The technology landscape is shifting all the time with changes being brought about by virtualization, mobility and cloud.
With this dynamism and force for change in mind, I was particularly interested to speak this week to Mark Ridley, head of technology at the UK job site Reed.co.uk to learn first hand how licensing can affect technology strategy.
Industry bodies such as the BSA and FAST tend to rely heavily on FUD and lopsided arguments to push their agenda. The usual mantra is “We are poor defenceless software companies being attacked by ruthless pirates!” (See this daft video as an example, yawn).
So what steps are these companies taking to make software easier to license?
Many software companies could implement simpler licensing programs whilst protecting their revenue and intellectual property but choose not to do so. Perhaps they prefer the status quo, the software audit revenue and the short-term sales opportunities generated by market confusion.
Unclear licensing hinders technology adoption. Especially those IT departments exploring virtual or cloud strategies. This was a message echoed by Reed who stated Microsoft licensing complexity affected their decision to choose Google Apps for desktop productivity.
Reed.co.uk grew from a traditional high street recruitment brand into the UK’s number one job site.
The company has chosen to migrate all applications to delivery via browser where possible. For example 100 traditional Microsoft centric desktops have been replaced with Chromebooks, with desktop productivity (Google Apps) and CRM (Salesforce.com) all accessible via a browser.
Bye-bye Microsoft Windows update.
Mark said the aim was to move to predictable “per-user” costs, which was made a lot easier with Google Apps. The team at Reed were impressed with Office 365 as an offering but ultimately licensing complexity hindered their choice (Specifically Microsoft licensing policies around running software within a virtual desktop). Mark admitted that licensing complexity was not the only reason they didn’t choose Microsoft but said it was certainly a negative factor:
“We put the effort into investigating Office 365 only to find Microsoft licensing gotchas. It’s disheartening. Fine print in licensing terms disrupted the whole project”
Licensing complexity has also affected Reed’s server virtualization strategy. The company had to revert to physical servers to support its business to simplify on-going management costs. Reed relies heavily on Microsoft (Windows Server, IIS, SQL) to power its website which is delivered via processor based SPLA licensing.
Mark said that nothing could touch Microsoft Office on the desktop – but that Microsoft just can’t compete from a simplicity point of view. Other company offerings are simply easier to choose – and this has a huge impact in the small and medium sized business market.
“The most difficult thing about choosing Microsoft technology is actually dealing with them. You don’t actually speak to one company and one brand. They are disparate divisions – they need to simplify everything and bring common sense into their licensing. You often need a licensing specialist to make a Microsoft decision and companies live in constant fear of errors. Simplicity was a big factor in choosing Google Apps. “
It is worth noting that, at the time of writing, Google is not a member of BSA. Why would they need to be if software can be deployed and intellectual property protected in a frictionless easy to use manner?
In the longer term, if licensing is simpler more software gets shipped and more technology can be deployed. If you agree with this sentiment please go and lend your support to The Campaign for Clear Licensing, a not-for-profit defending the rights of software buyers.