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Cloud Management, Vendor Impact of Software Licensing For the Cloud

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/29/13 4:19 PM

I provided some background into how cloud models—be they public or private—break both traditional software licensing models, but in some cases, the software licenses themselves.  Despite the growing pervasiveness of cloud-based compute, I was amazed that there are not just cloud-incompatible license agreements, but also some licenses actually prohibit the running of certain software in the cloud.

There’s a term that’s applicable here: BYOSL (Bring Your Own Software License).  Vendors who understand a cloud-centric IT model understand that you need to be able to use their software in cloud-centric models if that’s what your organization wants to do.  However, many large vendors (it won’t be hard to find which ones I’m talking about here) take specific steps to limit BYOSL (just to name a few I came across):

  • Require specific understanding of underlying hardware architectures or processor specifications
  • Require licensing based on the physical, not virtual host
  • Mandate customers run vendor-provided license tracking, further complicating multi-location or multi-environment installations
  • Prohibit software from being virtualized
  • Force purchase of higher-cost public cloud resources which rope in the underlying OS license regardless of customer license availability
  • Force purchase of “License Mobility” options in order to run software in public clouds

In short, software license management in the cloud is a mess.  What’s really odd is that those large vendors also claim to know about cloud.  My resulting questions to you are simple:

  • Are you relying on cloud strategy from a company that actively uses their software licensing to discourage or prevent you from moving to a more open cloud-centric IT model?
  •  Are they leveraging their licenses to force you down the path they want you to?

My subtext:  If you’re listening to intently to those large vendors, the answer to both is “yes”.  Proceed with caution if your primary cloud strategy comes from your hardware, middleware, database, or even OS vendor.

license management and cloud
Be sure to get the full story from vendors and how software licenses will work in the cloud.

In some cases, I can understand why these companies believe that licensing software based on the type of physical CPU, or the count of virtual CPUs, or even the type of cloud the application is running in.  However, more often than not, vendors are just trying to protect market share or revenue.  In other situations, perhaps there are other requirements, such as performance, or hardware that present troubles when run virtualized.  But that’s a support issue, not a licensing one.  Otherwise, their restrictions make little sense.

Vendor licenses that restrict where purchased software can and cannot run are incompatible with the current trajectory of IT.  Vendors need to understand that there is little fundamental difference between applications running on an Amazon EC2 instance in Virginia vs. a Google Compute instance in California, vs. a Rackspace instance in Texas vs. your own VMware-based vCenter cluster in your data center.  

Cloud management can help to solve this problem, too.  If software vendors are concerned about protecting revenue, they have no impetus to alter a license model in a way that will save customers money but be totally untraceable.  IT is absolutely heading toward usage-based accounting and costing of license usage, but currently, vendors possess no reliable way to effectively track that usage.  Cloud complicates that for them.  A vendor-agnostic tool that delivers accurate license usage counts in real-time ensures IT organizations remain compliant, and gives software vendors a little peace that they’re not missing out on revenue, but also provides IT organizations the tool necessary to much more effectively utilize software licenses. 

And for those software vendors that are behind the times?  They must adapt, or they’ll be (or rather, continue to be) pummeled out of existence.

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Management, Cloud Management, License Management

License Management in the Cloud: Are you Flying Blind?

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/14/13 11:18 AM

If I were to ask you how many copies of Red Hat Enterprise Linux you had in your virtual and physical environment, would you be able to answer that?  Not running RHEL?  Then how many copies of Windows Server are you running?  Oracle?  What about SQLServer?  Or JBoss?  Furthermore, how many of those licenses are deployed on virtual machines that are not actually running right now?

Cloud Software License Handcuffs
License management in the cloud can feel like handcuffs if not done correctly.

To determine these numbers, you can go out and do a large survey across every environment you have, adding up the licenses as you discover them.  Next, manually consolidate that information from all your different teams, and you’ll end up with one or more large spreadsheets that have all of the information you need to properly handle license negotiations with your vendors. Your counts will be roughly accurate until your admins provision some more instances, de-provision others, or install additional software on existing VMs. In short—and let’s be honest here—you have very little knowledge of your exact license usage real-time, or control over who is using them. A spreadsheet created manually, even assuming it’s 100% accurate, is simply a snapshot in time that is subject to rapid deprecation.

License management in the cloud has two parts: 

  1. You have to be able to identify, track, manage and control the licenses.
  2. You have to account for the different ways in which vendors license their software.

A discussion about software license management has to address how to create a model that fully addresses the entire lifecycle of software licenses, from identifying and tracking them to managing and controlling usage. I’ll discuss how various vendors need to license software in a future article.

First, let’s talk about the method you use to track software licenses, account for variations and keep up-to-date snapshots. Essentially, how do you create a fluid model that validates accurate counts and identifies usage without an ongoing effort? Tracking, identifying, managing, and controlling usage of licenses becomes much more important in the cloud because inaccurate counts and loss of control over license usage can significantly impact license agreements and operating expenses. Additionally, working across multiple cloud implementations can require investing much more time to manually identify, track, manage and control usage of software licenses.

It is clear that tracking software licenses has to move beyond an Excel spreadsheet or other manual systems, especially in the cloud.

The cloud causes us to rethink IT management as we’ve come to know it. To do it effectively requires advanced management tools—tools that solve problems in a manner that is conducive to your technology and process—but that also open the door for your IT teams to be more agile, and more responsive to the business that your team serves. Effective license management in the cloud is one specific area where most every Virtualization or Cloud Managemement (we just call it a Cloud Manager) vendor will totally fail you. Only one Cloud Manager product can effectively track those resources as they’re provisioned and decommissioned, and still allow you to dynamically adjust the method in which those licenses are tracked.

CloudBolt Software recognizes that software licenses only provide value when they’re running. CloudBolt C2 is the only Cloud Manager that provides a means to leverage utilization of licenses by accurately identifying, tracking, managing and controlling usage. For example, does a provisioned license on a stopped VM count against the pool total? C2 lets IT admin set those set or change those software policies, and control usage of software applications, and licenses. C2 can be used to control everything in the resource pool on demand, and fully manage the entire software license lifecycle: identify, track, allocate, provision, recycle or decommission.

Built-in license management in the C2 Enterprise Edition makes it possible to seamlessly and effortlessly track license usage across environments and clouds.  You will know immediately what your provisioned and actual turned-on license count is whenever you check. You can even enable the tracking and usage of different software versions in your environment. With a powerful and customizable tool like C2, the possibilities are limitless. Don’t fly blind with your license usage. With CloudBolt C2, you’ll finally have complete situational awareness, and will be flying blind no more.

Up next:  Software license agreements (SLAs) from different vendors have a big effect on how you track those licenses and how you use them in the cloud.

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Topics: Feature, Cloud Manager, License Management