Nowadays, if anyone tells you that IBM software licensing is simple to work with, then always consider that they are joking with you. In fact, most of the organizations considers that IBM software licensing as a complicated task, which requires lots of auditing and maintenance of compliance in terms of the IBM software that your organization have put into usage.

How complex is exactly IBM licensing?

IBM has different software licensing types and these can be simple as install based licensing or complex like the various user-based metrics. There are connections, client devices, simultaneous sessions, storage capacity units and user value units. On the other hand, some licensing is based on the hardware specifications, where the software products are installed and where the amount of horse power available to the software determines the licensing positions. Whereas, sub-capacity metrics have the benefits of allowing customers to license only against the number of processors allocated to the virtual machines, where the software is installed rather than licensing all the processors on the physical host computer.

Sub-capacity licensing appears to be budget saving by nature and to get it activated one need to install ILMT or BigFix Inventory, produce audit report on a quarterly basis and retain it for 2 years at a stretch. Alongside, it is also were many customers miss the opportunity to start down the road towards the formalized software asset management.

Free is not always free:

ILMT is a limited version application, which is free from any licensing cost, but a customer has to pay its operational costs. The larger the enterprise environment to be instrumented and measured, the greater the initial development and maintenance costs for the BigFix Enterprise infrastructure is. The manual bundling process appears to be quite labor intensive, especially in a large corporate environment, taking significant man-hours to complete and administer as new software is deployed and discovered in the environment. At this point, the adoption of ILMT/BFI can be considered the first step toward formalized Software Asset Management. If you undertake this level of rigor to produce accurate audit reporting for IBM, the opportunity for your organization to realize the value of more formalized SAM savings are just a few short steps away.

First Steps: Basic SAM – License Compliance

In basic terminology, Software Asset Management is initially embodied in the reconciliation of purchased license inventory against the software products deployed in the environment, and it is this process that confirms Software License Compliance, and can assists you to identify any possible shortfalls or over-licensing issues. Without any sort of automated software discovery, it falls to the Asset Manager to track software deployments and licensing manually.

What’s Next?

Once ILMT is installed, running it becomes a simple process to purchase BigFix Inventory licensing, and converting the existing ILMT infrastructure to take advantage of the extended SAM related functionality. Now, the user has a source of truth for what IBM and other publisher software is installed in the following environment. In these tools, it is encouraged that the user customizes (and extend) the functionality by importing a list of purchased IBM part numbers.

In addition, by adding entitlement data (in the form of part numbers) the user can visualize their license compliance. The value it provides is that discovered instances can now be bundled more accurately to products that are identified by unique part numbers, and these records are reconciled with the purchased licensing, using the serial numbers as key values.

More Rigor

In order to understand the current licensing positions, companies need to commit additional effort into deciphering any of these evolutions or other product changes, and to track them somehow. Always, remember ILMT/BigFix Inventory is a discovery tool. Starting with reporting from Passport Advantage (PA) sites, IBM customers can baseline the products that they have entitlements for, and then they can cross reference these transactions to the various amendments of ESSO (Enterprise Software & Servicing Offering) agreements and subsequent contracting, and layer on Service and Support licensing purchases. Thus, by doing this, many questions can arise and require investigation. For example, “why was the service and support licensing not renewed on a particular product”? Often the answer is because the product evolved – so researching these instances individually can identify the metamorphosis – and the whole story can be captured.

Eventually, this led to a compiled, structured entitlements “database” that contains all relevant transactions for licensing, including initial product purchases, service & support purchases, reinstatement’s, evolution’s, trade ups and even cross-migration agreements. Even certain “special licensing terms & conditions” that are atypical of IBM standard metrics can and should be captured. Once the efforts are completed, virtual real-time insight into the organization’s current license position is available, but it should always be noted that this data needs to be continually updated for new software purchases, and other licensing changes as a whole. Just as new software is making its way into the environment, new licenses need to be tracked so when the compliance reconciliation process is undertaken, the results reflect up-to-date reality. However, the point is that as soon an initial position is established, ILMT is no longer running just for the contractually required audit reporting, as it becomes the basis of an initial foray into SAM.

Beside Audit Reports and Compliance reconciliation what other value is there?

The most obvious technique is the hardware scanning data that is collected for every instrumented virtual machine, as this includes many pertinent values such as the processor brand, type and model, the number of allocated virtual cores, number of cores on the physical host, Operating System, etc. These data could be used to benchmark a CMDB (Configuration Management Database), assist in the tracking and decommissioning of older technology, and a host of other data-center maintenance operations. The most obvious opportunity is simply to audit (internally) for the unexpected software, and any software installed on a computer represents some risk, thus, keeping the environment clean and helps to mitigate that risk.

Currently, most of the data required to perform rudimentary license compliance analysis and reporting can be obtained within BigFix Inventory, and apparently, IBM is developing extended functionality to address these two additional SAM opportunities. Finally, in many cases, usage within BFI can be used to identify unused instances of currently licensed software, and to target them for removal. As a result, this then allows for that licensing to be re-harvested, potentially avoiding the wasteful purchase of additional licenses. In a nutshell, just about any scenario where one would find value in reporting that contains a combination of software application, licensing, hardware and /or usage data is fair game for a “win”.

Making the most of it

In other words, ILMT and BFI appears as a complete SAM tool solution. IBM sub-capacity customers are limited in their ability to dismiss and replace this tool, as there is apparently only one third party option available especially at this time.

Since most sub-capacity customers are stuck with using an IBM discovery tool, why not make the most of it? According to the experts an analysis of the savings just from using sub-capacity licensing reveals between a 50% and 75% discount over full capacity licensing cost. It is not a small amount, rather it carries with it the opportunity cost of supporting ILMT/BFI and couple this with the opportunity to avoid additional software purchases. Simply because precise insight into your environment is available, and the cost benefit analysis for purchasing BigFix Inventory licensing becomes a “no-brainer”, and with that comes the opportunity to save even more once the foothold of SAM is found.

In conclusion, it can be said that the world of formalized Software Asset Management and all the process, rigor and opportunity within that business “philosophy” are what lies on the horizon. Making the case for its adoption to upper management appears to be the next challenge for the client organization of All Blue Solutions. Thus, showing positive results from effectively using ILMT/BFI to realize cost avoidance and audit risk mitigation is a most effective pulpit to speak from as you move from ILMT administrator to the role of SAM evangelist.

Are you struggling with your software licensing and need an expert intervention? Get in touch with us!