Eye on Oracle

May 27 2009   3:45PM GMT

License management could be the key to your next Oracle review

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

In a news story that appeared on SearchOracle.com last week about Oracle’s acquisition of Sun triggering reviews of software licenses and audits, it hammered home the point to us that IT shops more than ever need to establish best practices for managing software licenses.

Oracle has always had the right to call for a review (with very little notice, I might add) to verify that users have not downloaded more copies than their contract calls for. But the Sun acquisition, coupled with the crushing effect the economy has had on Oracle’s revenue growth, the likelihood of reviews and audits has risen considerably.

As Jeff Greenwald, Acresso Software’s Senior Director of Product Management for Enterprise Licensing Optimization told us last week:

“This (Oracle-Sun) merger could spark other conversations with a shop that may or may not have Sun boxes running in them, but Oracle won’t know that when they start the conversation. Oracle could treat this as an opportunity to investigate a shop’s hardware base and without realizing it, users enter into an audit.”

It has been his experience, Greenwald said, that most users have no best practices guidelines or software in place to track deployments. In fact, many use only a spreadsheet to track their compliance, which is a bit scary. The drawbacks to this relatively primitive method are it is time consuming, prone to errors and its results are often out of date even before the exercise is completed.

Naturally, Greenwald believes his lineup of license management software offers a better alternative, but he does have a cogent case. Not only does Acresso’s products present an automated way to collect instances of Oracle software and store them it a central location, they also provide users with reports that “interpret” those deployments comparing them to their contract.

“It is about (Acresso’s) technology but it is also about services that can help customers come to a decision by recommending what the best course of action is when they renegotiate a new contract with Oracle,” Greenwald told us.

Greenwald believes there is a basic set of license management best practices that can be applied to a range of different “events” that trigger reviews and audits. Events can be many things including not just mergers and acquisitions but divestitures, re-organizations, expansions, facility closings, or layoffs.

The following rules can better prepare an IT shop for such reviews, he believes.

Pro-active, consistent monitoring of Oracle deployments.  IT shops should monitor Oracle deployments continuously instead of waiting until a review or audit deadline approaches. This is the most sensible way to avoid a crazed fire drill under tight time constraints.

Collect complete, granular information. Oracle deployments and licensing both can be complex, involving multiple instances on multiple platforms. Consequently, IT organizations should make sure their visibility into their Oracle deployments is complete and granular, including discovery of all processors and all named users.

Use of automation. IT organizations can reduce strain on their staffs as well as improve the accuracy of their information through automation. That automation however should be scheduled to avoid being a drag on performance of critical business services. It is a good idea to implement agentless automation to avoid management complexity.

Clear reporting against actual license structure. Once IT shops have a granular accounting of their Oracle deployments, they need to understand how those deployments compare to their actual current license entitlements. That understanding can come through reports highlighting where the deployment exceeds the license and where there is “shelfware” i.e. software that is not in use.

Fully leveraging of deployment insights across all IT and business functions. Once an IT organization can maintain pro-active insight into their Oracle deployments, it must then deliver that insight across an organization.  These organizations, besides developing the ability to monitor their deployments, will want to take advantage of experts in disciplines such as negotiation, budget allocation and planning.

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