IBM Software Audits Complicated by Diverse License Types

Businesses that have endured software audits from industry groups like the BSA and the SIIA or from software publishers like Autodesk likely are familiar with the basic audit process of counting the total number of installations for audited products and comparing those installations against the number of licenses previously purchased to support them. There are some common variations on that general theme used by some publishers – notably, Microsoft – involving connections to server software by other computers on the network. However, for the most part, the numbers of different kinds of licenses at issue are relatively limited.

Therefore, when those businesses are approached by IBM requesting audits under its license-verification program, they often are shocked by the level of complexity involved compared to what they may have experienced in other matters. Contributing in no small part to that shock is the fact that IBM currently offers software (publicly) under approximately nine different, license-measurement frameworks:

Authorized User
Concurrent User
Floating User
User Value Unit (UVU)
Processor Value Unit (PVU)
Virtual Server
Client Device
Resource Value Unit (RVU)

The different frameworks involve varying levels of complexity. Some apply on a relatively simple user or device-access basis, while others apply on a server-installation basis. However, other types – such as PVU licenses – require businesses to calculate their license needs based on the kind and number of processors used in their computers and the number of cores in each of those processors. Complicating matters even further is the fact that IBM has used different licensing models in the past (such as processor-based licensing), and it can be difficult in many instances to wade through the resulting “document soup” of licenses to determine how those old license types translate – if at all – to the current models.

It is therefore very important for businesses being audited by IBM to try to limit and clarify the scope of the audit at the earliest possible stage. Comprehensive audit-scoping helps businesses not only to determine – in advance – the level of their licensing exposure resulting from the audit, but also to direct the efforts of internal resources and consultants to the tasks where they are most needed.