I have been observing how the area of Software Asset Management (SAM) has evolved for a decade. Early on, it was a challenge to analyze the applications installed on client devices and, as a result, software recognition became part of every serious SAM tool. As these kind of solutions reached a high maturity level, companies began approaching the next level of excellence, discovering that the data center offers a much greater return on their SAM investments.
Existing tools are insufficient
Who believed that the assumption that the management of licenses for the clients and the servers is six of one and half-a-dozen of another was wrong? Besides contractual complexities and specific license terms, the main issue really is collecting all the relevant information about software deployments and the underlying infrastructure – primarily virtualization, dependencies and operational purpose (e.g. development, testing, production). That is why most of the existing tools in place for client computer inventory were and still are pretty insufficient. Special solutions are required to collect technical data to reconcile license compliance for Oracle databases, for instance.
The cloud comes calling
And now “the Cloud” is knocking at the door. But unlike servers, companies have no choice to opt in to this challenge or skip it. I can see that every vendor is gradually moving their products into the cloud. Adobe is an excellent example. By the end of this year, it will no longer be possible to acquire traditional device licenses. Customers have no other option than to follow the vendor into the cloud or stop using the software. Microsoft is also moving towards the Cloud at a rapid pace. Office 365 was only the start – Windows 10 will follow. Not to mention all the other vendors that offer their solution as pure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where nothing is installed on customer premises.
Why is all this so disruptive? Because it’s changing the paradigm of how software is licensed. And because this is different, your tools and processes are supposed to be worthless soon if you don’t react. In the near future, you will not face the risk of being significantly short of licenses anymore. The fear of un-budgeted costs revealed through a license audit will partly disappear. However, what seems to be the desired result may actually become a painful nightmare. Let me explain why it’s vital you ensure that moving into the Cloud does not blow away all the achievements of your SAM program.
Controlling costs and processes
Regardless of whether you have enough or too many licenses – it’s all about cost savings or at least, cost optimization. You can only control your software license costs when you have control over all software lifecycle processes. This includes transparency about actual end-user demand. Your license requirements now live in the Cloud. It doesn’t matter if your users are actually using the software. It also doesn’t matter if their devices have the application installed – if it’s a hybrid cloud. You will quickly get lost if you keep on relying on your scanners and local application usage tracking.
It is even worse with SaaS. Your IT department may not even be involved when business departments buy and implement them. Either way, without appropriate management and automation, you will not be able to avoid overspending when users stop using the software or never use it at all. Consider situations in which users leave the organization and no one bothers to disable the account. It is very likely that business departments will not act conscientiously in these circumstances. And besides costs, there is also a critical risk involved if those can users still access your data from outside, maybe even in their new role with your competitor.
A colorful situation
The real challenge with the transition to the Cloud is actually that it will not be a black-or-white story for you. While many vendors are moving, others are not. In the end, you will be faced with a heterogeneous environment, where traditional device-based licenses coexist with hybrid cloud and SaaS subscriptions. If you consider that most cloud offerings enable users to use the software on both private and corporate devices, and with clients or mobile devices, you can see that just adding another tool to your workbench is not enough.
The core of SAM is a process framework around your corporate governance. So, my recommendation here is to extend your processes to embrace the Cloud, and make sure that your toolset covers it across all scenarios.
Finally, take it seriously! And protect your accomplishments.