Virtualization gets clearance

Making software licenses "virtual" could drive prices down, while the open-source community helps to clarify some patent and licensing issues.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Businesses looking to upgrade their software might want to get themselves familiar with an emerging concept: software virtualization.

Software virtualization decouples the software, such as operating systems and desktop applications, from the hardware. Its technology benefits include easier deployment and management.

The technology, however, has thrown up licensing concerns.

Driven mostly by the release of multicore processors, software vendors including Oracle and IBM have scurried to come up with new licensing models that best fit systems with these new chips.


What's hot
Software virtualization decouples the software, such as operating systems and desktop applications, from the hardware. Virtualization software, such as those from VMware and Altiris, sit on desktops and run applications and operating systems regardless of the underlying systems configuration.

Bottom line:
According to Gartner, virtualization technology enables IT administrators to achieve "homogeneous bliss". Enterprise software packages can be deployed, managed and secured more easily.

Microsoft unveiled new changes to its server product licensing to better address the realm of virtualization software.

How these shifts will change the way software in general is licensed, and whether it will drive software prices down, is still anybody's guess. No doubt some answers will emerge as the year turns.

Clearing the open path
The open, and free, source community is also looking to clear up some issues next year.

The first draft of an updated version of popular free software license, General Public License (GPL) 3, will finally be published in January. Further drafts are expected to be released throughout 2006.

While its author Richard Stallman has been vague about what the new changes will address, the updated licensing model is expected to provide better compatibility with other free software licenses, and a clause to mandate the publication of source codes in any GPL-licensed software that are used for commercial services.

The Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) last month launched a new Web site, an initiative called Patent Commons, to provide a common platform where software developers can look through existing patents and avoid the risk of infringing on one.

The catch is that for now, only seven companies including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Computer Associates and Red Hat, have pledged their support and contributed over 500 patents to the site.

It remains to be seen if OSDL will succeed in persuading others such as Oracle, SAP and even Microsoft, to join the pledge this year.

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