The licensing mess

Today’s enterprise software organizations (Microsoft, Oracle, VMware, and others) are facing a sea change in response to their old tactics. Used to be that an organization of size appropriate for the licensing needs to purchase an enterprise agreement of some sort (they’re all different) to maintain compliance with their obligations. The worries from those organizations is that they’re either consuming more licenses than they need, or paying way too much for licenses that they don’t need. Enter the “True-Up.” This is the process that an organization goes through their use of software and ultimately reports their usage to the vendor, and makes a purchase of licenses in use that are not currently in a valid state.

This process is time consuming, but, if not responsibly undertaken, can show a company is completely out of alignment, and thus incur penalties that can be huge.

How does an organization deal with these costs, remain in compliance, and also find themselves optimized such that they’re making the most of their licenses in use?

As a partner in enterprise technology, we’ve developed a packaged product that will evaluate those licenses, as well as taking a deep dive into the architecture which will help to ensure that the customer remains fully licensed, and yet doesn’t find themselves paying for licenses that they don’t need, aren’t actively using, or are redundant. The customer can feel confident that their best interests are being taken care of, and in a timely, efficient, and accurate manner. Often when undertaken internally, these are firedrill exercises, but when we take the project, there’s a methodology and accuracy that those less familiar with the nuances of these engagements would never be able to achieve.

While I know that this program isn’t unique, I find our offering here to be completely compelling. We truly act as members of the customer’s team, as part of the process, to take an in-depth view of the environment, and ensure that not only, if you engage with us, that we get you the best deal, we stay on-top of these, offer reminders to you that the process must run again, so that they’re not taken by surprise, and come back with monetary and licensing savings that could never be achieved by the customer alone, as we know where these savings exist.

For example, most of our Oracle customers are unaware of how Oracle on VMware can be licensed against the cores on a dedicated cluster, rather than every core in the environment. This is truly a game-changer, and the savings can be profound.

End User Computing, and Microsoft licensing is another area in which our customers are unaware of the potential uses and savings. For example, Microsoft does a per-device rather than a per-user licensing model. If you can imagine a hospital setting wherein the nursing staff uses stations, with three shifts logging in to the same device. In that case, an operating system and an office license can be consumed by 1/3 the users, simply by licensing the device and not the user.

In order for an organization to undertake these efforts on their own, they’d need to have a dedicated licensing professional on-staff. Well, that only adds to the costs associated with licensing. Not great.

This is only going to get worse. Let’s take into account AWS or Azure licensing. I’ve talked previously about the huge costs associated with housing application sets on cloud platforms. I’ve not really discussed how licensing works. If you house a SQL database on Azure, are you convinced that you know how it’s licensed? These are concerns that take into account the full spectrum of the costs involved. Can you house that database on Azure, and then decommission one that’s housed on premises? How do you know?

Sprawl is always a concern. Dev/Test environments also chew up licensing, and in a fully dynamic, agile environment, have you come to an understanding of how your organization will manage these licenses, and placed in some governance against the swiping of credit cards, and utilization of shadow IT licenses? This can be a huge gotcha that can bring an IT spend to its knees.

What part does OpenSource play in this equation? Many companies are looking to OpenStack, and OpenSource software to establish a beachhead against the deep costs of licensing. It’s a good approach, but can come with perils associated. The support can be tricky, and the uptime may not be quite where these organizations need it to be. Is it an experiment? Even if it isn’t, where does the learning curve play in? Are there ways that, for example a fully supported Red Hat OpenStack model, with licensing and support built-in, rather than a more home-grown truly open model could better the corporate model? These are and should be concerns that every enterprise should evaluate prior to the undertaking of such an architecture.

I believe that the truth in the phrase Caveat Emptor dictates. Be smart, seek advice, and don’t be, if possible, precipitous in your undertaking.

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