The elephant in the room - virtualization and license management

The elephant in the room - virtualization and license management

Summary: 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.

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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?

Topics: Emerging Tech, CXO, Software, Virtualization, IT Employment

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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6 comments
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  • This is another reason that proprietary software is a big problem in

    virtualized environments. Figuring out what you have to pay, and paying for it is a major headache. You can not just roll out servers and applications, you have to do in-depth upfront, and ONGOING analysis as licenses terms change, of what you will owe and the best way to minimize license costs.
    DonnieBoy
  • Let's see

    8 core server running Linux and using 1 TSM license for backup. Split that box into 4 VMs, and now you are paying for 4 TSM licenses. Same box, software costs x4. And Virtualization SAVES MONEY! Bah!
    Roger Ramjet
    • And, that is the problem with proprietary software here. There is just way

      too much friction in figuring out the licensing, trying to convince software vendors that they should not charge 4x more for the same thing just because it is 4 VMs, keeping track of it all, audits that must be done to prove you are paying what is due by the letter of the licensing agreements, and keeping abreast of suttle changes in the licensing agreements that affect the amount you must pay, and on and on and on and on . . . .

      For this, you will not see people spending the time to switch to open source components for everything possible for virtualized systems.
      DonnieBoy
  • RE: The elephant in the room - virtualization and license management

    The challenges with virtualization and license management are valid issues. License management has always been necessary in any organization to guarantee compliance. However, with the advances in virtualization technology, the terms of these licenses are changing so much that it takes serious effort to stay on top of them.

    However, we're starting to see some improvements in this area. For example, Microsoft has made considerable advances in their license policies to support virtualization. They've updated their policies for server OS and application licenses twice within the last year. I'm not saying that this is ideal, but it's a good sign that they've decided to pave the way.

    Dan also talks about the difficulties with proprietary software, which I agree can be another beast that requires a great deal of work to overcome. In our experience, we?ve found the best way to conquer that hurdle is to begin conversations early with the licensor, and figure out a way to come to a fair agreement that will not cause unnecessary financial pain for either party.

    Lew Smith
    http://virtualizationexchange.blogspot.com
    Lew Smith
  • RE: The elephant in the room - virtualization and license management

    We've used VDIwork's product to get around this issue. With the use of a connection broker, we're able to map specific users to VMs or traditional PCs with this high price license installed.
    C Kelly
  • RE: The elephant in the room - virtualization and license management

    VMLogix LabManager has built is functionality for license management in virtual software labs. With the license management capabilites, users can enforce license limits, instantiate and count against the use of a license when a software package is installed in a VM OR when a VM is deployed.

    You can find a brief demo of this capability here:
    http://blog.vmlogix.com/2009/04/01/demo-software-license-management-in-virtual-labs/
    srihari@...