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Getting to know: Micro Focus

Micro Focus licensing

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

We all often talk about the “Big 4” Tier 1 vendors – Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM – but more and more, increasing amounts of attention must be paid some of the smaller vendors. Often referred to as “Tier 2” vendors, they include software publishers such as Micro Focus, Quest, VMware and more – today, we’re going to look at Micro Focus. They recently came in top for “most unhelpful vendor” in our survey on software audits in 2020 and, as cases such as this show, are willing to take audit cases to court.

Who are they?

Micro Focus, based in Newbury, England, was founded in 1976 and had revenue of $3.3 billion in 2019. Following their acquisition of Attachmate in 2014, a 40% share of the company is held by Wizard Parent LLC – comprised of the private equity companies who made up Attachmate’s parent company:

It is often considered that private equity involvement with software firms, due to their usual business approaches and focus on profits, can lead to an increase in audits.

What products do they sell?

Micro Focus list 269 separate products on their website – covering a wide variety of areas including:

  • Application lifecycle
  • Asset Management
  • Backup & DR
  • Cloud environment monitoring
  • COBOL
  • Data privacy management
  • Developer Tools
  • eDiscovery
  • Remote file servers
  • SIEM (security information and event management)
  • User experience monitoring
  • Vulnerability detection

And many more. It’s very likely that there are some Micro Focus products within your organisation – even if you don’t know it. This is partly due to their acquisitive nature – some of the key acquisitions over the years include:

  • 2009 – Borland
  • 2014 – Attachmate Group inc. NetIQ, Novell, SUSE*
  • 2016 – HPe software merger

Micro Focus’s product portfolio means they have a very wide range of entry points into organisations; often these will be products that have seen little audit activity for many years – meaning there is a great chance for them to have slipped into non-compliance as internal technologies and architectures have changed.

*Micro Focus sold their SUSE business to EQT Group in 2018.

What metrics & licensing programs are available?

Micro Focus have a range of buying programs across different sectors:

  • Commercial
  • Education
  • Government
  • Non-profit

More content around these buying programs coming soon!

Typical metrics tend to be based on users or devices accessing the software products but, with such a wide variety of products, it is key that you review the EULA for each Micro Focus product you have to make sure you understand what’s required.

Equally, as special terms or unique metrics can often be agreed during a negotiation – it is key you review all your Micro Focus contracts. These discussions may have taken place many years ago, perhaps among people no longer with either organisation, so identifying, analysing, and understanding the contracts and their terms is a big part of giving you a solid foundation.

Where Micro Focus have purchased organisations whose software you use, look also for any potential negative changes among the licensing terms. Are Micro Focus stricter in certain areas, are there use cases which are no longer allowed etc. It’s certainly possible that signing a new contract or accepting an updated EULA can alter your compliance position – even if your licensing, architecture, and use have stayed the same.

What are some of the main risks?

From reviewing Micro Focus cases that have made it to the courts, as well as talking to end user organisations, there are 3 primary risks for you to be aware of:

  • Unclear or non-defined metrics in contracts: Whatever metrics are in your contract, make sure that a definition of what they do/don’t allow is agreed
  • Remote access tools such as Citrix or Microsoft RDS: To Micro Focus, all users who can access a server running Micro Focus software will need a license. This frequently appears in audit cases
  • HPe Software: In many cases, this can represent a fresh revenue stream for Micro Focus

Conclusion

Micro Focus may not be at the top of your list – but they probably should be. They’ve not had great financial results over the last few quarters and will be keen to turn that around ASAP – particularly as they’re partially owned by “activist” private equity companies.

Having been described by ITAM Review readers as the “most unhelpful” vendor during audits, being as prepared as possible – including inventory data, contracts, and EULAs – with a clear audit defence plan will be key to reducing the impact a Micro Focus audit could have on your business. There’s plenty more to know about Micro Focus (and we’ll be covering more soon), but hopefully, getting to know Micro Focus has been useful.

Further Reading

Micro Focus acquisitions
Express Scripts audit #1
Express Scripts audit #2
Financial results
Current EULAs
Archived EULAs

About Rich Gibbons

Rich has been in the world of IT and software licensing since 2003, having been a software sales manager for a VAR, a Microsoft licensing endorsed trainer, and now an ITAM analyst looking at software licensing and cloud.

A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!

Connect with Rich on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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