Software Licensing and IT Asset Management Explained

One of the constants of managing an IT infrastructure is keeping tabs on software licensing requirements. It's a task that not every IT administrator enjoys, and the often disparate licensing approaches by multiple IT vendors can often leave system administrators, IT management, and the accounting department scratching their heads at best and muttering expletives at worst. Microsoft isn't alone in earning the occasional ire of IT professionals in this respect, as recent licensing changes by VMware for vSphere 5 generated a firestorm of customer criticism.

In order to help shed some light on the often confusing world of software licensing, I've decided to launch a multi-part blog series that will examine all aspects of software licensing in general, and Microsoft licensing and software assurance in particular. I'll be talking to Microsoft executives, IT professionals, Microsoft partners, and other Microsoft licensing stakeholders to hopefully explain the intricacies of software licensing, how the advent of virtual machines and cloud computing are complicating (and potentially streamlining) the software licensing discussion, and what the future holds for software licensing.

While licensing can be a frustrating topic for many IT professionals, it's important to remember that there are two sides to every issue. I recently spoke with Brad Smith, Microsoft's director of product licensing for Microsoft's Worldwide Licensing & Pricing division, about Microsoft's approach to software licensing. Smith makes a compelling argument about Microsoft's challenges in developing licensing policies for software that is used by millions of companies, organizations, city, state, and federal governments, and in many different countries and languages. Many of these groups have wildly different licensing needs and requirements, and trying to fashion a software licensing policy that fits the needs of so many different customers and use cases can be a daunting task.


Microsoft's Brad Smith

Brad Smith, Microsoft's Director of Product Licensing for Microsoft's Worldwide Licensing & Pricing Division


"Software licensing is not a static thing," Smith told me. "Customer needs and technology trends play a part...and we've always tried to be flexible, fair, and straightforward with our customers [about software licensing]." Smith then pointed to steps Microsoft has taken over the last few years towards making software licensing more flexible when it comes to virtual and cloud environments, and said that Microsoft will continually be evaluating how they can modify and adapt their licensing strategy to better meet customer demands. Smith also offered up four distinct trends that are impacting software licensing: The consumerization of IT, an increasingly dynamic workforce, a move towards infrastructure optimization at enterprises, and new licensing opportunities that cloud computing presents. I'll dive into each of these topics in a bit more details in future installments of this blog series.

As this series on software licensing continues, if you're an IT professional, IT manager, or someone responsible for writing the check for software licensing, I'd love to hear from you about your own software licensing experiences, both positive and negative. Feel free to drop me an email, add a comment to this blog post, or mention something on Twitter.


Next Week: Microsoft Software Licensing 101

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