Where once software applications were purchased and installed on a single device, now they can be run in virtual environments or accessed on a pay-as-you-go basis. The proliferation of mobile devices highlighted this problem with people accessing applications from airport lounges, on planes, trains and even in the back of taxis. Software now can literally be accessed and used from just about anywhere.

Due to the increasingly complex vendor licensing rules and models for delivery such as virtualisation, cloud and SaaS, organisations are seeking solutions which simplify the management of software from purchase to retirement. Yet most ITAM tools lack the critical functionality needed for license management. So why is it that these traditional tools are failing to protect organisations from unexpected liabilities?

There has been a huge focus on server virtualisation in recent years, with businesses consolidating their servers to reduce the hardware needed to run the software the business needs. Companies have also seen that virtualisation helps to realise further cost savings through the reduction of the physical space that a company needs for its servers and data centre and the streamlining of software licensing procurement.

Undoubtedly, the virtualisation model presents a credible solution to many of the IT cost reduction challenges, but many organisations overlook the licensing implications that are not found in a traditional PC and server environment.

Software licensing can be a complex area due to the fact that software is licensed and not owned, and it is a complexity that is compounded in a virtualised environment, where there is an increased probability that organisations will violate their existing licence agreements.

Such violations are not taken lightly by software publishers, and could prove very costly. With such an uptake in server virtualisation and now desktop virtualisation, the size and frequency of large fines being issued for breaching license terms and conditions, are set to rise.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) can also reduce the administrative and management headaches introduced by user owned devices in the enterprise. The VDI model puts a user’s desktop operating system, applications and data on a virtual machine.

But the consumerisation of IT brings its own challenges: User owned devices are not licensed under any existing Enterprise Agreements (EA) and the user or device is licensable for each application being accessed. For example, Access to Exchange Server for e-mail requires that the user or device is licensed with an Exchange CAL and a windows CAL.

Regardless of what toolset is being used, above all, greatest importance must be placed on the accuracy of the data it provides. It must cover the entire IT estate from PCs and Macs to Linux and servers.

The primary question organisations must address is if their existing ITAM/Software Asset Management (SAM) solution is able to manage all software applications – be it Microsoft’s Office 365, Oracle E-Business Suite, Adobe Creative Cloud and so on. If this is not the case the underlying data is liable to errors casting a large black shadow over licence compliance.