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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
The BCS Configuration Management Specialist Group runs SAM (Software Asset Management) Networking events under Chatham House Rules (“what is said in SAM stays in SAM”), which results in a much more robust discussion and a lot more jokes at the expense of the vendors and other practitioners—they are really good events. On the other hand, this makes it a lot harder to blog about—you just have to come along and try the wine (yes, food and drink are supplied).
I have recently been to a SAM event on licensing, which was most interesting. It was extremely useful to be given an informed and objective view of Microsoft Cloud Licencing and how to manage it effectively; although I’m afraid that I came away with the feeling that, although nothing had actually been left out, in the end, it was all a bit ‘clunky’.
To me, cloud isn’t a cheap technology thing, it’s all about enabling an agile business culture. If you have to have a team of skilled experts managing cloud licensing and making sure that you are legally ‘on compliance’ as your business changes, when that resource could be used for building business outcomes, then (even if the software runs off-premise, on cloud platforms), it’s not really agile enough to be part of a real cloud culture.
With cloud, everything is more-or-less virtualised and thus programmable. Is it too much to ask that you just grab and use cloud resources as you need them, and the resources themselves work out how much they are being used, and charge accordingly? Of, course, many enterprises want fixed monthly charges, that they can manage effectively, but I can imagine charging for cloud based on estimated usage up front; and then adjusting for actual usage every year, adjusting the monthly charges accordingly, in arrears.
Which leads me onto another licensing issue, clear licensing. Most software licensing seems to be on the ‘Mobile Phone model’—make everything as complicated as possible, in the hopes that people will pay more than they need to, just to be safe. There are even companies that have appeared to make much of their living out of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) ‘shelfware’, although that is, mostly, becoming less common. Shelfware is software that is paid for, including support services usually, and is never used. Very profitable for vendors, especially as it is unlikely to generate many support calls (so it makes the vendors’ quality stats look better too).
Perhaps the fundamental issue is that all the power in the licensing debate is on the vendor side. Licence negotiations between equals are far more likely to result in clear, easily enforceable. license agreements that benefit both sides. Well, now there is an organisation you can join, the represents the licensee PoV: the Campaign for Clear Licensing. Well worth investigating—and there’s a lot more to the clear licensing issue than you might think, including evolving Standards initiatives.
So, if you are in any way responsible for, or subject to, Software Asset Management, come along to the SAM Networking.