If anyone tells you IBM software licensing is simple to work with, they are pulling your leg. In fact, at one of the organizations I’ve worked for, we had a slightly snarky but good-natured comment that came up occasionally in our meetings with our IBM partners: “Have I ever told you just how complicated IBM software licensing is?” It got so old that, in conversation, we usually just left it hanging – “Have I ever told you?…”
So, just how complex is IBM licensing?
From a metric standpoint, IBM has over 100 different software licensing types. These can be as simple as “install” based licensing – or more complex, like the various user-based metrics (e.g., Authorized User, Floating User, Concurrent User, etc.) There are Connections, Client Devices, Simultaneous Sessions, Terabytes, Storage Capacity Units, User Value Units, Monthly Million Rules Decisions… You get the point.
Still other licensing can be based on the “hardware” specifications where the software products are installed; where the amount of computing “horsepower” available to the software determines the license position. Perhaps the most challenging of this type of a processor based sub-capacity licensing metric is the Processor Value Unit (PVU).
Sub-capacity metrics have the benefit of allowing IBM customers to license only against the number of processors allocated to the virtual machine (VM) where the software is installed – rather than licensing all the processors on the physical host computer (referred to as Full Capacity licensing).
Because sub-capacity licensing allows for potentially significant budget savings, IBM has mandated in their contracts that customers who wish to take advantage of it must: 1) Install either the IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) or BigFix Inventory (BFI). 2) Produce audit reporting (on a minimum of a quarterly basis) and 3) Retain these reports continuously for 2 years, in case IBM decides to perform an audit.
However, while IBM mandates the use of these tools for sub-capacity customers, apparently it does not contractually require that they are to be used to their optimal capabilities. This is where customers can potentially lie themselves exposed for negative audit consequences. It is also where many customers miss the important opportunity to start down the road toward formalized Software Asset Management.
What are the IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) and IBM BigFix Inventory (BFI)?
In short, these IBM products are asset discovery tools; the primary (historically, one could say, “only”) mission of which is to gather data on the installation of IBM software and produce contractually required periodic sub-capacity audit reporting. The asset discovery also includes the requisite “hardware” virtualization data needed to accurately measure and calculate sub-capacity licensing metrics.
These tools, however, can discover the installation of far more than just IBM Sub-capacity-based products. ILMT can discover the installation fingerprint/signature of any IBM software, regardless of metric; and BigFix Inventory has a catalog that can discover almost 40,000 software products from over 9,600 different publishers.
The main differences between ILMT and BigFix Inventory stem from the fact that ILMT is a “free” tool – in so far as the use of the data it produces is limited to IBM product reporting only; and, therefore, no license purchase is required. Because IBM BigFix Inventory is a licensed product, the data derived from it may be used for other enterprise Asset Management objectives beyond IBM compliance. Essentially, they can be considered the same tool – except for the depth and use of the data collected.
Free is not always ‘free’
While ILMT is a limited version, free from any licensing cost – it is not without operational costs. Beginning with ILMT 9.0 – organizations now need to stand up a fully functional BigFix Enterprise architecture (think IBM End Point Manager) to run it. There is no “lite” version for the “no charge” ILMT product, and this increase in complexity over previous versions of ILMT requires a similar and significant increase in user resources for maintenance and administration. The larger the enterprise environment to be instrumented and measured, the greater the initial development and maintenance costs for the BigFix Enterprise infrastructure is.
Beyond system administration costs, it is imperative that the user provide “Product Bundling” in both tools to produce accurate audit reporting. What this means is that while ILMT discovers software signatures, the user must identify the specific purchased product / license that the discovered instances relate to.
This manual bundling process can 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. In the absence of any formal deployment tracking, it can be a rather lengthy and involved investigative process to determine the specific licensing purchases that relate to a newly discovered product instance.
It is good to note here that ILMT/ BFI can discover ISO-19770 Software Tags to identify product bundling. However, this standard has only been recently adopted, so any legacy software in the environment cannot be discovered and bundled in this manner.
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 its most rudimentary form, Software Asset Management is initially embodied in the reconciliation of purchased license inventory against the software products deployed/discovered in the environment. It is this process that confirms Software License Compliance – and can 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. Typically, 80-85% of organizations that undertake this process do so using numerous disparate and disconnected spreadsheets as the solution. Anyone that has ever attempted any type of reconciliation between spreadsheet-based data sources can tell you it is a very manual and labor-intensive process. The accuracy of this is dubious at best, depending on the size of the environment tracked and the quality (precision, completeness, timeliness, etc.) of the spreadsheet tracking.
Once ILMT is installed and running it is a simple process to purchase BigFix Inventory licensing – and convert 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 publishers’ software is installed in the environment.
In these tools, it is encouraged that the user customize (and extend) the functionality by importing a list of purchased IBM part numbers. An initial list can be obtained from the customer’s Passport Advantage (PPA) site. This list of part number is used initially by ILMT for the “auto-bundling” algorithms – where the tool makes an educated guess at the correct product for any newly discovered software instances.
In addition, by adding entitlement data (in the form of part numbers) the user can visualize their license compliance. The value this provides is that discovered instances can now be bundled more accurately to products that are identified by unique part numbers – and these records can then be reconciled easily with purchased licensing, using the part numbers as key values.
The one major drawback that practitioners face here, however is that, often, the products purchased (and their corresponding part numbers) have evolved over time into different products (with different names, part numbers and – possibly even different licensing metrics). “Have I ever told you?…”
To really understand their current licensing positions, companies need to commit additional effort into “deciphering” any of these evolution’s or other product changes, and to track them somehow. Remember, ILMT/BigFix Inventory is a discovery tool, not an inventory or contract/entitlement tracking tool per se.
Starting with reporting from Passport Advantage (PPA) sites, IBM customers can baseline the products they have entitlements for. Then, they can cross reference these transactions to the various amendments of ESSO agreements and subsequent contracting, and layer on Service and Support licensing purchases (because, while it is not required for compliance, maintenance licensing positions are extremely valuable data).
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 should lead 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 this effort it completed, virtual real-time insight into the organization’s current license position is available, but it should be noted that this data needs to be continually updated for new software purchases, and other licensing changes. 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.
There are certainly multiple tools in the market that can provide license positioning features and integration with BigFix/ILMT. However, the point is that as soon an initial position is established, ILMT is no longer running just for the contractually required audit reporting. It becomes the basis of an initial foray into SAM.
Beside Audit Reports and Compliance reconciliation – what other value is there?
First, the most obvious is the “hardware” scanning data that is collected for every instrumented virtual machine. 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, assist in the tracking and decommissioning of older technology, and a host of other data-center maintenance operations.
Other opportunities revolve around environmental hygiene, version compliance, and software currency. The most obvious opportunity is simply to audit (internally) for unexpected software. Any software installed on a computer represents some risk; keeping the environment clean helps mitigate that risk. In addition, most service and support license agreements, regardless of the publisher, are limited only to the most recent versions. For software currency efforts, older unsupported instances can be identified, and any remediation projects’ progress can be tracked using ILMT reporting data.
Yet another opportunity (for BFI users) may be found in the discovery of other non-IBM publishers’ products for internal auditing and compliance purposes. Two immediately come to mind: Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL server. 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 metering within BFI can be used to identify unused instances of currently licensed software, and to target them for removal. 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
ILMT/BFI is far from a complete SAM tool solution. There are many other options in the market and they can have significant additional functionality (and cost). IBM sub-capacity customers are limited in their ability to dismiss / replace this tool, as there is apparently only one 3rd party option available at this time.
So, since most sub-capacity customers are “stuck” with using an IBM discovery tool, why not make the most of it? In my experience, an analysis of the savings just from using sub-capacity licensing reveals between a 50% and 75% discount over full capacity licensing cost. This is no small amount, but it carries with it the opportunity cost of supporting ILMT/BFI.
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.
What lies beyond the Gateway?
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 will be your next challenge. 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.
Someone once said, “…a socket wrench is not a very good tool to use if you want to bake a cake”, but…sometimes a brick works if you’re short a hammer. Within your organization, you can start down the road to Software Asset Management by working with the tools you have, especially the ones you are required to use. And don’t forget: “Have I ever told you?…”