How to Handle License Audits in a Virtualized Data Center

The old rules no longer apply. In the past, you knew how many processors would be committed to a particular application, and you made your software deals accordingly. Now, you face an ambiguous standard. What happens if you are undergoing a license audit during a period of peak demand?

Every IT innovation brings with it a necessary change in perspective …which tends to lag the innovation itself. In the case of server virtualization, enterprise application licensing has become the subject of disruption. Traditional licensing models don’t lend themselves to the flexibility of the dynamic data center. While there are no best practices on this in the market yet, you can be aware of the issue and work through remedies with your software providers.

In a physical infrastructure, per-processor licensing makes sense. The number is fixed, which makes the transaction relatively straightforward. This convenience is not available in a virtualized environment. Utilization may be fairly contained and predictable most of the time, but an unexpected spike in access – or even periods of anticipated peak demand – turn the model on its head. Going though a licensing audit when utilization is at its highest can result in an inaccurate view of general usage (and additional licenses).

Buying for the peak isn’t much different from securing licenses in an over-provisioned physical environment, translating to a break-even proposition for software (you continue to save on hardware, though). You can extend your TCO reduction, though, if you include these virtualization concerns in negotiations with software vendors.

Ultimately, the market needs to mature to a model that starts with baseline utilization and accounts for periodic variations based on demand forecasts. Given how early we are in the virtualization lifecycle, we’re still at a point where these practices are being explored, particularly second-degree concerns like the implications of virtualization for software licensing.

The solution will come … and it will be driven by you. As IT directors and CIOs open the dialogue about enterprise software licensing in virtual server infrastructures, ad hoc solutions will be standardized, eventually yielding best practices. The key is to start working on it today!

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About Doug Sekus

Doug Sekus has over 20 years experience in the information technology industry, most recently as the Director of Softchoice Corporation’s Business Development, Servers and Virtualization sector.