The ITAM Review

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Perpetual License Management in a Subscription World

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As we are all aware, the software licensing market is shifting towards a new model, a new way of doing things. This means a number of changes for SAM professionals, organisations and vendors. The biggest change is the way in which software licenses should be managed.

Organisations and SAM professionals are getting to grips with the new license models, and are learning all the time. The likes of Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud have forced organisations to adapt and migrate to a new license model, and new software packages. One of the biggest talking points is around the management of cloud licenses, and how this changes the software licensing landscape.

Software License Professionals need to shift focus

If you look at any software license professional (or SAM professional for that matter) social media page (LinkedIn), nine times out of ten their bio will talk about ‘benchmarking’, ‘managing compliance’ and ‘ensuring effective use of all software licenses’ for their various clients or the organisation that they work for. Now that is all well and good, but is that still the biggest selling point of software licensing professional in a subscription world?

Sure, benchmarking, compliancy and license optimization will always be the core of any software licensing professional, but the changes in license metrics means that those aspects of their role have changed focus. Instead of managing licenses that are attached to X amount of devices, they now have to manage licenses that are for a single user, attached to X amount of devices (laptops, tablets, mobiles etc.)

OLD SCHOOL LICENSING 1 device = 1 device1 user = user can use software on any device

Perpetual = own the licence forever

CLOUD / SUBSCRIPTION LICENSING 1 user license = up to 5 devicesUser account management = make sure the software is removed when they leave, and their account is deactivated!

Subscription = you own nothing

So, if you already have subscription based licensing within the environment, can you actually ‘optimize’ your licenses? You’ve already paid for that user to have a license, you’ve entered into a three year deal so you can’t only have it for X amount of months, and you’ve spent a lot of time setting up the required infrastructure to support such a license metric. You can still ensure that users are using the software properly, and there may be a clause in your contract that states you can recycle the license. But, with the new user-account based verification that is no easy task.

The death of Perpetual Licensing

Research suggests that the heading may be a bit premature, but perpetual licensing is slowly fading away. More and more software vendors are moving towards the subscription cloud model. And why wouldn’t they? It is harder for organisations to be non-compliant, it provides regular revenue streams for the vendor (and a high cost) and they get to see more data on their customers (through cloud based storage and user accounts).

It is too easy to ‘go wrong’ with perpetual licensing. Users can horde physical copies, they could copy disks and find cracked licenses keys, and organisations can end up being horribly non-compliant thanks to a ‘request and install’ mentality. Here at the ITAM Review we do have the mantra of ‘if you can’t manage it, don’t use it’, which we stick by and is now relevant to cloud software. However, when you think about it, desktop perpetual software has been the cause of the emergence of audits (discounting Oracle and SAP). Original audits were conducted by Microsoft who were looking for cracked copies of Windows and Office – desktop, perpetual software. There has yet to be a case of an organisation being audited over cloud licenses.

Admittedly, I personally was not a fan of subscription based licensing when I first heard Microsoft was introducing Office 365, and my experiences in upgrading to Adobe Creative Cloud did nothing to improve my opinions of the license metric. However, the more sophisticated the technology gets, and the more we learn about this new model, the more I am warming to it. For the end user it is great. They can have their pick of the software that they want, all for a (initial) lower price! Furthermore, for regular customers who just want one months worth of software, it’s an absolute no brainer. However, as a SAM and software licensing professional, it can be a bit of a nightmare.

Software Licensing Professionals are still needed

No matter what, software-licensing professionals will always have an important part to play in any organisation. There will always be some form of software license, and software licensing will always be complicated and a bit of a mind field. We have heard a number of different sources suggest that the new licensing metrics will be ‘the end of SAM’ or will eradicate software licensing professionals. Absolute nonsense.

It will be harder in the future for organisations to be deemed ‘non compliant’ with user based subscription licensing, as at the moment there is no recorded way of ‘cracking’ cloud based software. You need a user account for it to work, and in some cases you still need a good old license key!

The software-licensing world is changing, and we need to ensure that we keep up with it, and move with the times. Embrace the change! Embrace the future! New software license metrics pose a fresh challenge and provide more reading material for software licensing geeks like you and I!

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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!

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