Managing IoT Assets at Scale

7 January 2021

Does IT Asset Management (ITAM) apply to IoT Devices?

The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), answers the question, “what is IT Asset Management?” by defining ITAM as, “a set of business practices that incorporates IT assets across the business units within the organization.”

Out of the box, ServiceNow caters for IT Asset Management through its Software & Hardware Asset Management applications; but how does this translate to Operational Technology and Internet of Things devices?  These devices are still physical hardware that have a defined lifecycle, with installed software versions that require maintenance & updating, so you can use the ServiceNow platform to manage them.

With the emergence of ServiceNow’s standalone Hardware Asset Management application, and its ability to normalise Hardware Model information with lifecycle date information directly from manufacturers which cannot normally be discovered, we have the ideal base from which to manage the assets going forward.

IoT Devices in the CMDB

The CMDB is the heart of your ServiceNow deployment, being the main source of information for devices used by all connected applications within your instance.  It uses the concept of Classes to logically group Configuration Items (CIs) based on shared attributes. These classes are then extended, based on the progressive focus on those attributes (Windows Server extends Server, which in turn extends Computer which is extended from Hardware).

If you installed the CMDB CI Class Models application from the ServiceNow Store, you would automatically be granted access to a new table called ‘IoT Device’ which is extended from Hardware.  This table is the logical base table you would extend for any new class that would define the IoT devices your organisation uses; there are already several logical extensions provided through the store application, from Process Logic Controller and IP Camera to Smart Television and Game Console.

Device classes extended from IoT device, are automatically linked within the Connected Operations application to the connected devices managed through the IoT Bridge.  Therefore, when constructing your CMDB classifications to support Connected Operations, we need to be careful about how we define the classes for our Operational Technology & IoT devices.

For example, an Electrical Substation Transformer may have a single control unit installed that provides data to the control system.  In this case, we would look to create a new extended class for these from IoT Device.  But an offshore windmill may have multiple process logic controllers attached to it that provide monitoring information.  Here, we would utilise the existing Process Logic Controller class for the devices providing information, but relate them to a new class called Windmill, which extends the Hardware class.

Product Models & Digital Twin Definitions

We have previously spoken about the concept of Digital Twins within the Connected Operations application, creating a digital model that acts as an effective ‘twin’ of the real-world asset.  In Connected Operations these are defined within the Digital Twin Definition Record, which lists all of the operational attributes we would receive from a device (i.e. wind speed, humidity, temperature, etc).  To ensure that we have the correct operational attributes linked to the correct device, we link the Digital Twin Definition to the Product Model.

Product models are part of the foundational data used within your instance; their primary purpose being to identify different types of products such as service, hardware, software, or consumables.  They are also used to define the lifecycle of the product, as well as any financial or contract-based information linked to the device.  Since the attributes we collect from a Rockwell ControlLogix 5380 would be different from a Vestas V117, having the ability to link a Digital Twin Definition to a unique product model ensures that we always have the correctly defined data for each device that we manage.

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