There are many virtualization related debates underway right now (even as you read this!), but one that I recently came across seemed to stand out above the others. It was all about who should be dictating the direction software companies should take to tackle software licensing and virtualization.  Treating that topic independently, there are essentially 3 players involved:

  • The provider of 3rd party software protection technologies;
  • The vendor who uses that technology to enforce the license terms within their products;
  • And of course, the end customer who is subjected to those terms.

This new debate was centred on the end customer, and how they should be the ones who suggest solutions to their vendors. Specifically suggesting that it should be the end customers who convince their vendors to become more creative in the way they commercially package their applications, and try to be more forwards thinking with the way the applications are licensed.

This is certainly a new perspective (to me at least). Traditionally (if ‘tradition’ and ‘virtualization’ should even be used in the same sentence), the onus has been on the technology provider to solve the licensing and virtualization problem. Much of this is based on the fact that the majority of software vendors are still unsure on how to tackle this problem themselves.

Industry analysts were the first to suggest that software vendors need to come up with brand new ways of pricing and licensing their software to survive in the virtualized world. The technology providers soon followed suit, and yet very little has changed in the way software is priced. An influencing factor here is the impact a company feels by making significant changes to their business models. The effects cannot be contained, and can create upheaval across multiple parts of an organization.  The net result is that most vendors have decided to stay put, and (understandably) have been waiting for the technology providers to solve the problem.

The question in my mind, is, how much of this would change if end customers unanimously decided to take control of the situation? After all, the end customer is the ones who are at risk if breaching their license agreements or being over-charged when they go Virtual.

In many ways, it could be seen as a reversal of authority when the end customer start to enforce their own usage terms back to the software vendor. Maybe this is the start of the biggest change that virtualization will do to software licensing. Maybe this debate has only surfaced because the end customers feel that their vendors are not doing enough yet. At the end of the day, the customer is always right!