The Licensing Complexities of the Cloud

Michael Vizard

As cloud computing continues to evolve, software licensing presents one of the major challenges.

Most licensing models are from a soon-to-be-bygone era. It remains to be seen what will replace those well-known terms and conditions, but we're already seeing IT organizations thinking about pooling their collective weight to force vendors to the bargaining table. Earlier this week, an analyst from IDC Insights said Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia will be pooling their collective purchasing might to negotiate, among other things, cloud computing terms and conditions.

Steve Workman, vice president of product management for LANDesk, a provider of IT systems management and software license management tools, says cloud computing will send licensing complexity off the charts. Ultimately, Workman says the only viable technical solution to enforce service level agreements and software licensing terms will be to track specific bits as they move around public and private clouds.

Of course, licensing is only one of many tricky issues with cloud computing. But it may be the most important because without a viable universally recognized economic model, IT organizations won't be able to effectively do comparison shopping for cloud services. Of course, many vendors might want to avoid that, but cloud computing not only provides a new way to deliver technology, it also changes the fundamental economics of enterprise IT that are still catching up with the technology.

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May 1, 2010 12:22 PM Cris Wendt Cris Wendt  says:

The cloud is definitely going to make the world more complex, which makes it all the more important to select license metrics that are not compute platform related (cores, CPUs, etc.).  Many software vendors already do this with more value-based metrics (managed devices, named users, concurrent users, etc).  So, the economic model is almost there.

The real trick is the adoption of a compliance philosophy and enforcement method that can allow the movement of virtual compute platforms among private and public clouds.  Stay tuned on that front.


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