Contributed article by Ido Sarig, chief evangelist and CMO for BDNA
2010 Trends: Virtual Sprawl Unchecked Leads to Software License Compliance Headaches
In recent years we've seen rapid adoption of virtual environments as a solution for everything from data center hardware cost reduction to better energy efficiency. The recovery from the recession continues to be slow which puts even greater pressure on IT organizations to cut costs and do so immediately. This trend will skyrocket in 2010, increasing what has become known as "virtual sprawl" - the unmanaged proliferation of virtual machines caused by users "cloning" virtual machines. Virtual sprawl can have serious implications to total cost exposure and litigation risk, as virtualization spawns unknown and unaccounted for copies of licensed software.
As is often the case, the introduction of new technologies that neatly solves a business problem, creates a host of new challenges as an unintended consequence. In the case of virtual sprawl, CIOs are quickly realizing their existing management solutions, from hardware inventory to software license management, simply don't deliver the required level of visibility when dealing with virtual environments. New solutions are required to deal with this issue - such as discovery tools that can actually determine what software is running within each VM.
Software license compliance is a particularly thorny issue. Already a difficult problem to solve for many enterprises, the deployment of software in virtual environments adds several layers of increased complexity to managing license compliance. In many cases, companies don't have policies in place to control and monitor deployment of software onto VMs. It is not uncommon to create "master" VM containing licensed software which is then copied onto every new server. Often, this causes either out-of-compliance issues (if there are no controls and chargeback for the cloned software), or unneeded software license purchasing (when all such licensed copies are accounted and charged for, but are not necessarily used).
What's more, software vendors are currently busy introducing new licensing polices that place restrictions on the way software can be deployed on virtual servers, and requiring customers to track and report their usage in such environments. Dynamic partitioning of physical servers into ever-changing virtual servers creates challenges in monitoring usage of software running on those servers, in order to comply with policies such as IBM's "Sub-Capacity Licensing". The economic downturn has made many ISVs more aggressive in their auditing practices, as they seek to find sources of incremental revenue to compensate for decreased license revenues - and the complexities introduced by virtual sprawl presents them with a golden opportunity.
Manually trying to account for every piece of software running in an enterprise and for every VMs is, of course, all but impossible. Trying to do this in an automated fashion will become even more difficult in 2010, as most discovery tools are only able to determine that a particular physical server is running several VMs, but not what software is installed on those VMs, or if any of it is used.
The bottom line: Virtual Sprawl is with us to stay. Economic pressures will make 2010 the "Year of the Audit," as ISVs become serious about squeezing every possible dollar out of its customer base deploying software to virtualized environments. BDNA's Insight solution is a solution to consider when facing these challenges, as it enables organizations to quickly discover software running on virtual systems throughout the enterprise and without the need to install agents on physical servers.
About the Author
As chief evangelist and CMO for BDNA, Ido Sarig leads customer and community outreach, communications and strategic planning. Specializing in product strategy and corporate development, Ido has a long career as a senior technology executive and a venture partner with a leading VC firm in Silicon Valley. Formerly senior VP of technology strategy for Mercury Interactive, he was responsible for the technology roadmap, strategic industry acquisitions and business opportunities.