Few scenarios are trickier in today’s world of software asset management than the licensing of software in a complex data center. There are considerably more variables that need to be taken into consideration, than the traditional installation or user-based license metrics in a desktop environment.
It is a common misconception in the SAM community that data center management is an area where existing SAM tools come up short.
“It’s just too complex for a SAM tool to manage our data center!”
“How can a SAM tool correctly inventory such a complicated environment?”
“Data center management requires a SAM expert and a combination of tools, scripts and direct access to the servers!”
The preceding statements are regularly heard by CIOs, IT Directors or SAM managers in organizations all around on the world. These words are usually uttered by SAM partners, freelance SAM consultants and even SAM tool vendors.
To some extent, providing a full inventory of the data center requires all of the above. For example, for some specific vendors and their software products, a combination of tools, scripts and direct access to the servers is mandatory to be able to perform a qualitative data center compliance check. But for a large proportion of vendors, a definitive inventory and consequent optimization can be facilitated using data obtained solely from sophisticated SAM software.
When managing data center software, there are normally five key factors that needs to be taken in consideration:
Let’s apply these five key factors to some of the most common data center software on the market, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Databases, and go through what you should be able to expect from a SAM-tool of the latest generation, and any manual involvement that may be needed.
Understanding your software entitlements is complicated. Even more so for server software in the data center. For a product like Microsoft SQL Server, the task is rather simple, but for a product from Oracle or SAP, the task might be quite challenging.
Naturally, a SAM-tool can never know what license entitlements your organization possesses without manual input from a SAM expert. In some cases, you can connect the SAM-tool to a license portal to get an automated entitlement feed into the system, but in most cases, it is a manual effort.
However, what the SAM-tool should be able to do is:
These are just examples of tasks that could be automated and performed with the same level of accuracy from the SAM-tool that a normal SAM consultant would perform, not to mention the days of precious time given the SAM consultant. The SAM consultant shouldn’t need to map software licenses to specific machines manually for the SAM tool to understand that a Master Data Service requires an Enterprise license if it is installed separately on a server.
It can seem like an easy task for a SAM-tool to detect installed software, but server software is normally tricky to detect fully. “Fully” means product, version, edition and activated tools/features/add-ons. But even for such a common product as SQL Server, the task can be rather challenging. Traditionally, the information in Add/Remove Programs specifies that the product is an SQL Server, the rest of the information needs to be scripted out from specific locations in the registry. For SQL Server Express this becomes even more challenging, since third party developer vendors might bundle the database with the products and not specify that it is an Express edition.
For Oracle databases, the inventory becomes significantly more complex. The edition can be picked up through advanced environment inventory, but the options and management packs often need to be queried directly from the database itself, which requires permissions that most security-conscious organizations won’t give to a SAM tool agent. However, even the most advanced SAM tools on the market can’t give an overview for activated management packs without querying the database.
We believe that all of this core information should be gathered by a capable SAM tool of the latest generation, without hours of manual work from a SAM expert, freeing up time to focus on optimizing the way the software and all of its features are being used and driving efficiencies.
Hardware is often fairly straight forward to inventory and analyse. The tricky part can be software licensing that takes empty processor slots, and/or a core factor, into account. An example of software where empty processor slots matter is PVU based software from IBM. An example of software that depends on processor core factors is SQL Server from Microsoft. In general, these metrics can be easily handled by SAM tools of the latest generation with a Product Use Rights (PUR) database. The PUR database is just as important as the software recognition database. If a SAM tool doesn’t have a PUR database, it will struggle with all advance server software and push all the inventory responsibility to the SAM consultant.
The virtualization technology and any of its related features that are enabled, might have a critical impact on your license demand. Especially for vendors such as IBM and Oracle. Whether or not an IBM product is eligible for sub-capacity licensing is heavily depending on the virtualization technology that is being used. The same goes for Oracle databases on virtual servers. What both of these vendors has in common is that if you can’t prove what you are using 100%, or are not using the right virtualization technology for your usage, you have to pay for everything you COULD use. A compliance nightmare!
Whilst these vendors have generic, defined rules for deployment in virtual environments, in some cases, negotiation can alter the Software License Agreement (SLA). For example, Oracle has allowed its software to be deployed in VMware virtualization technology in some custom-made contracts, but most often pre-defined SLA rules can result in a compliance shock, when an undefined virtualization technology is used for a specific purpose. This is usually where a SAM Consultant would prove valuable unless a SAM tool can automatically handle the issue. A latest generation SAM tool with advanced data center management capabilities would automate the entire process and rather than investigate the issue periodically – as a SAM consultant would manually do, a powerful SAM tool would be monitoring compliance constantly – always on!
Another problem with virtualization technologies is that they are often misunderstood. Take SQL Server for example. Many believe that a host that is dynamic (VMs can move freely) must be covered with Software Assurance, but in fact you just have to stack licenses on the host for all VMs. The problem is that this is extremely tricky to track historically. Or rather; this is extremely tricky for a SAM consultant to track historically – a problem that is solved by an advanced SAM tool.
Thus far, what we have discussed is purely Entitlement versus Inventory. The inventory spectrum is just very wide and contains more than just software applications.
Another tricky license metric is “access” or “user” based server software licensing. This is something that is normally hard to inventory and track with SAM tools. Examples of this is indirect usage for SQL Server or Oracle database users. The latter can be tracked, but to do that effectively, queries against the database need to be initiated.
This is an example where the SAM consultant will need to work closely with the SAM tool to gather and analyse the inventory access and usage data. Some elements, like CAL inventory from Windows Server 2012 and onwards, will help the SAM consultant, but to get a full overview, manual work might need to be done.
SAM consultants are experts, whom today, invest many days doing unnecessary work that a SAM tool of the latest generation, is capable to do within minutes. This keeps the SAM consultants away from optimization activities that deliver real cost reductions. For example; How can the environment be optimized? Does the organization have the right agreements? Can we move some of our software to open source? Is the organization actually using what they have installed and/or activated?
Xensam has designed its data center functionality with the SAM manager/consultant in mind.
Let’s once again look on SQL Server as an example. The view is presented in a full data center tree structure, where the SAM consultant can swiftly see the relationship between Data center, cluster, host and all its VMs. Checkboxes for information such as DPE (Dynamically Provisioned Environment, based on hypervisor features) and VM/Host Affinity rules that overrides DPE, and many more features, give a clear overview of the Virtualization technology in place and how it’s being utilized.
Data center compliance view in Xupervisor
Furthermore, the SAM consultant can directly see the core demand based on product specific core factors and how many licenses that the system automatically has assigned to each host or VM (or allocated by the SAM consultant, if he or she wants to override the system’s intelligence and assign some of the licenses manually). The system will automatically decide whether or not the host should be licensed on a per VM level or on a host level. It will also decide how to manage licenses with/without SA, based on DPE, VM/Host Affinity, stacking license need and VM movement history.
Xensam’s dynamic data center feature has been designed to help organisations automatically manage the most challenging inventory scenarios in the data center. Whilst easily highlighting compliance, the added benefit of this feature is that the SAM consultant can re-focus on using Xensam to drive license optimization resulting in significant reductions of costs and enhanced value back to the business.
Contact us now for a full demonstration or to learn more.