The wheels on the bus go round and EPIC FAIL

Virtualization is a big thing these days as people try to save money and the planet. More and more of us run mission critical systems on virtual machines. Yesterday though it all went very badly wrong for some people running Vmware.

Now, I am not going to write about the disaster. It did not affect any of my systems though it has made us think very carefully about using Vmware in the future but rather I was intrigued by the cause of the failure. To oversimplify horribly the licensing system decided that that the software was no longer licenced so you could no longer run it.

Now the licensing of enterprise software is a topic worth writing about.

As a CIO I am responsible for ensuring that we have proper licences in place for all our systems. Now I am only a small organization so that just equates to ooh 700+ desktops, 200+ laptops, 120+ servers and assorted bits of other equipment, managed services, vertical apps and tin cans tied together with bits of string.

Add to that the fact that every supplier does software licencing in a different way and well, that’s why we outsource licence management.

If I were a cynic I might think that some suppliers deliberately make licencing complex and obtuse. I can think of at least one major enterprise software vendor where it is apparent that no one – not the supplier, not their ISV’s, not their partners – has any real idea how their product is licenced. Such confusion makes it hard to compare costs with rival products, makes negotiating complex and fraught, and makes dealing with them reminiscent of Cold War diplomacy.

Other suppliers offer what seems a more flexible approach where you just use whatever software you need and at the end of each year you “true up”, that is you add the software you have used to your annual licence fee. The problem is that you can never “true down”. This means it is a bit like having access to a car showroom, normally you drive a Mini but one day you decide to take that Aston Martin for a spin, just a one-off little drive. Well come year end you’d better have that £80k.

Others let you drive the Aston Martin for a whole week or even a month, and then it’s time to go back to the Mini. And you know, it’s very hard to persuade people to give up that Aston Martin. Surprising that.

Now of course there is open source which makes it all so much easier. After all all I need to keep track of is whether it is GPLv2, GPLv3, LGPL, BSD… And of course the key thing is the support arrangement, so is the support contract up to date? And do both we and the supplier have the same end date? Service scope? Helpdesk number?!

Still, ITIL will sort it all out. Now if I could just find the licence key for that CMDB…


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