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Virtualization challenges – The virtual environment is a complex Beast

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Virtualization is a great thing and is a massive help to most organisations. However, it also raises a number of complexities around software, software licensing and software asset management. After the datacentre, the virtual environment probably poses the next biggest risk and biggest headache; it’s complicated and requires large amounts of expertise.

Organisations are looking to utilize their software licenses within the virtual environment without breaking any of the terms of the license agreement or EULA. To do this organisations firstly need to understand the license metrics that they have, and what the limits are. Secondly, they need to have the right processes, technologies and people in place to manage virtual environments and the software that is used within them.

Governance and Management of Virtual Environments and Software

Governance and management of virtual environments and the software used within the virtual environment is all down to sophisticated technologies. There are a number SAM technologies that help organisations monitor and manage their virtual environments, and in some cases actually manage and restrict users usage to certain VM’s and software. It all depends on which SAM technology that is right for your environment and what fits in with any existing technologies.

As we will mention later, the management of software within the virtual environment is extremely important, as it is very easy to get ‘into a mess’. With so many different layers within the virtual environment and complicated licensing metrics, it is very easy to lose control and build up a large risk and non-compliancy figures. The virtual environment needs to be governed by the SAM team on a regular basis to ensure that they are compliant and that no new and authorized VM’s have cropped up that may risk the overall compliancy of the organisation.

There is a really useful article that we published last year about Strategic License Management in a Virtual World, which is well worth a read if you are looking for more information.

Understanding Configuration and Deployment of the Virtual Environments and Software

IT needs to help educate the SAM function as to who software is deployed across the estate and how virtual assets are configured. This will allow the SAM function to provide better support to the business with regards to virtual technologies and virtual software, and will also help their own internal knowledge of how the organisations virtual environment works.

As mentioned, it is really important that the SAM function understands how the virtual environments and VM’s are configured. The whole ‘art’ of virtualisation allows physical components or devices to carry out multiple, concurrent configurations/usage and ‘states’. Unpicking the virtual environment, understanding which VM’s are on which hosts and what software is installed is vital in helping the organisation remain compliant and manage their software assets effectively.

Best practice dictates that organisations must understand how their virtual environment is configured and created and what physical machines host which VM’s and what software is on what VM’s. There are many layers to understanding and managing virtual licenses, which is why SAM needs the help and support of other business functions like the IT Architecture team, security, packaging and deployment and any teams that manage servers/datacentres that have virtual environments within them.

SAM also needs to understand their usage rights for software installed within virtual environments and how they are configured to ensure that compliancy is met. This means understanding the licensing metrics, understanding the EULA and also understanding how and where the software can be deployed. If an organisation does not have the internal knowledge to manage their virtual estate or virtual software assets, then it is advisable to outsource the management of your virtual environment to a third party. The virtual environment poses the second biggest risk (behind the datacentre) in regards to software compliancy, so it should be taken extremely seriously and managed effectively.

Compliancy and the future

In order to understand the organisations compliancy within the virtual environment they must first understand what they have, what is installed, where and by whom. Usage stats such as when it has been used, and how long it is used for are also really useful pieces of information that can benefit the management of software compliancy. Understanding what is installed within your network and where requires a discovery and inventory solution that can find every piece of software and has access to all of your servers and subsequent virtual environments. The data that is fed back from these solutions needs to be verified, as there may be multiple records for the same VM. Using multiple data sources can verify the accuracy of this data to allow you to make informed decisions.

Just like with discovery, spreadsheets are not enough when managing licenses for the virtual environment. SAM technologies or license management technologies can help you identify what your compliancy is for the organisation as a whole, and what each locations biggest risk are within the virtual environment. With a discovery solution and a license management solution, the organisation should be in a good place to be able to compare entitlement against installs, which will give them their ELP (effective license position). This is best practice for license management/SAM and provides transparency and strong core data to make informed decisions.

Good data and visibility allows the organisation to then plan for the future and understand what impact virtual software may have on their organisation. If tracking usage and new VM/Virtual environments then the organisation has a good understanding of what new software licenses may be required in the future, and for what business unit. This will also allow them to negotiate a better deal with software vendors, as they know exactly what software they need for their virtual environment and what the recent patterns in the virtual environment have been over the past year or so. This puts the organisation in prime position to effectively manage their virtual environments and the software within that environment proactively and effectively.

Want to understand more about the virtual environment? Attend our London / New York Microsoft Seminar (or both!) where a number of our expert Microsoft Speakers will be happy to answer all of your questions. They are free.

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About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!

One Comment

  1. ian says:

    David I think your article raises some good points but misses out on the detail. What you need is a checklist of what you need to understand about the VM environment which can then be cross referenced to the licencing rules for the appropriate software. Alternatively, if you environment is not too large and complex, if you understand what operating systems and software is deployed then find out the licence metrics and work backwards to identify what you need to know

    In the majority of cases you will most likely need to understand, as a minimum, the following
    Virtualisation technology – vmware, xen, ovm, hyper-v, etc
    Server farms/cluster configs
    Number of servers
    Number of CPUs and type per server
    Number of VMs
    number of vCPUs per VM
    use of vmotion/DRS/etc
    VM affinity
    Number of users – internal/external
    Split of production and non production
    Development
    Live vs DR

    Once you have this you can build a picture of the physical and virtual layers and then map your license requirements to that.

    Remember however that the attraction of implementing VMs is to be able to provision, change and re provision servers at ease so you’ll need to keep a close eye on changes. Tools such as the excellent and free rvtools are great for pulling your vCenter info into a series of detailed worksheets. Alternatively Flexera and Snow have tools that hook vCenter/Microsoft VMM. You should be running these tools daily to monitor changes and how these affect your licence position

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