Flexera to Tag Apps on IBM i for Usage Monitoring, License Audits
November 7, 2011 Alex Woodie
Flexera Software, the developer of the InstallShield and InstallAnywhere utilities that guide software installations on practically every PC and server on the planet–including those running IBM i–is ramping up a new software tagging initiative. The plan involves embedding XML-based software tags into the applications installed with Flexera’s utilities and then providing software asset management tools to enable customers to more effectively track their application usage and cope with vendor licensing audits.
There are two arguments in favor of software identification (SWID) tags: one from the organizations that buy and use software and the other from the vendors that develop software. On the supply (software vendor) side, SWID tags will help identify pirated and illegal software during license audits of customers and will enable vendors to make more money in licensing fees.
Likewise, on the demand (software consumer) side of the business, there is a desire to avoid using pirated software (presumably, unknowingly). There is also a desire to avoid overpaying software companies for unneeded licenses and for identifying any “shelfware” that is bought and paid for, but rarely if ever used.
In both cases, the creation of a standards-based SWID tag will make the task of identifying and cataloging the applications residing on an organization’s PCs and servers much easier. Developers of software asset management (SAM) tools today use a number of techniques to identify what software customers have installed and are using. But the process is fraught with challenges, especially when apps are repackaged and distributed within an organization, an increasingly common process in today’s virtualized environments.
Flexera’s strategy is based on the ISO 19770-2 tagging standard, which is part of the overall ISO 19770 standard describing the implementation of SWID tags for more effective SAM. The organization spearheading the implementation of this initiative is TagVault, which was founded in 2009 by three vendors–Symantec, CA, and ModusLink OCS–to be the registration authority for SWID tags.
In August, Flexera announced that InstallShield, which is used by thousands of Windows software vendors and is installed on 500 million PCs around the world, will support the capability to generate tags. That capability is available now, with InstallShield 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, Flexera will add SWID tag support to InstallAnywhere, its multi-platform utility that guides software installation and removal process for IBM i, Unix, Linux, and Mac OS platforms. Also in the first quarter of 2012, Flexera will release AdminStudio 11, which will allow enterprises to automatically add ISO 19770-2 compliant tags to repackaged applications.
A key piece of Flexera’s key puzzle will be the December 2011 release of its FlexNet Manager Platform. The upcoming release of the FlexNet tool will be able to read the XML-based SWID tags embedded into applications by InstallShield, InstallAnywhere, and AdminStudio, and use this information to manage their “software estates” for the purposes of license optimization. FlexNet already sports a library of 100,000 applications that it can identify, and the addition of SWID tag support will make it even more effective.
Flexera–which was sold by Thoma Bravo to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in July— is one of a handful of companies spearheading the adoption of SWID tags. A big part of the SWID equation, for sure, is making life easier for big software vendors like Microsoft and IBM to audit their customers and their use of software. The Business Software Alliance, which has worked with Microsoft in the past to fight software piracy and track down licensing scofflaws, is a supporter of the SWID initiative and TagVault. The BSA has also worked hard to get licensing issues a seat at the corporate compliance table and to encourage ethics in the legal use of software.
But the BSA has made some enemies in the world, too, and there’s the question of how much time and money law-abiding organizations should spend to prove their innocence. To some extent, however, weathering software licensing audits has already become a cost of doing business, and so any cost-savings that the SWID initiative can drive into the equation will be welcomed by software users.
SWID supporters like Flexera say there are other benefits to software tagging that will benefit software users. Flexera vice president of corporate development Steve Schmidt argues that enterprises are struggling to track all of the different versions and release levels of their applications, as well as the various languages and license types (not to mention the software that users are increasingly bringing from home), and that SWID can bring clarity and automation to that process. “It’s important to be able to know what combination of elements exists inside the enterprise,” he says.
IBM customers will appreciate a new component that Flexera added to its FlexNet Manager Platform this summer, which enables customers to get better visibility into their IBM software and their position relative to IBM’s various licensing approaches. For example, the software features “what if” modeling that enables users to see whether they are better off licensing their software using IBM’s sometimes confusing processor value unit (PVU) licensing approach, as opposed to user-based pricing. Flexera offers a similar add-on for SAP, which uses its own peculiar licensing approach.