Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Thoughts on Enterprise Software Licensing

About a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with James Governor of Redmonk regarding how enterprises waste a lot of money on software licenses. While I couldn't come up with statistics, I figured I would at least share recent thoughts on this space...

Industry analysts have tons of metrics on the amount of compute power wasted in large enterprises but haven't gotten a handle on wasted software licenses. Having recently noodled the procurement of several different tools, I think I finally figured out what the pattern is.

For example, on my 2007 radar I would love to evaluate and hopefully procure tools so that software developers within my organization can write secure code. I will of course check out offerings by folks such as Ounce Labs, Fortify Software and others.

I will also desire an enterprise-wide license, not because I feel that every developer will use these tools but more for the fact that I simply don't want to do accounting and here is how the pattern starts. Inventorying is a dirty word to most folks and if you look at how much time is spent with folks running around attempting to reconsile license agreements, it probably equals the GDP of many third-world countries.

Enterprise license agreements should mean that I want to deploy it consistently but not necessarily equate to that everyone is going to use it. From the vendors perspective, they will assume that if it is deployed then folks will use it. Part of this is due to optimism and drinking too much of their own kool-aid and the other part is that they have been conditioned to think that enterprise equals large dollar spends.

When I think about this form of software if I got a total of three developers using it concurrently then I would be in heaven. Reality says that the chosen vendor will say that if only three concurrent users are going to use it, then I should install it on only three machines and put lots of process (vendors underestimate this aspect) around coordinating access. From here the solution devolves, especially in situations where you may have developers in different buildings.

Before I find the need to pound my head into a brick wall after the anticipated dizzying conversation I know I will have, it may leave me no choice but to ask for something I am 1,000,000% diametrically opposed to which is asking vendors to incorporate DRM into their software products so that they can feel comfortable (who cares if the customer is comfortable) about over-usage.

If anyone in the blogosphere has managed to come up with a sustainable solution to this problem space, please do not hesitate to share...

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