Friday, 16 August 2019 16:43

Why is being a SAM so very hard?

IBM as a Case Study

Being a Software Asset Manager (SAM) can be challenging with regard to any software publisher. It’s even harder if you handle multiple vendors as you need to understand the unique licensing rules for each. In terms of business risk on an ongoing basis and in the case of audits, the stakes are high, so it’s important that SAM’s and their managers understand the current landscape and what we are all up against.

As a SAM, it’s possible you have the luxury to cover only one publisher. This is uncommon. It’s more likely you’re assigned the top 10 publishers used by your firm, with those on your list selected on the basis of annual budget or another metric such as how often the publisher audits firms, or how often it goes to court to settle licensing issues. It’s most likely you have been asked to manage software licensing for all of the significant software publishers used by your firm, and you share those responsibilities with a small team.

This article focuses on just one publisher– IBM. IBM is an excellent example to use to demonstrate why being a SAM is so hard. It is one of the four large publishers, along with Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. And while the following highlights IBM issues, each publisher will have its own list of issues to address. These are issues that will keep you awake at night if you are in the middle of an audit review.

Why is being a SAM so daunting? Let’s make some wild assumptions:

  • Assume you have a high-quality asset discovery and tracking tool. It could be from the publisher, from one of the better known tool vendors, or from a small, lesser known provider. There are some very useful tools out there, but you may not be sure what is reasonable to expect from a tool.
  • Assume the discovery tool is perfect on both desktops and on servers (Please don’t smile).
  • Assume the tool discovers the exact product by its name and can correlate that product to its IBM part number so there is no ambiguity (This is a great tool).
  • Assume the tool is able to understand a completely accurate list of all your Entitlements by part number–both historical part numbers and current part numbers.
  • Assume the tool can match the discovered part number to the Entitled part number, and there are no differences between them which could create licensing gaps (I see a chuckle coming on).

So are you now ready to go toe-to-toe in an audit? And during the time between audits, are you, as a SAM, adding the expected amount of value to your organization?

Your boss turns to you and asks two simple questions: “Are we good with our IBM licenses?” And then,

“Are there any cost savings you can achieve by reducing the number of licenses?” The questions are simple. The answers are much harder.

Let’s explore 10 reasons these two questions are difficult to answer.

  • IBM products are complex. There are over 10,000 IBM software titles and a very wide range of metrics.
  • 2) Multiple metrics for the same product, e.g. DB2, can be user based, server based, or TB based, and an account can have all three metrics. A discovery tool can rarely make that distinction; and this is usually because the base code is identical for each release level.
  • 3) IBM changes product names and product numbers, and there are cases where they change a product name to a new name, and then change it back to an old name. Sometimes they change the product name multiple times. Think about Message Broker V8, which was renamed Integration Bus V9, and is now renamed App connect Enterprise (ACE) in V10. IBM even changes entire brand names; so many products have had their name changed at the same time. Think about all the products that were once called Tivoli or Lotus.
  • 4) IBM sells products and buys products, and then sells them again. Think about the purchase of Big Fix in 2010, which was renamed Tivoli End Point Manager, then named Big Fix again, and then sold to HCL; or when IBM purchased AppScan in 2009, renamed it IBM Rational AppScan and then IBM Security AppScan; and then sold that to HCL as well.
  • 5) License changes happen all the time. IBM Portal and WebSphere Content Manager (WCM) can be purchased separately and have different part numbers. They can also be purchased together under one part number, and called Digital Experience. How would a tool know what product is installed on a given server when the products are identical and a client can mix and match? Can it make a call that best addresses your licensing needs?
  • 6) Bundling changes also happen all the time. For example, IBM Commerce was bundled with DB2 Enterprise and WAS-ND for many years, but with Commerce V9, it is no longer bundled with these products. With V9, it is bundled with DB2 Advanced Workgroup and WAS. Thank goodness this product was sold to HCL.
  • 7) We assumed above that the tool always correctly determines the deployed product; but there are some cases where this assessment can be made only by a very sophisticated user who knows the environment in which it is being used. Consider WebSphere MQ and the WebSphere MQ Client. One product is free, and one product is fee based, but it is extremely difficult to determine which product is actually installed. Barring a minor difference (the fee based one has a message queue), they are the same. Tools rarely make that call correctly or consistently.
  • 8) Contractual changes related to the IPAA can be implemented every other year, which can also affect licensing. It does not help that, with a few exceptions, a signature is not required to commit accounts to these changes; so how do you, as a SAM using the best of tools, stay on top of contract changes and their implications for licensing?
  • 9) In the case of IBM, where is all this licensing information located? The good news is that almost all the licensing data are on the IBM website; however, finding them can take a lot of time, sometimes days. The bad news is there are always specific questions for which answers are almost impossible to find because they are not on-line. For example, in what order does one apply licenses if you have a virtual server license e.g. SmartCloud APM, and a PVU based license like IBM Tivoli Monitor (ITM)? The order of licenses one applies will affect the number of licenses required. Finally, if there are any licensing gaps, finding pricing on the IBM website is not always possible.
  • 10) If this list of examples is not long enough, there is the entire topic around the IBM free tool called IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT), which imposes a requirement for sub-capacity pricing. With minor exceptions, ILMT is required where a customer has a virtual environment and wants sub-capacity pricing. This is a very common situation. There are papers galore on this topic and a lot of information on the IBM website; however, keep in mind there is also a lot of complexity with ILMT, and a small mistake can have serious licensing implications.

If you feel somewhat overwhelmed, it is because a lot of this is overwhelming. Everyone is in the same boat, and, when working with IBM licenses, they have these or other challenges with their licensing. Tools help and provide a great deal of valuable information, but we cannot operate in a “set it and forget it” world. The types of issues and questions highlighted above need to be addressed across all industries, and across all companies, regardless of size.

Even with a high level of skill and the best tools, this task is still daunting. So don’t feel badly if you need help to answer the two basic questions: “Are we good with our IBM licenses?” and, “Are there any cost savings to be achieved?” Just take a breath and realize, it isn’t you.