At Microsoft Inspire 2017, in Washington D.C, Flexera and Microsoft announced a new partnership – aimed at solving a problem in what they call “the software supply chain”.
Combining Flexera’s FlexNetManager Suite with Microsoft’s Intelligent Asset Manager, the aim is to remove the need for expensive, disruptive audits and instead allow partners and customers to focus on delivering value and business transformation.
The service will create an “agreed upon ELP baseline” which via FlexNet Manager Suite can be used “to manage (the customer’s) Microsoft license position on an ongoing basis”.
Flexera CEO, Jim Ryan, said “In industries with healthy supply chains – there is never any question or disagreement between the supplier and buyer regarding what products have been purchased, what’s been used, and how much is owed. But that has never been the case with software.”
Analogies to the electricity industry work well here. Rarely does an energy supplier ask a customer to prove how much electricity they used on which devices in which rooms at which times on which days; the supplier knows this information and is able to bill accordingly. Starting from this point makes any discrepancies or uncertainty that much easier to resolve. Moving the software licensing industry closer towards that model through this new joint venture should, according to Ryan, “save time, money and remove friction between Microsoft and its customers”.
Speaking to both Microsoft and Flexera, it’s clear they both see this as a change not just for Microsoft customers and partners but, ultimately, for the industry as a whole. They’re looking to lead from the front and set a new standard for other vendors to reach and exceed. The move from “compliance” to “value” within the Microsoft SAM team is clear to see and this new venture is, at least in part, an effort to drive that same type of shift industry wide.
This can be viewed in much the same way as the Microsoft Surface. Microsoft created the Surface product not to compete with vendors or partners but rather as a reference point; to show people what was possible and how customers could benefit from this new approach. I think it is much the same thinking behind this link-up with Flexera, with both companies hoping to show other vendors what is possible and ultimately raising the standard across the SAM industry.
With the two vendors working together, some have raised concerns about a loss of impartiality between Microsoft and Flexera. When asked about these concerns, Flexera’s VP of Strategy, Tom Canning, said:
“We are aware that we need to take a balanced approach and we at Flexera take our impartiality in the market very seriously. Flexera remains focussed on helping our customers manage compliance and to optimise their spending but through this offering we have created a standard way for our customers to choose to share information with Microsoft in a standard way should they sign up for this program.”
Although no customer information is being shared, data IS being passed between the two companies. Data from Microsoft to help further improve Flexera’s intelligence libraries, app recognition and license consumption calculations.
As Canning says “Doing this ensures that the results we provide our customers are aligned with the way Microsoft look at the calculations. This is how things are done in a mature and efficient supply chain so is a natural progression for the software industry”
Reducing the room for interpretation when it comes to inventory results, giving customers a standardised base for their SAM program, and increasing transparency are all good things. This new initiative has, at its heart, a plan to change and improve the SAM industry for everyone. I, for one, am very interested to see how that plan progresses and what the reactions will be – from manufacturers, tool vendors and customers alike.