INSIGHT: Hidden complexities of software licensing in the cloud

“Contrary to popular belief, moving to the cloud does not make software licensing challenges disappear…”

While this is one of the main attractions to IaaS, from a software licensing standpoint, organisations are typically responsible for software licenses they move to the cloud provider’s infrastructure, even though the provider may own the servers, operating system and virtualisation platform.

In comparison to running the software on-premises in the customer’s own datacenter, IaaS complicates license management due to the dynamic nature of the cloud environment, the lack of clarity from many vendors regarding product use-rights and the impact cloud usage has on licensing terms.

When considering IaaS, it’s critical to have license management tools that can be deployed in the public cloud so that cloud customers have the visibility and control necessary to manage their entitlements.

Overall, one of the key challenges of moving to the cloud is that any business unit within an organisation can subscribe to IaaS services without IT permissions, resulting in loss of IT control and visibility.

As a result, organisations may fail to set up rigorous processes that control their license consumption which can lead to additional expenses as they overuse or underuse software.

So what can companies do to successfully manage software licenses in the cloud?

• Keep the IT department and/or the license manager as the gate keeper for any licenses.

This can be done via enterprise app stores that allow users to select the application they want to use and which then have the ability to check for license availability during the approval workflow.

• Monitor the usage of all licenses across cloud and on-premises environments, making sure they are always used at their optimum capacity. Processes must be set up to manage the full lifecycle of these licenses.

• Optimisation must be automated and continuous to leverage a deep understanding of entitlements and associated product use rights.

Despite the promise of simplicity, cloud licensing models have their own challenges.

Organisations should understand and consider the impact on software license management before jumping into a particular cloud based delivery model.

Both the compliance challenges that exist when moving on-premises licenses to the cloud, coupled with the effort required to optimise the cloud-based entitlements, should not be underestimated.

While there can be savings associated with monitoring cloud license consumption and performing software license optimisation, organisations cannot rely on cloud providers to perform these tasks.

By Tom Canning, VP APAC, Flexera Software

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