery technologies (as required)
  • Understanding the breadth, and depth, of data collected
  • Does the solution require a cloud vs. on-prem deployment
  • Does the solution provide features and product functionality beyond discovery
  • Ease of integrating a CMDB and/or service management tool
  • Ease-of-use User Interface
  • Ease of data import, data integration, and deployment
  • What additional training and support costs are required
  • Understanding of professional service options and fees

It’s important to remember that the success and challenge of any discovery tool will be the ability to capture the entire enterprise. To discover, and transport, data via network firewalls, Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections, Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) environments, and other isolated networks. This is critical to minimize the need to manually discovery, and manage, devices within your infrastructure.

And lastly, always compare solutions prior to acquisition. Features, functionality, overall capability, and price are all key factors when acquiring the discovery technology for your enterprise.

In summary
As you continue your venture of discovering devices and components within your enterprise, remember this: It is best if you evaluate your options. Capture requirements devised by your stakeholders, validate what you captured, identify gaps, prioritize your immediate versus long term needs, assess the cost of purchasing and deploying the solution, and don’t forget reviewing the “ease of use” for both you and your stakeholders.

Now take these requirements and leverage them within your vendor discussions as the evaluation of three products occur. Why three? It will provide you with an objective perspective without it turning into an “analysis paralysis” initiative.  Upon completion, review your evaluation results with your stakeholders and gather their input/feedback. This will assure stakeholder support continues as they have a seat at the table.

Sure, ServiceNow is a juggernaut and their Discovery works better than most.  However, do its features and functionality really address the operational needs of your business and address the needs of your business stakeholders? Are there better options at a more cost-effective price and total overall better value? Does the ease of deployment and usability make it operationally more effective?  How does the total cost of ownership compare against other solutions? All great questions for you to leverage to demonstrate that thought leadership has been applied within your decision-making process. And management likes that.

Download the Feature Matrix to see how VIRIMA DISCOVERY automates your CMDB so that it is operational, trustworthy and actionable.

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard COO Virima Technologies - Mike joined Virima Technologies (Atlanta, GA) in 2010 and oversees Virima ITAM/ITSM SaaS product sales, marketing and field services organizations. He has been providing solutions to solve complex IT challenges in a variety of industries for over 25 years.

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