Licencing in the virtual age

We have spent a lot of time lately looking at some of the issues of management and automation, and how they impact on the ability to deliver IT services and implement a more dynamic infrastructure.

Having sat through countless vendor cloud pitches over the past few months as part of this, there seems to be an idealistic, almost naïve, viewpoint that it is a natural progression for companies to continue their virtualisation efforts beyond consolidation to implement a dynamic, or private cloud, based infrastructure.

The reality is that this requires a completely different approach to architecting, buying and managing IT. There are many problems to be overcome, and one of the most fundamental, yet also oldest and trickiest to solve, is the challenge of software licencing.

A few weeks ago I was involved in a group discussion with a combination of IT vendors, integrators, end-users and lawyers on the challenges of licence management and coping with compliance.

Before we even got to discussing the changes being driven by virtualisation and dynamic IT, a central theme emerged which was that most companies are operating blind when it comes to software licencing.

IT became steadily more important over the last decade to many organisations through automation and the need to manage ever increasing amounts of information.

The overall spend on IT systems and service delivery has been increasing, and the software licence burden has similarly increased.

Yet the general consensus from the table was that spending on licence management has been falling in proportion to the overall software spend. We see this too in our surveys, with software licencing and IT asset management often having poorly defined policies that are manually implemented.

We've previously discussed the importance of integrated management and automation to the ongoing operations of dynamic IT, and the same mindset applies here.

Private cloud will depend on a high degree of integration and automation to be realistic and achievable, with the end result that a licencing strategy that is mostly manual will be ill-suited to the job, particularly as operations staff are over-stretched and manual processes tend to have out of date or inaccurate information.

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