Software Licensing in the VCL (Cloud)
Henry E. Schaffer
Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Biomathematics
Coordinator of Special IT Projects & Faculty Collaboration/ITD
Motivation for Higher Ed Cloud Use
Since you're attending, I assume you already know these - but for the sake of
- Services can be provided at a lower cost
- more effective choice type of licenses (see below) and use of licenses
- Software versions no longer force faculty to follow IT staff schedule.
- IT staff can focus on more advanced work
- Users, no matter who they are or where they are, can access
professional software around the clock
- Life of existing technologies/computing facilities can be extended
- Management and tracking of software is easier - and so is license compliance
- Student-owned consumer technologies can be leveraged
- need to operate in a
- IT has increased flexibility to tailor/customize software
provisioning for teaching/learning/research
- Student safety is increased
- Example of Private Cloud for
- and its use at NC State University
Motivation for Vendor
Important to emphasize during negotiations!
- Colleges and universities provide exposure to new and possible long
term users of software. We are trainers and workforce developers. Therefore,
we are a powerful extended sales force for effective software tools.
Made easier with Cloud because of expanded and easier access.
- Software use can be tracked, authorization/authentication is
standard, license Ts&Cs can be better enforced
- Better protection of intellectual property
- Opportunities to introduce new software products?
Software is IP
and so we need to deal with the owners, i.e., the vendors to obtain
licenses. Higher ed must respect the legalities - like it or not.
A somewhat historical narrative of licensing
(with liberties taken wrt exact sequence)
- pervasive, complex - getting worse
- important in higher ed env - more important for VCL - critical for Cloud
- old model - license tied to a physical computer (1980s)
- simple, no trouble when individual installations were done
- kept disk(ette)s next to computer, with manuals
- support intensive
- even here licensing concerns by vendors
- image - install over net or via physical install
- same image on every machine
- little problem wrt OS (you bought one per machine anyhow)
- " "
" site license
- but most apps fall in the middle
- where vendors get even more concerns - and get very nervous!
- why nervous? - some cloud vendors have said or implied, "Buy one
license - than all your users can use it!"
- At present - great complexity in providing software services to higher ed users
- Licenses have become complex - often interfere with reasonable use
- license manager - c. 1991 download software for session
- license servers (e.g. Keyserver, FlexLM/FlexNet) are commonly used now
- requires network connectivity - already there for cloud
Vendors and Costs
- (some) Vendors want higher ed students to learn to use their software
- develop market vs. use higher ed as a revenue source
- for some vendors (e.g. Bb, WebAssign, ...) higher ed is their
- or maybe just educational sector
- but most others want some revenue - and want it to reflect
some aspect of use
- use measures: # of users, # of hours, # of apps
- ed & gov't dislike use pricing - since have fixed annual budgets
- Higher Ed always concerned about cost
- Open Source software
- It's Free! (not like free beer, more like free puppy)
- Still licensed
higher ed legal offices getting much more accustomed to this
- Must include support costs to get TCO
often can purchase support - often a very good idea
- Doesn't cover all needs
- But can be an alternative if vendor competition doesn't produce
- Pay & Do whatever vendor wants -
- Often unreasonably expensive
- (we're willing to pay appropriately - but (Math example -
from old days) )
- Site licenses usually based on campus FTE students/faculty/staff/whatever
- or do by department or some other unit
- Often unreasonably restrictive - interferes with needed flexibility
- May be done because of legit vendor concerns
- Higher Ed often doesn't know how much is needed, i.e. future usage
- would be willing to pay if knew it was justified
- Basis for negotiation
VCL and Licensing
Alignment of licensor and licensee regarding licenses
- VCL world brings many of these issues to the fore - esp. at large scale
software is used on any one (often virtual) cpu of a large group - loaded
as needed - nothing constant - not even OS!
many, many users (tens of thousands now - more in near future)
- Cultural/legal developments - with lag time and small steps
to adapt to new use model
- vendor - balancing risks of difficulty of use with revenue loss risk
but don't know VCL (new) strengths and features
- vendors - large ones - tend to prefer their own DRM - often with
incompatible "features" - but AFAIK always can be accommodated
- Previously ed sector had to depend on lure of training students + good will
- Now - new development:
Cloud/Ensemble growth in corporate marketplace will force vendors to
- VCL provides strong support of licenses - better for vendor and easy support
- no problem with site licenses - of course not
- license manager - fine
- treats excess as "no resource available" and offers schedule
- seat count
- network license (pricing strategy from some vendors)
- better utilization - worth paying more per seat
- (see below for question about rationale)
- VCL can see seats in use - (within the VCL - in/out can be a problem)
- treats excess as "no resource available" and offers schedule
- frees up 15 minutes after disconnect even if no logout
Not all vendors offer all types of licenses - or all types for all products.
- License types
- site license
- site-portion license (e.g. a Department)
- environment license (e.g. research use only)
- single user
- Role based licensing (class vs research vs administration vs
- could have different license costs for different roles
- how could these be tracked?
- cloud environments can track more data than most other computing
- Seat count license (i.e. concurrent use on a site basis)
- remote access should be ok?
- Why not? (This is a big issue!)
- how managed?
- license manager use is common (e.g. KeyServer/FlexLM/FlexNet) - for
networked environment - why is Cloud different?
- Graceful expansion - "bursted usage"
- Vendor dislike regarding concurrent use
- Single cpu (computer) license - why differ from seat count?
- Lab use - typically use by multiple students sequentially -
effectively it's a network license
- What if move to a different serial number cpu? (relevant to cloud)
or can be result of a major repair
- Microsoft OS - delivery of remote access to anything running on Windows
"I'm buying VDI software from VMware/Citrix/other vendor. Do I still
need Windows VDA?
Yes, you do. If you are accessing a Windows client operating system (OS) as
your guest OS in the datacenter from a thin client, Windows VDA is the
appropriate licensing vehicle. You need this regardless of the VDI software
vendor you choose. The only scenario where you would not need Windows VDA is
if you were using PCs covered under Software Assurance as the access devices,
since virtual desktop access rights are included as a benefit of SA."
- last accessed 8/15/2013
- Might other vendors follow this example?
- Yes - if their software is hard enough to replace - Note: "monopoly rents"
VCL central facilities - licensing terms may need clarification
concern about who (esp. students)
- "ownership" of computer - many licenses restrict this
- usually can arrange as long as ed (not-for-profit ed) owns
- Using a commercial cloud service - not that much experience
- multiple releases of software may be available at no additional cost
- often can arrange after explanation that without auth, VCL users
can't even see apps
i.e. users can only see the images they are authorized to use
- How will my company make money (revenue)?
- How many licenses will be needed/purchased when the delivery method changes?
- How is use of software measured when served up via the cloud? (audit)
- Is my company's intellectual property protected (core business)?
- Will my company have new support costs associated with this new
delivery method (expenses)?
- How can my company expand use of this software (future of company/revenue)?
- Institutions that send mixed signals about needs
- No central point of contact for licensing at a particular institution
- No clear inventory of current campus software usage
- Varying State and consortial fiscal and contract rules
Higher Education Concerns
- Achieving predictable costs
- Illogical or over bundling of software applications
- Licenses, terms and conditions that are too complex and change rapidly
(and which can be changed retroactively)
- No clear inventory of current campus software usage (we own this problem)
- Difficult to understand price sheets that vary from institution to
institution/state to state
- Device-based, rather than user/use-type-based licensing
- issues include - how many licenses? - is a site license the only
- Example - NC CCs 850,000 students, 250,000 FTE - using a small amount of
Cloud - do they have to pay based on 850,000 or 250,000 or?
Bottom Line - Overall Cloud Outlook
Must work with the vendors if their current licenses aren't suitable!
- Higher visibility than usual student use
- An incentive to do the right things
- Less trouble in the long run to do it right
- license managers work without alteration
- built in tools to do it right
e.g, seat count, scheduler,
The Educause Software
Licensing Constituent Group "focuses on the issues involved in
blending the corporate interests of software providers with the unique
licensing needs of higher education institutions." Click to go to the
Group's page where there is more information and a "Join List" link.
Copyright 2012 by Henry E. Schaffer
Comments and suggestions are welcome, and should go
Last modified 8/15/2013
Disclaimer - Information is provided for your use. No endorsement