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License Mobility in the Cloud

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License Mobility in the Cloud

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One of the 3 cloud killers is licensing. The others are comfort and compliance in case you’re wondering. More on that later. Licensing is the one that’s most often overlooked by most people implementing or consuming the cloud today. People often confuse a serial number with a license and think that just because they put a valid serial number in they’re ok. The truth is much different than that. In reality most of the times a license is an agreement or a piece of paper and “licensing” a piece of software is often referred to as “assignment”. The act of assigning a license is usually as complicated as pointing to a server or a piece of software with your finger and saying “you are now assigned a license”. Yup, that’s about all it takes. What you might not realize is these licenses are actually governed by many carefully crafted legal documents that tell you in really small print what you’re allowed or not allowed to do with that license. Sometimes these are EULAs (End-User License Agreements) and often those EULAs refer back to some other legal documents with even more terms and conditions. Now how many of us actually go off and read all of those terms and conditions? I thought I wouldn’t see many hands there.

So why did I just go on a rant about all of this license assignment? Simple, it’s because most people are probably breaking a lot of these agreements when using the cloud. Before I proceed any further I want to stipulate something:

  • I am not a lawyer or pretend to be one
  • These are my own opinions and do not reflect my employer’s thoughts
  • This is not legal advice of any manner
  • You should always consult the vendor of the license on the proper ways to consume their licensing

OK. With that said, let’s continue with an example of Microsoft. I bring them up because Amazon and Microsoft announced a pilot to allow the migration of licenses from the enterprise to the cloud a while back. Yes, both are competitors to VMware but what they announced is very important. Before the announcement if you wanted to take a Windows VM that you were running in house and move it to the cloud then it would cause all sorts of problems for the service provider and their licensing compliance. Today, the only legal way to license a VM if you are a service provider is either the outsourced model or the pay per VM model. In the outsourced model the service provider is required to dedicate the hardware that a customer’s Windows VM lands on only to that customer. Think of dedicated hosting if you will. Only that customer can use that hardware. This sort of kills scalability in the cloud. The other way is for the service provider to own the license and then lease it to the customer on a monthly basis. Then the service provider can use all of their shared infrastructure together to host multiple customers. Of course this is bad for the customer that has an ELA with Microsoft because they now have to essentially pay for their licenses again without the ability to leverage their ELA.

So what did Amazon and Microsoft do? They are now allowing customers to take their existing licenses under ELA and migrate those licenses to the cloud for use. The other benefit is the customer can do this while the service provider still gets to use shared infrastructure. It’s a win-win and knocks down a major hurdle to cloud adoption. There are all sorts of requirements to be met and caveats to this plan so make sure you go and read the announcement which has all the details around pricing and terms and such.

I’m sure we’ll start to see many other vendors start to change their licensing policies. Only you, the consumer of these licenses can put the necessary pressure on your vendors to make this happen so reach out to your favorite ISV and get them to start thinking about how they will allow the mobility of licenses to the cloud.

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