Help, an audit! License audits by VMware. Are you ready?

Ach, VMware used to be so nice. Totally charming. The technology side of things was always top. It’s rare for customers to complain about technical problems. Our internal MultiVendor Helpdesk can certainly confirm that one. There simply isn’t much to do. Our in-house IT at COMPAREX, which runs to a large extent on a VMware basis, purrs like a cat, and has done for years. Rated: "Very heavy duty".

An article by Marco Vogel, Senior Manager Global Alliances

So everything’s hunky-dory?

Not quite… It is possible that VMware has a surprise up its sleeve for a few customers. What kind? 'Nice' letters containing a polite request to take a closer look at the issue of compliance. VMware and compliance? Trusty VMware customers would be forgiven for asking whether anything could go wrong there? It can. But how? vSphere licensing is based on inserted CPUs, and the keys are stored on the vCenter server – and that’s all. True. That’s all it takes, as long as the company’s has a simple IT system. A data center in the same country, used exclusively for internal purposes. 
But when things get more complex (as they usually do), for instance if the company has several data centers in operation, it is quite likely to involve

  • the use of hosting services,
  • the inclusion of several branches,
  • locations outside of the EU,
  • a variety of support levels for the company’s VMware base,
  • the use of mixed OEM and channel licenses,
  • a substantial investment in VMware technology.

In this case it is wise to take at least a few precautions to be on the safe side when things get serious.

Why are audits even necessary?

One step at a time. Why does VMware conduct audits? First of all, they’re not alone. Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Symantec, Adobe, Autodesk and other vendors have conducted regular audits for some time now. So VMware is not playing the spoilsport here. The vendor, just like its other American competitors on the software market, is subject to the strict conditions imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As a partner, we are required to prove that we are behaving in a 'compliant' fashion. It is only logical that customers are next in line.

VMware has been a major player in companies for some time now. Server virtualization has become something of the new normal. These days, issues like mobility, management, automation, and – in this case, I’m happy to use the slightly hackneyed word – the cloud are the talk of the town.

In a nutshell: VMware has expand-ed and now leaves its mark on how customers operate, also in terms of investments. It is no surprise that VMware has become the world’s fifth largest software vendor. But if we give our Pareto charts a quick dust, we’re bound to notice immediately: A company that is compliant with its top vendors (equivalent to 20 percent of the vendors in use) will already have done 80 percent of the work. The good news: As described above, VMware belongs to the 20 percent bracket. The bad news: So far no one has paid all that much attention. How could they? Nobody really knew what VMware cares about and what is important.

Survival tips for the audit

It’s a simple maxim: Prevention is better than a cure. So here are a few handy survival tips to make sure the auditors have what they need when things get serious. In case you are wondering how we know all this, the answer is simple: Project experience. Over the last twelve months, companies have increasingly requested our assistance with VMware issues in our capacity as a Software Asset Management service provider. After all, we are delighted to provide SAM, even as a Managed Service. Interestingly, the requests have come from the public sector in addition to our industrial customers.

First things first: The classic situation that the customer does not have enough licenses is virtually unknown. Of course it is possible to split, merge or reallocate license keys. Customers are required to exercise a certain prudence in respect to old keys. But those are the exceptions. VMware is more concerned with the interpretation of documents. So a warm welcome to EULA, which on the one hand is a nice location south of the German COMPAREX headquarters in Leipzig. And on the other hand it is the document that determines what customers may do with the license, and what they may not.

Private users with some IT skills are familiar with EULA because it pops up every time you install a program. So what now? The best strategy is straight from the manual: "Basic Rules for a Happy Marriage". In other words: Just say 'OK'. Alternatively, you can listen to everything and end up completely confused. And then say – or click – 'OK'. But unfortunately this strategy is not particularly suited to a business setting.

VMware has a few important things tucked away in the EULA. A couple of examples?

  • Are you allowed to use a license you purchased in Germany in your branch in Russia? Broadly speaking: No.
  • Is it compliant to use a license purchased in Switzerland in another country? Not really.
  • Are you permitted to offer other companies hosting services based on the licenses that you have purchased? Actually, no.
  • Is it okay to give your colleagues in China access to your properly licensed VMware environment in Germany? It is, but only if they pay.
  • Are you allowed to equip half of your productive servers with Basic Support, and the other half with Production Support? In general: No.

In some cases it is pretty astonishing to see all the details that fit into such a short text.

Compliant – with support from COMPAREX

Attentive readers will have noticed that I have preceded each "No" with a certain qualification. An alternative answer, to quote Radio Yerevan, might just as well be: In principle, yes. But companies with competent assistance from partners who have experienced the process on several occasions are usually far better equipped to cope with the details of individual cases.

Here at COMPAREX, almost all of our SAM Consultants have now received training in the issue of VMware compliance and can already draw on the experience of past projects. The pleasant side-effect: This kind of consultancy and the action it produces can help deliver the maximum benefit from VMware investments, show how to reactivate old OEM licenses and assign them to other devices. It also demonstrates ways to use all the features of purchased licenses or to turn VMware products that are actually end-of-life into current VMware products or even how many operable licenses there are, and which ones have ac-tive support. How to exploit opportunities hidden in the special clauses within the Enterprise License Agreement, and options for members of corporate groups to ben-efit from framework contracts. After all, an altogether "right" contract can help save money and administrative costs while at the same time ensuring compliance.

And even if all these things are already old hat, COMPAREX can help prepare the results of the license inventory in such a way that they will satisfy even VMware’s standards. With this in mind, I wish us all a truly compliant 2016. We’ll catch up in the cloud!

Leipzig, 2/5/2016

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Contact Marco

Marco Vogel

Marco Vogel

Sr. Manager, Global Alliances VMware

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