Many have expressed the notion that creating a virtualized server environment would result in a significant savings because the technology makes it possible to operate using fewer, albeit faster, systems. While it may be true that approach offers the opportunity for savings in the area of hardware acquisition and support, it may do little to nothing on other fronts, including software license acquisition. It all depends upon the virtualization technology selected, the licensing conditions imposed by software suppliers and a few other categories.
Steve Butler, CEO of ManageSoft, and John Emmitt, ManageSoft's Director of Marketing, presented a pretty compelling case for acquiring the appropriate tools to keep track of software licenses, inventory of licenses and a number of other important details about the environment in each encapsulated server lives. They call their tool Enterprise Compliance Manager™. I would suspect that the same tools would be necessary for virtual desktop environments as well.
Here are some of the areas that require close management so that the organization's environment works well and the organization won't run into trouble with the suppliers of the software.
- A complete inventory of software on phycial systems and each virtual system regardless of whether it is running or not. Acquiring this information can be very challenging when many organizations are not aware of all of the virtual systems that have been created.
- A complete inventory of systems. The example given was a PC or industry standard server may have been retired in one group and given new life in another. Was the system retired on the books? Was its resurrection and reuse logged. What happened to the software licensed to that machine?
- Purchase order data is another potential trap. If a software supplier audits the organization, can the appropriate purchase orders be presented showing that all of the software was properly acquired. If not, penalties are likely.
- What are the usage rights allowed by the license imposed by the software suppliers is another area that most are not fully aware of. Does the license include upgrade rights, downgrade rights, second or multiple use rights or even the right to install the software in a virtual environment at all. Apple's license for Mac OS X, for example, does not allow it to be operated from within a virtual machine. Microsoft has different licenses for different versions of Windows.
- Each of the software products is likely to have a different type of software license, license terms and conditions and rules about use in a virtual environent.
- The licensing terms change from time to time.
If one considers the typical multi-vendor, mutli-operating system, multi-workload environment found in a medium or large organization's datacenter, the matrix of hardware, software, licenses, use rights, as well as other terms and conditions makes it problematic even when the organization is doing its level best to be in compliance.
I think that the folks at ManageSoft have put their attention on an important topic. What is your organization doing to manage these things?