Every piece of software, whether installed on a phone, laptop, server, or used in the cloud, has a license. Even so-called “free” software (software that can be freely distributed and modified) comes with a license. The license defines the terms and conditions under which the software can be used and explains who can use the software, for how long, what levels of access users get to the code, etc. Licenses are displayed when a user first starts an application (in the form of an EULA – End User License Agreement) or accompanies the application as part of its distribution media, such as in the . archive downloaded.
Why is software license management important?
Software license management ensures that organizations remain compliant with license terms and, therefore, out of legal hot water. Additionally, while there is a cost to owning the license to use software, managing the ratio of users to installs means companies don’t overspend on software, or run software illegally. .
In the case of cloud services, managing the licenses to use an application or service remotely will help ensure that the organization gets the most out of its monthly charges and that overuse of the cloud service will not present an unpleasant bill at the end of the month.
What is Software License Management?
Software license management platforms typically include different elements, including but not limited to auditing, compliance checking, and reporting to decision makers or, in some cases, statutory bodies.
Software licensing platforms can also be a central source of information that exposes the differences between different software licensing models. These are particularly numerous in open source software and cloud services.
For example, some cloud services charge based on data rate, bandwidth to an application, CPU loads, or (more commonly) the number of end users accessing the service.
In open source software (more on this below), some licenses allow free use of any piece of the provided code without recourse to developers, while others are more restrictive, requiring publication of any differences to the code. code, for example.
What does a software license mean
It’s pretty straightforward to conceptualize what software is for most people: an app on a phone, a desktop icon you double-click, or a web service you log into to complete a day’s work.
However, the detailed picture is much more complex. On an Android phone, for example, the operating system (Android) is licensed, as is the virtualized Java machine inside the operating system. Additionally, each application will in all likelihood include different components (often referred to as libraries or frameworks, for example), each of which comes with its own licenses.
And while it’s rarely necessary to track every item in great detail, businesses should be aware that, for example, macOS is licensed software, as are the various versions of Windows that run on desktop computers. the company. Servers hosted internally or on virtual private servers in the cloud will also be licensed under the different terms that Linux-based software is often bundled with.
At scale, software license management platforms will therefore clearly show their value, being capable of in-depth surveys of all of an organization’s networks to determine what is running where, using and based on enough to.
What is Software License Management?
Software license management has three basic components. The first is asset discovery across the extended network. In today’s organizations, this network extends from the LAN to the cloud and includes BYOD devices that appear on the LAN, assuming these devices introduced into the enterprise are used in some way. for professional purposes.
IIoT and IoT devices must also be audited. In fact, everything connected to the corporate network should be cataloged. Cataloging should include both the operating system and application layers (if separate) and any extensions or add-ons to applications and services deployed anywhere in the enterprise.
There are specialized software platforms available that will catalog specific devices such as OT and IIoT devices (see other pages on this site), although the latest generation of software licensing platforms are expected to include these devices in as part of their analysis.
The second part of the software license management suite will compare installed instances of software and hardware with purchased licenses and ensure that the terms of all licenses (even so-called “free” versions) are not violated.
The third element is the continuation of these processes as the operations of the organization continue. When new cloud services are launched or subscribed to, they must join the software license catalog. Similarly, when staff leave or join the organization or hardware devices are retired or purchased, license details will need to be added or removed from the current registry. Ongoing compliance is critical, despite the many turns that today’s enterprises will take when deploying, using, and changing their overall IT stack.
What about open-source software licenses?
Developers creating new applications and services will invariably use pre-existing software, integrating it as libraries, frameworks, or layers of code into new and existing projects.
However, organizations should be aware that many such pieces of code are released under specific licenses that limit their use or have built-in stipulations that dictate how the resulting products should be released.
This has two effects on companies running DevOps functions. First, the software audit process should be granular and ongoing to highlight items, such as libraries, that are built into a project. Use of these may pose a security issue in due course (many product owners were unaware that their platforms contained the Log4J code, for example), or have implications as to whether finished software can be released as a closed proprietary product. .
The use of code published under certain versions of the GPL (GNU Public License) is accompanied for example by specific stipulations.
While these issues may seem esoteric to many (indeed, there is a bewildering array of different software licenses, especially in the open source realm), the continued development of widely available code requires that all users of open source software adhere to the license terms.