One of the main purposes of any software license management tool is to provide a license position for each software title and show whether or not the organization is compliant with their license agreement. This calculation relies on two primary data feeds:
- Inventory and usage data from inventory, configuration management or usage monitoring tools and
- Purchasing and contract data from ERP or procurement systems.
The inventory process for desktop and laptop devices typically occurs on a periodic basis, usually every week or so. Within the datacenter, the inventory is typically performed less often, as the process itself could potentially disrupt the environment; however there are generally fewer changes in the datacenter. With this inventory frequency, next generation software asset and license management tools can provide an accurate and optimized license compliance position. If a non-compliance situation is found, the organization is able to remediate the issue by purchasing additional licenses or re-harvesting licenses for unused installations. Many publishers offer enterprise agreements, true-ups and flexibility – in terms of days or weeks – to address a non-compliance situation; a weekly or monthly review is generally an acceptable frequency for any license.
There are ways to get ahead of the curve and prevent a non-compliance position by using a software request/workflow management tool. This comes as a self service application provided to end users to request the installation or the removal of software titles. Once a request is submitted and approved, the software is delivered to the end user. This process increases the license position accuracy as a license could be allocated or de-allocated to the user’s device before the software is installed or removed. At the same time, a license validation check can be inserted after the request is submitted to determine if a license is available in the pool to fulfill the request. Additional workflow processes must be defined to handle situations such as rogue installations, or removal of software titles, or for outdated usage data.
For desktops and laptops, the solution is to implement software asset management processes that include request and validation for any software, hardware or configuration changes.
A different challenge exists in the datacenter. As mentioned above, inventory may be not performed so often and the risk of drifting out of compliance is higher. Some publishers, such as IBM, provide monitoring tools that will report any changes. If non-compliance is observed, there is no other way to fix it other than purchasing additional licenses. Additionally, datacenter licenses often have complex rules tied to the environment. Any change in the hardware or virtualization configuration (such as moving a hardware partition or a virtual machine from one host to another, changing parameters, etc.) could impact the license position. Usually, companies have processes in place when performing changes in the datacenter but the license component is typically not part of it. A process involving the license manager, where requests can be reviewed from the licensing perspective, would provide a safeguard against the risk of moving out of license compliance.
Next generation license management tools provide accurate and optimized snapshots of the current vendor license positions but, they cannot by themselves, prevent a drift in compliance. Software asset management processes can be set-up to provide alerts to administrators signaling when an organization is about to go out of license compliance, allowing them to take proactive measures to remediate the situation.