Software should reflect business metrics: CA

As infrastructural software moves to focus on support for the business, rather than emphasising its technical smarts, software companies will have to change their licensing structure to reflect the same emphasis.

So says Computer Associates' Unicenter marketing manager, Dominic Schiavello.

Instead of having a per-seat or per-CPU licence, he suggests, software suppliers might sell better to the CEO and bean counters with a charge based on a "business metric".

For example, Melbourne-based Schiavello suggests "for an airline, it could be by number of tickets sold in a month".

CA already allows licensing by the volume of user business, "and we think we're a bell-wether for the industry".

The latest version of CA's Unicenter management product is working towards increasing "self-management", allowing applications coming under excessive workload to request more processor, storage or network resources and have the system automatically provide them.

"It might go out and find a spare processor blade and configure it to run that application," Schiavello says.

He acknowledges that calling in extra processors may pose a problem with per-processor licensing schemes. Unicenter's asset management system can be configured to step outside its automatic mode of operation, "contact a human and say 'we've run out of licences' or, better, 'we're getting close to running out of licences'".

The asset management module also gives IT management a ready handle on actual costs, which could be ammunition against an outsourcing offer.

"If someone comes to management with an offer — 'we can support your PCs for so many dollars each per year', they will ask IT management 'what's it costing us now?' " Many IT managers will find it hard to answer that question, he says.

Schiavello acknowledges that, in seeking to automate system management, Unicenter will have to interface with monitoring software from other suppliers.

"We have opened our management system to take input from a lot of the standard products: BMC Openview, Microsoft MON, Cisco Works and so on."

Even internally developed or less well-known software can be accommodated with a "wizard" that lets the user describe the other package's outputs so they can input data to Unicenter.

In suggesting that other software vendors will move towards "business-metric" licensing, Schiavello says Microsoft is already providing some such licensing options.

A Microsoft representative, however, says the company does not provide such a scheme.

The latest version of CA Unicenter was released in the US at the end of April, and Schiavello's visit marked the official local launch in Australia and New Zealand last week, with a roadshow through major centres including sessions for IT management and technical staff.

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