By: Matt Marnell
In order to minimize IT risk and reduce cost to the enterprise, procurement personnel must be well informed to make software purchasing decisions. This means that existing inventory and deployment data must be accurate, usage data and enterprise needs must be analyzed, and the pros and cons of the various purchasing options must be weighed. The many different software purchase programs offer widely varying license entitlements—product use rights. The term ‘product use rights’ is used broadly here to mean, the sum total of all licensed benefits that deliver value to the enterprise. Essentially, what can be done with a piece of software and at what levels or numbers? The optimized application of product use rights can significantly reduce an organization’s license consumption—i.e. fewer licenses can cover a higher number of installations or usage of the software. And reduced consumption means you can realize lower on-going license and maintenance costs.
Surely there are many important factors to consider when optimizing licenses, but focusing on product use rights uncovers an impressive array of factors that all need to be understood and applied as necessary: license types, upgrades, downgrades, secondary usage, multiple usage, virtualization, mobility, clustering, backup and recovery. The list goes on and on. Some rights are tied to maintenance or specific purchasing programs; others are tied to certain products or even specific versions and/or editions of certain products. Having so many variables at play sometimes makes optimizing license management across a single product daunting, let alone across the entire software estate.
Making matters worse, there are major differences between software vendors when it comes to how they define license metrics. Anyone who has tried to manage processor-based licenses will have encountered a prime example: processor sockets versus cores. For another example, consider Symantec’s common user-based licenses. Enterprise Vault and Endpoint Protection, both Symantec products, are licensed ‘per user’ according to their respective EULAs. And, both EULAs define a user as ‘an individual person and/or device’. But the one for Endpoint goes on to specify that each running instance must be licensed. This metric makes sense considering the purpose and function of Endpoint, but this hardly sounds like a per-user license. In fact, it sounds like a device-based license. Enterprise Vault’s EULA does not contain any further guidance beyond the boilerplate definition of user. Although there are subsets of users that do not require a license, Enterprise Vault employs what I consider a more standard user metric.
Beyond license types, many differences are found between and within vendors’ definitions of product use rights as well. Some allow active/active clustering under a single license, some require active/passive, and many don’t provide clustering rights at all. Some licenses allow additional virtualized instances, some don’t, and others do only for specific hardware or software configurations. Going back to Endpoint, a thorough analysis of the EULA also shows that running one extra instance in Windows XP Mode on a Windows 7 machine is allowed. Running two extra instances, on the other hand, requires another license. Similarly, a NetBackup Client license currently covers all guest virtual machines hosted on licensed servers – but not on IBM zSeries machines.
It’s clear that product use rights, while providing significant benefits to an organization, are also a major source of confusion and pain when undertaking the challenge of software license optimization. So, with all the complexity concerning license entitlements, what can be done to make well informed purchasing decisions? An automated software asset management system that incorporates a ‘library’ of expert-built intelligence is necessary to convert raw licensing data into a set of actionable reports that enable meaningful value comparison. Then, not only can informed software purchasing decisions be made to reduce costs and maximize software value, but ongoing license compliance can also be maintained.