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The future of software licenses in a virtual world

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Software licensing is slowly evolving to accommodate the technological advancements taking place such as virtualization. So where does that leave software licenses a few years from now?

Although the contention surrounding traditional CPU terminology shows little sign of abating, some software vendors are adopting other benchmarks such as per-user or per-seat software licenses.

New software licensing methods
By charging on a per-user basis with software licenses, vendors can unshackle themselves from the unique and often convoluted infrastructures of their various clients. For example, 5,000 users are 5,000 users, regardless of how many processors, servers and other equipment is deployed to support them.

Per-user software licensing is also taking hold with hosted applications, Software as a Service and even cloud providers. In other cases, the software licensing benchmark may embrace more progressive business outcomes, such as a certain number of transactions in a given period.

But software users are also seeing a spate of new software licenses or editions that accept varying levels of use—especially in virtual environments. For example, the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise license allows four virtual Windows Server instances for free, but the four instances must run on the same host.

By comparison, Windows Server 2008 Datacenter Edition is licensed per CPU and per host server but is independent of the number of virtual machines running on the host. It may be considerably more cost-effective to deploy the Datacenter Edition rather than the Enterprise or Standard Edition.

Ultimately, there is no single solution to the perplexing problem of software licensing, but software licenses are an issue that data center administrators and business leaders must figure out. A proactive and conscientious understanding of software licenses allows users to avoid legal problems from software license agreement violations, save considerably on software licensing costs and make the best long-term strategic decisions for data center growth.

This article originally appeared in the Virtual Data Center E-Zine.

About the author
Stephen J. Bigelow,
a senior technology editor in the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group at TechTarget Inc., has more than 15 years of technical writing experience in the PC/technology industry. He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, along with CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and Server+ certifications and has written hundreds of articles and more than 15 feature books on computer troubleshooting, including Bigelow’s PC Hardware Desk Reference and Bigelow’s PC Hardware Annoyances. Contact him at sbigelow@techtarget.com.

This was first published in April 2011

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