How to avoid being taken for a ride by software vendors

Beware the cloud when it comes to software licensing

Martin Prendergast

In the last few years, cloud computing, hosted software, services and infrastructure, as well as mobile working have exacerbated the problems caused by already complicated software licensing pricing structures, and there is a risk of vendors profiting from the lack of awareness amongst end-users.

The recent reports of Oracle's In-Memory patch default enablement issue further brings to light the challenges that businesses are facing when it comes to obtaining visibility of their entire software estates, and how they can incur huge costs without even realising.

We spoke to Martin Prendergast, CEO and co-founder of Concorde Solutions, to discuss how businesses can proactively limit this risk and gain control of the software licenses in their entire IT estate.

TechRadar Pro: What developments in the IT industry are impacting software asset management today?

Martin Prendergast: Arguably, cloud computing has radically changed the role of the IT department, so much so that having visibility of your entire IT software estate has become a bigger challenge than ever. This is especially true when you're dealing with the kind of vast and complex infrastructures that global enterprises typically have in place.

Things like instant software updates and security patches to protect from new threats can also mean that enterprises are either in a constant battle to maintain visibility of their ever-changing software estate, or leaving themselves vulnerable when it comes to being audited by a software vendor.

TRP: How are these developments changing how software licensing is managed?

MP: Due to the fluid nature of cloud computing, it's making it a lot harder for enterprises to manage software licensing. Many workplaces are also embracing the use of mobile devices for remote working and this is making it even more difficult to keep track of the licenses you do and don't have, and usage of software. The software estate of an organisation now has the potential to change daily, so software asset managers are under more pressure than ever before to keep up to date with how many licenses the organisation has.

Enterprises are increasingly moving from the traditional Software Asset Management model to Software Value Management in order to obtain business intelligence, control, and establish governance in an increasingly complex market for IT assets, rather than just counting licenses.

TRP: What are the compliance and governance issues end-users are currently facing?

MP: Software vendors are aware of the issues that organisations are facing in terms of managing their software estates, and the major ones now have software compliance teams in place to identify firms that may be under-licensed via audits. With vendor audits increasing in frequency as the pressure mounts to identify revenue streams via back licensing and support, companies are under an obligation to stay compliant.

Some vendors will randomly select companies for auditing whereas some will actively target those who have been caught out before, so any company can be at risk from being targeted. This creates problems when companies have increasingly complex cloud-based software estates in place.

The growth of software delivery methods and usage models, coupled with the huge boom in the use of mobile devices, has added layers of complexity to software licensing. In this brave new world, companies simply can't afford to limit software and license management to their desktops.

Cloud is the perfect example of a new delivery mechanism that has the potential to deliver great efficiencies, but can also make things more complicated – particularly when it comes to software licensing. Many businesses are embracing the cloud in search of the promised land of cost-savings and boosts to productivity.

TRP: What can be done to tackle this?

MP: Companies are automatically at an advantage if they know the exact size and make-up of their software estate, since any negotiations with a vendor can be initiated from a position of confidence (if they're making good use of their business intelligence).