Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Software Licensing in the Virtual Age

A lot has been written about the irresistible march of Virtualisation in the data centre and now on the desktop. There is no doubt that for many users of IT, and those that pay the bills, the ability to increase utilisation through the use of virtual machines embodying increased capacity to serve, is a boon to business. Leading to lower running costs and accelerating the ability of the IT infrastructure to react to business demand.

However, it is a rare beast that has only benefits and no costs or disadvantages that accompany. Nor is it the case in this instance. For we have the equivalent of a new fire burning away in the IT shop and virtualisation is simply adding more fuel to the conflagration. The challenge is that we already struggled to keep track of software licenses, and virtualisation is systematically breaking the bond between user and software and between hardware and software, such that it is very difficult now to see where and how many instances of software are executing.

Not a problem for your business, I hear you say. Well, you might consider the following questions before dismissing out of hand:-
1) How many licenses do you have in hand for your organisation? Is the agreement made based on number of employees? Hardware on which the software is installed? Some form of licensing mechanism which allows for licenses to be granted dynamically?
2) Are all instances of software run on the same premises, or spread across sites in the UK, and/or beyond?
3) Do you use open-source software in the same manner?
4) Do you use multi-core processors in the data centre? On the desktop?

Unless you are very well in control, I would suggest that most of you would find it hard to be equivocal in the answers of any of these questions, except perhaps for Yes to questions 3 and 4. In which case, you almost certainly are flouting your software licensing agreements in the virtualised infrastructures you are creating.

This is an area of concern which has been troubling many organisations at the leading edge of Grid and Virtualisation implementations for some time - and now its going mainstream. I would suggest that you check the license terms and conditions for your most common applications and then check to see the audit data and trail that you have in place for their management. If you are struggling to keep up with developments (and by the way, your developers now have new found freedoms to introduce servers at a drop of a hat!), join us for the Grid Computing Now! webinar on Thursday, April 10th at 2pm. You can register via our website and there is no fee.

Speaking will be colleagues from Capgemini, talking about the steps you can take to characterise your usage ahead of negotiation with your supplier; Microsoft, a leader in innovating in the field of software licensing of products; and Scalable Solutions, a supplier of audit and management software for the enterprise. It'll be fun and all participants will have the chance to ask questions during the event and afterwards at an online conference session.

Look forwards to seeing you there!


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At 8:37 AM, Blogger Peter JP said...

This licensing issue is a series barrier to the uptake of Grid technologies. The support for Licence Management in Grid environments currently is almost non-existent. The reason lies in the fact that most current middleware have an academic background where applications either do not require a license and/or where application licences are used in closed environments. In contrast industrial environments typically rely on commercial code basis of ISVs with an associated Licence Management -- usually FlexNet from Macrovision, which is the quasi standard in this area. (see Gridipedia License Management Component)

The other thing that causes a headache in the corporate would with open source is the dreaded viral clause. This is one of the most feared, and misunderstood aspects of going open source. The viral clause is that one present, for example in the GPL, which states that even if only 0.1% of your code is GPLed, ALL your code has to be GPL - in other words open souce and free! However, what most people do not fully grasp that this only counts if you then redistribute the software - modifications and compliations for your OWN use do not have to be shared with anyone. However, having surpassed this, Grid computing raises another problem in that in a virtual organisation you may want that modified GPL code to run on your VO partner's machine - and then you ARE distributinging it and you do have do make it free and provide the source code. Your partner then has the right to send it to whom they like!

Fianlly the third challenge is just the myriad of different open source licenses. BSD, Apache, MPL, GPL, GPLv2, l-GPL, and now GPLv3!

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Ian Osborne, Grid Man Now! said...

Peter, I agree and delighted to make the acquaintance of another likemind. We should put our heads together to see what steps we might take?


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