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How to research an IBM licensing query

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by: Torsten Feldmann, Senior Manager in EY Ireland’s Software Asset Management practice

Whether it’s clients or co-workers, I’m often asked IBM product-specific licensing questions. One of the most common is how to quantify the license requirement. The truth is, given the substantial amount of IBM products currently on the market, even seasoned IBM SAM professionals like myself lack familiarity with many of their products. What’s more, with the list of available IBM products growing every day due to their acquisition of smaller software vendors, this is a problem that looks set to continue. That said, with the right technique and sources, you can easily manage any query you might have. And this is how:

1. Get as familiar with the product as you can.
Find out what the exact product that has been purchased is? Confirm the specific product name and the version deployed. Look to see if there are any product replacements or evolutions available.

2. Consult all the product documentation.
Get a good feel for what the product does. Investigate who the users would be. Find out how it would be deployed in a given environment.

    3. Talk to the product owner or technical team.
They would typically have a good understanding of product history. They’ll know how and where it is used in the environment. Software licensing is often seen as being unaligned with technical realities, the product set up is a good starting point of any investigation. If an IBM product relies on another product to function (e.g. a database instance), then this is a likely bundling relationship, which can easily be investigated further.

4. Review the IBM License Information documents.
IBM publishes Licence Information documents for each product and version. Those that are especially relevant to you will include:

a. License metrics including their specific definition:
While certain license metrics follow a consistent format, there can be nuances from product to product and version to version on how that product is licensed

b. Product bundling:
Many IBM products include entitlements for other IBM products, known as ‘Supporting Programs’. Supporting Programs are listed for each product and product version. Conditions are often placed on how many you are permitted to deploy and where. Typically, you are given the same number of licenses for the Supporting Program as for the primary program. However, you need to demonstrate that the Supporting Program is, in fact, supporting the primary software

  5. Create a deployment matrix.
The Licence Information documents mentioned above only allow a one-way look-up of bundling relationships – what the Supporting Programs for a specific primary program are. However, the questions are often posed in reverse – with which primary program is the specific installation bundled. The answer to this is not always straight forward, as it is common for a dozen different IBM products to be installed on the same machine. This is where a deployment matrix can help. It allows you to create a pivot table from your IBM software inventory with machine names to the left and product names at the top. Each product installs on a specific machine is represented by a tick. Scrolling through what in many cases is a substantial pivot table, will visually highlight the specific pairs of products that are installed on multiple machines. As a bundling relationship is fairly likely here, further research using your Licence Information documents will be a lot more targeted.