Ensuring Compliance When Licensing Virtualized Infrastructure

January 22, 2015
Editorial Staff


Editorial Staff

More organizations are realizing the value of migrating their IT environment into virtualized infrastructures and cloud datacenters. However, many organizations fail to realize that transitioning their applications to virtual machines means the licensing conditions of those applications are altered in the process. Many publishers take advantage of this lack of licensing knowledge because the IT industry is still in this limbo state of transitioning hardware from on-premise to virtual.

CIO Insights provides some enlightening research on the state of on-premise versus virtualization:

  • Virtualization has surpassed 50% of all server workloads and will reach 86% by 2016
  • There are more than 15 million applications deployed on virtual infrastructures
  • 70% of Senior Execs say virtualization has had a significant impact on efficiency and cost savings

How much of a cost-savings will this really be, though, if you get audited for licensing your virtualized infrastructure incorrectly? A server may only cost a few thousand to acquire the hardware, but the cost of non-compliant software could be in the tens of thousands per non-compliant license. Furthermore, just as publishers have different license agreements, they also have different methodologies for licensing their virtual infrastructure.

For example, Oracle doesn’t necessarily care how much your VM uses a specific software, the entire machine must be licensed regardless even if you’re only utilizing a fraction of the potential cores. This often goes counter-intuitive to the purpose of pushing IT performance to a virtual machine because organizations often look to this technology in order to reduce their CapEx and OpEx.

Similarly, Symantec requires each virtual instance to be licensed. For example, if there are 100 users accessing a standardized image for a virtual machine, then you will be required to have 100 licenses for each provision as opposed to a single master license for the machine itself.

What if you threw together a virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI) around Citrix technology? Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp requires either Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) rights via SA or a Remote Desktop Access (RDA) Client Access License (CAL). Suddenly, you need an abundance of Microsoft licenses to support that Citrix infrastructure.

To continue the Microsoft thread, virtualization also impacts best practices for how you license core infrastructure, like the Microsoft Desktop OS, Windows Server, and SQL Server.

For Desktop OS, if you have OS upgrade via SA, then you have the right to deploy a virtual OS environment (OSE) for the user of the SA covered desktop. But if you don’t have SA, then you can still buy the rights to deploy a virtual OSE for a user via VDA.

On Windows Server, once you reach more than a handful of virtual machines per virtual host, it becomes more cost-effective to license the capacity of the host with the Windows Server Datacenter license. CAUTION! Make sure you keep the SA, because without it you won’t have mobility rights to move those VMs to other hosts in your server farm or the cloud.

For SQL, virtualization can become very expensive if the environment is not carefully planned to maximize the value of systems licensed by the underlying hardware or on a per-VM model. Careful attention must also be paid to per-machine license minimums and per VM license minimums that will drive many environments to higher VM densities per physical host.

The moral of the story is you can’t throw caution to the wind and just virtualize willy-nilly, but you shouldn’t be afraid to virtualize software applications and take advantage of new opportunities in the cloud – with careful planning and the right licensing expertise, you will realize the efficiency and flexibility of virtualization without a software licensing hangover.

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