New Year – same old challenges?

Just before Christmas, License Dashboard conducted a straw poll asking how many organizations had faced a software audit in the last 12 months. We wanted to see if the results of our thumbnail research either mirrored or disputed the latest figures from the likes of Gartner and Forrester, who currently state that organizations now face a 65% likelihood of being audited by at least one software vendor in the next 12 months.

The results of our straw poll made for interesting reading. In fact, among the organizations who responded, 67% had been on the receiving end of at least one software audit in the last 12 months – very close to the figures from the analyst firms. In fact, 19% of respondents said they “would prefer not to answer”, so the actual figure may well be higher.

What’s more, 16% of our respondents said they’d faced THREE or more audits in the last year! Being audited once is bad enough, but three times? Ouch.

So one thing’s clear – software audits continue to rise. So in a way, that’s the same old.

But what’s new is how some aspects of the changing IT environment are altering the risks and demands of a software audit.

Perhaps the biggest change that is affecting organizations being audited (or undergoing a self-audit, for that matter) is server virtualization. Our December straw poll suggested that as many as 97% of organizations now employ server virtualization.

Why is that a challenge when it comes to auditing software usage and license requirements? Well, there are two primary issues. First, the licensing obligations of the software installed on the virtual machines are increasingly being determined by the physical configuration of the host (how many cores/processors, what processing power?). So discovering/inventorying the virtual machine isn’t enough, you need to know how the virtual configuration relates to the physical configuration. That leads to the second issue – most discovery solutions do a very poor job of identifying the right information when it comes to physical hosts.

This is especially true when the physical host is a non-Wintel device, such as an ESX server as used in VMware deployments (and with VMware still having a 65% market share, that’s most of them…). If you’re using a Windows-centric discovery solution such as Microsoft SCCM or Symantec Altiris, you simply can’t inventory these ESX servers and thus it becomes increasingly difficult to understand the licensing obligations for them.

So why is this such a big issue? Let’s look at this in black and white. The one vendor’s software that resides on more virtual servers than anyone else’s is Microsoft. Not only is Microsoft already one of the most prolific software license auditors out there (recent figures from IDC suggest you are twice as likely to receive an audit request from Microsoft than any other vendor), but the mega-vendor also wants to own the virtualization space (it currently has around 27% market share). That means killing off the market leader and any other competitors in the server virtualization space – yup, VMware as well as Citrix and RedHat.

And that’s before we even consider the potentially massive licensing implications of using Dynamic Resource Allocation ( or DRS, as VMware calls it) or equivalent technologies from other vendors. But more of this in our next blog.

So, if you’re using non-Microsoft technologies for server virtualization and you get audited, you can expect to face some tough questions. All of which could make the audit process even more painful than it already was.

Unless, that is, you’ve got all the information you need at your fingertips. License Dashboard has developed connectors into the VMware suite of virtualization technologies (Vcenter, Vcenter pProtect etc.) which makes it possible to map the configuration of physical hosts against the software installed on the virtual guest machines.

In just a couple of weeks, License Dashboard will release the new 5.7 version of his License Manager solution, which takes managing server virtualization to the next level. You’ll be able to manage the licensing requirements of entire datacenters, incorporating clusters, physical machines and all the guests.

And remember what we said about DRA? Yeah, it does that as well. But you’ll have to wait a little while to find out just how good that is and why your organization won’t be able to live without it.

But for now, one thing is clear. You need to EXPECT to be audited this year, by Microsoft and/or other vendors – and they are going to be paying very close attention to your virtual servers. Perhaps you need to get there first and ensure you licenses are optimized before being presented with a large bill for unlicensed software?

Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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