By Vincent Brasseur
How hard it is to get a software license compliance position? There are many license metrics available that are quite complex to manage. For simple device based licenses, the equation seems quite straight forward: license compliance is measured by comparing license entitlement and consumption. If the license entitlement exceeds the consumption, an organization is in compliance for that license. For legacy applications, the solution may be as easy as counting the number of installations for a specific software product and comparing that number to the number of licenses purchased. In reality, just establishing this basic license position, only for device based licenses, without even considering any license optimizations based on software product use rights, can be quite complex. Modern license models, such as IBM Processor Value Unit (PVU), add a considerable amount of complexity to the license management task.
Let’s look at installations. There are many products—from configuration management and IT service management (ITSM) tools, to discovery and inventory tools, that will provide a semi-accurate picture of what is installed on each device. The process of identifying installed software products is now something that many tools will handle, to a degree. Some still have difficulties coping with new service packs or new releases published by software vendors, differences in software product packages across languages or countries, and the challenge of accurately identifying the edition, suite or bundle for specific software titles. Additional complexity emerges when multiple discovery and inventory tools are used across the enterprise, providing two or more sets of software product names per device. At that point, manual reconciliation between the inventory tools may be needed if the tools are not able to aggregate the data.
Another software license management challenge that most, if not all, organizations are facing today is virtualization. For device based licenses, application and desktop virtualization technologies require organizations to monitor the endpoint device used to access the software products, not the one running it (the datacenter server). Beyond the many technical challenges involved with getting accurate inventory when using these technologies, data from application and desktop virtualization tools needs to be extracted, normalized, and matched with the installation and usage data for the virtualized application.
On the license entitlement side, a purchase provides access to a specific release of a software product. For instance a purchase of a Microsoft Office Standard 2013 license provides access to the corresponding product. Organizations have acquired, over time, different releases of the same product. Some of these purchases provide access to the latest version, if maintenance or software assurance was consistently maintained since the acquisition of the license. Organizations often standardize on a single release of the software product that may not be the one purchased. For instance, many organizations have standardized on Microsoft Office Standard 2010 and have not moved to the latest release, when only the 2013 release can be purchased today. In some circumstances, Microsoft allows you to install an earlier version of the product purchased (i.e. via a downgrade right). As a result, each single license purchase provides access to one or multiple releases of the product that need to be assessed based on the type of license purchased and the maintenance attached to it, if any.
Processing historical purchase orders, understanding their entitlements and matching these to software product names that are found through discovery and inventory tools is one of the most challenging parts of establishing an accurate license position.
Consequently, before matching installation or use of the software to its license entitlement, significant efforts to acquire, normalize and assess data may be required on both the inventory and the entitlement sides of the equation. Once this work completed, it may seem that comparing all purchases of a product against all installations of the same product should provide the license compliance position. This is never the case. As noted above, there is not a one to one matching between the two as purchases may or may not cover different versions of the same product. Additionally, despite their best effort to standardize on a single release, multiple versions of the same product are found across any medium or large sized organization.
A reconciliation process must be used to smartly match any software installations with license purchases. Assuming this reconciliation has occurred, the accuracy of the license position is still in question—product use rights such as right of second use, right of multiple installations, roaming use rights, etc. need to be considered to lower the consumption and optimize the license position. Without taking product use rights into account, organizations may end up purchasing many more licenses than really needed.
Many tools claim to perform software license compliance and they offer dashboards and reports as part of the package. Even when these claims are at least partially true, there is still a huge gap between these tools and Software License Optimization products. This gap often includes many items—from the ability to manage discovery and inventory in virtual environments, to accurate identification of product suites and editions, handling complex license models, and the ability to optimize licenses based on product use rights and usage analysis.
For more information about Software License Optimization, please read our white paper: What Does it Take to Achieve Software License Optimization?