The Complexity of Software Licensing Rules.

The ongoing balancing act within organizations, between the number of software licenses that have been purchased, and the number of software licenses actually utilized, rolls on. Software vendors, as they continue to expand, change to include new products or licensing metrics resulting in a market awash with differing licensing models, metrics and rules, making effective Software Asset Management (SAM) all the more complicated.

The professionals using SAM tools simply do not have the man-hours to juggle time-consuming and laborious License Management tasks, multiple licenses with ranging limitations in user rights and still focus on the day-to-day implementation of proactive change.  It seems so much easier to accept an all-inclusive software licensing agreement just to avoid the rigmarole of dissecting a more bespoke one.

Variations of variations

Individual vendors have complex licensing rules with different meanings, as an example, Oracle have been through more than 80 different metrics to date, and IBM not only have multiple user variations in authorized, concurrent, floating and UVUs, but also other metrics including PVUs, RVUs, MSUs, and concurrent sessions on top of that. To take it a step further, SAP have editions that functionally have no difference, but do vary in terms of licensing and the only difference between Standard and Datacenter for Microsoft Windows Server is the unlimited visualization.

The language of software licensing

Adding to the complexity of each vendors’ licensing rules is the volume of differing terminology between vendors – it is easy for end-users to innocently fall out of compliance with jargon-filled licensing terms and conditions.

While a software vendor’s terms or definitions are a tool to help them stand alone from other vendors, standardizing the language of software licensing and making it more accessible could have enormous benefit. Bringing the language into the mainstream (or at least into the office environment) could help Software Asset Managers in illustrating how much time they spend on compliance, at the expense of other business priorities. Management will better understand software and software licensing – both are integral to business strategy, not just operation.

Transparency versus Flexibility versus Simplicity

Flexibility in software licensing is essential, however flexibility and simplicity just don’t seem to be compatible at present. Usage is changing and while a grand, off-the-shelf solution once sounded appealing, the possibility of a made-to-measure or at least customisable offering sounds far more fitting. Select only what is needed, agree to sign-up for only what is needed, and then pay for only what is needed – it would mean far fewer terms and conditions to wade through and just the one sign-up.

Transparency is another crucial element in simplifying software licensing rules, and another area seemingly neglected. As an example, Microsoft’s customer portal for viewing license and services procured by your organization does not list what has actually been deployed. Similarly, as SAP’s offerings expand, it can be a minefield for organizations to keep tabs on licensing, especially with some modules being automatically installed.

What can be done?

Ideally, the purchase, implementation and monitoring of software licensing needs to be simple and easy to understand, after all this software is designed to help productivity, not hinder it. In-house Software Asset Management is bogged down in admin activities with some 73% of SAM Managers spending the bulk of their time on transactional License Management tasks.

In order to interpret the output from auditors’ tools and scripts, organizations require a highly experienced and dedicated software licensing specialist. This is where License Management as a Service comes in, allowing your team to focus on strategic thinking and other business priorities, instead of being bogged down in transactional tasks.

Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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