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Understand software normalization

Normalization is a key part of reconciliation, but don’t try to make it perfect.

 

  • Don’t get fixated on hit rates—normalization is an intermediate reconciliation goal.

Have you ever worked feverishly to prepare for a software audit only to be slowed by the lack of a definitive list of discovered publishers, products, and versions? ServiceNow SAM software normalization delivers that definitive inventory list.

SAM normalization processes match software installation data—aggregated into discovery models—to a central content library of recognized software. In the process, SAM adds normalized Publisher, Product, and Version values to the discovery model. SAM then uses these normalized discovery models to reconcile installed software to the entitlements related to your software models.

Normalization and the software asset management process

To understand where normalization fits in the software asset management process, review Figure 1, which shows an overview of its activities.

Figure 1: ServiceNow SAM process

“Normalize software installation data” appears as the last activity in the “discovery” segment of the SAM process. As shown above, normalization prepares you to reconcile discovered software with your acquired entitlements. This is key—keep in mind that normalization serves the reconciliation process.

Step 1: Discover software installations

SAM creates raw software installation data through integration with discovery tools such as ServiceNow Discovery or Microsoft SCCM. This generates the Software Installation table in the database [cmdb_sam_sw_install] and associates the records with the appropriate hardware configuration item (CI) record in the CMDB.

Step 2: Create software discovery model

SAM aggregates software installation records into discovery models by discovered publisher, discovered product, and discovered version.

Step 3: Normalize software discovery data

You normalize discovered publisher, discovered product, and discovered version in the discovery model to gain a clear view of the installed software. This includes both the automated normalization of raw discovery data against the Central Software Library and the manual normalization of partially normalized discovery models where SAM can’t normalize the publisher and/or product.

Table 1: Activities leading up to normalization

ServiceNow SAM normalization matches discovered publisher, discovered product, and discovered version values to those in the central ServiceNow content library. When it finds a match, SAM updates the discovery model record with normalized Publisher, Product, and Version values, if available. The normalization process may also update the discovery model with additional information, such as:

  • Product type, like licensable, patch, driver, or child
  • Platform of discovered software
  • Language of discovered software
  • Edition of discovered software
  • Full version number

Discovery model normalization status

When you add software installations that create new discovery models or manually update an unnormalized discovery model, SAM updates the normalization status of the discovery model. The normalization status also dictates what, if any, fields you can update manually on the discovery model record.

Normalization status

Description

Comment

Normalized

Discovery model is fully normalized based on publisher, product, and version fields.

Also, in Kingston, the status is normalized if only the publisher and product fields are normalized and the product type is Not Licensable, Child, Driver, or Patch.

Normalization may also populate other discovery model fields, such as Edition.

Partially Normalized

Discovery model is normalized on discovered publisher and discovered product.

The remaining attributes require manual input.

Publisher Normalized

Only the publisher is normalized.

The remaining attributes require manual input.

Match Not Found

No corresponding match was found in the content library.

Custom software often has this status.

Manually Normalized

Discovery model is normalized to some degree manually.

New

Discovery model has been created and has not yet run through the normalization process.

Table 2: Normalization statuses for discovery models

We’ll explore when and how to take action on less‑than‑normalized software in Stage 3.

Software Asset Management Content Service

“We love to perform manual updates to our data,” said no one ever. You’ve got to do all you can to let the automated normalization processes match your discovered data to entries in the Central Software Library. The single best thing you can do—which also happens to be the easiest thing you can do—is to opt in to the Software Asset Management Content Service (which we’ll just call the Content Service). By default, you are opted out.

The primary benefit to opting in to the Content Service is that it provides continuous software recognition improvement based on your own discovery data. Furthermore, when you submit your unnormalized discovery model data, you give our content team direct input into what content they need to create. This “crowdsourcing” approach helps ServiceNow create content that improves normalization hit rates for as many customers as possible.

How does the Content Service work? After you submit your unnormalized discovery models, the ServiceNow content team researches the new discovery data and anonymously supplies updates to the Central Software Library, which ServiceNow makes available to all SAM customers. Note that no customer‑specific information is included in these updates.

The next time your normalization processes run (typically daily or when new discovery models are added), SAM includes any new patterns when it assesses your unnormalized discovery models. This greatly reduces the amount of time you would spend manually updating the discovery models.

You may be asking yourself, “What if I choose not to opt in?” When you opt out, your company no longer contributes to the improvement of the normalization service, nor do you receive content updates specific to your unique software installation footprint within your instance. However, you will still receive general incremental normalization service updates based on the updates from other sources. But this means that you’re relying on everyone else’s software installation data to improve your hit rates!

Now, if you opt in to the Content Service and have concerns about sending information about homegrown software to the content team for research, you can exclude those discovery models from being sent to the content team. By default, SAM sends new unnormalized discovery models to the Content Service, so you’ll have to update the Exclude from Content Service check box on the discovery model form to prevent the data from being sent.

What’s the bottom line? Opt in to the SAM Content Service. You’ll greatly improve your normalization hit rates and save a lot of time by avoiding manual normalization tasks. And you might even help other customers in the process!

Benefits of software normalization

When you create discovery models with normalized software publisher names, product names, and versions, you drive benefits in two key areas:

  • Normalization creates a definitive list of the discovered software in your organization – Whether for software audit readiness, M&A activity, or IT operations, your organization needs a comprehensive inventory of its installed software. Without normalization, you’ll be challenged with multiple names for the same publisher, which requires a substantial effort to rationalize, and it dilutes the accuracy and value of the reports you run. The SAM normalization process allows you to standardize this installation data from multiple discovery tools.
  • Normalization improves the accuracy and efficiency of reconciliation for your software entitlements – You use the normalized values in your discovery models to map against the software entitlements you’ve acquired, driving more accurate reconciliation results. This lets you prepare for and complete software audits with more confidence that your counts are accurate and that they match the entitlement records.
Expert Tip

EXPERT TIP

For major publishers, strive for a normalization rate of 90–95%.                  

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