Complying with software licenses is a challenge, and many businesses turn to software tools to help. In this guest post, John Lunt has some advice on choosing the right software license optimization (SLO) tool.
Due to the increasingly complex vendor licensing rules and models for delivery such as virtualization, cloud computing and SaaS, organisations are seeking solutions which simplify the management of software from purchase to retirement.
Yet most ITAM tools lack the critical functionality needed for license management. So why is it that these traditional tools are failing to protect organisations from unexpected liabilities?
A recent report from Gartner shows that Software License Optimisation (SLO) tools can help organisations to “gain better visibility into their license risk and exposure, information not provided from IT Asset Management (ITAM) tools” (Gartner Report: Software License Optimisation Vendor Overview, 2012)
In other words, ITAM tools do not fully control organisational liabilities and expose organisations to risk whilst SLO is enhancing compliance while reducing wasteful spend on superfluous license capacity
Licence to Bill
IT Asset Management tools provide the Discovery and Inventory information on what assets they have, where they are, who is using them, the services they support, what they cost and how they are configured, but all too often they fail to provide the functionality to match installations to licence entitlements – therefore missing a key step in the licence management process. Without this critical information, organizations have limited visibility on whether they are under or over licensed and lack intelligence on their position.
But, there are still many challenges in getting an accurate and complete inventory. This is especially true due to the growing use of technologies such as application or desktop virtualization, organizations enabling employees to use their personal devices (BYOD) and heterogeneous, cloud or virtualized data centre environments.
One of the difficulties in trying to use an ITAM tool to establish an Effective License Position (ELP) is that traditional toolsets provide limited licensing information. Without the ability to store licence documents, link purchases to deployments and provide information for contract renewals then there is an opaque licensing picture, a black hole in any compliance position.
Getting to grips with software licensing
As a company evolves and grows, it uses more types of software in greater volume, making licences increasingly hard to track and often more expensive to procure if not centrally managed.
Organisations need to work closely with their IT teams to manage the contracts, usage, and price of their software assets if they want to not only minimize risks but also costs.
When it comes to SLO the success of the SLO tool is premised on the Inventory data so by ensuring that this is accurate the outcomes will be more reliable. For many organisations, the tools currently used to manage software licensing may be outmoded or inadequate for the task.
If there is an existing ITAM repository tool or configuration management database (CMDB) in place, ensure that out-of-the-box integrations are available with the software licence optimization tool. But critically, today’s SLO tools must be built for the future, so selecting a tool based upon its ability to support licensing models across the software portfolio, not just the vendors that are problems today, will provide a solution that is dependable in the long term.
SLO solutions need to provide several benefits which can help organisations to streamline processes from software procurement to retirement:
- Ability to harvest unused or unnecessary licenses and dynamically report on who is using what software, when, for how long and on which device
- Ensuring software is only used in line with the T’s and C’s, i.e., only used on named devices or by named users, and
- Understanding software product use rights, i.e., 2nd use, development, test and training rights.
Those functions, if performed well, will give businesses and IT leaders a clear snapshot of their current licensing position at any given time, to ensure that the organization buys only what it needs and uses what it has.
Of course, the best remedy is having an understanding of what optimized licence management means to the organisation. Like most strategic initiatives, gaining control over the software estate requires people, processes and technology.
Beyond the use of SLO solutions, training IT staff in best practice licence management will not only reduce the risk of costly true up fees, but will also allow them to realize significant savings on software going forward. This allows businesses to free up valuable resources for business critical priorities.
About the author: John Lunt is Managing Director at Certero.