The bright future of SAM and the Cloud

There seems to be a lot of confusion in the IT industry today as to whether SAM is relevant to the cloud or not.

The BSA recently published a report into the role of SAM in cloud computing which I think hits the nail on the head.

Far from eliminating the need for SAM, the cloud makes it more relevant than ever. At the end of the day the cloud is still software, or it is the infrastructure that runs software. Either way, there is software that needs to be effectively licensed and the procurement of it needs to be centrally managed. This is where SAM is still relevant. The cloud is simply a different infrastructure in which SAM processes need to operate.

Looking at IaaS and PaaS in particular, arguably the most common cloud deployments today, the cloud is even more important than ever. This is because the cloud’s flexibility to scale virtual resources far more quickly than ever before can expose organisations to significantly greater compliance risks. Whereas previously a new server deployment could take a few days (giving plenty of time to find and allocate the associated software licenses), the ability to commission and decommission servers at the flick of a switch in line with fluctuations in demand requires SAM to be more embedded and flexible than ever before.

Then you have SaaS, which is often cited as the example that SAM is irrelevant in the cloud. After all, you can’t accidentally find yourself under-licensed when using SaaS since the software is only granted to you if you’ve paid for it. True, it is difficult to be non-compliant with SaaS, but compliance is only one side of the coin. Good procurement practices are the other, and are more important than ever under SaaS. Without the central management and control of software procurement that SAM offers, there is nothing to stop five different departments buying the same SaaS product (as often happens). Software procurement needs to be centrally managed to avoid software duplication or paying over the odds for it by not exploiting economies of scale. This is where SAM comes in by centralising the procurement of software for the organisation as a whole and offering a single pane of glass from which to review software spend company-wide.

So why the confusion? I would argue this is due to the general confusion as to what the cloud really is, which is an issue that happens with any new technology. It can often be difficult to see how a mature and established technology can map onto a new and evolving one, especially when the evolving technology gives mixed messages. SAM has simply been caught in the middle of this confusion. Today, cloud computing is understood to be an umbrella term for IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and everything in-between. Yet a few years ago even this definition was unclear. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are all very different solutions and SAM applies to them differently; yet they are all cloud solutions. So no wonder people are confused. I hope the BSA’s report helps to address some of this confusion.

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Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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