Licensing Automation Streaming Sessions (LASS)
We started our career in software licensing a decade ago. Back then, SAM was still the new kid on the block for most companies. Nearly all software audit programs were scaling up, and there was no real fear of the software boogeyman. The most popular SAM tool was a spreadsheet.
Today, some of the most notorious audit cases make newspaper headlines. The same goes for management or procurement issues. SAM is now a popular kid, and most IT leaders want to make friends with him. Given the right economic traction, technology has a way of changing things. The spreadsheet is no longer King, and managing software in Excel is a laughing matter. The industry is booming, from zero to hero (read from 0 to billions) just in a couple of decades.
In one of our previous blog posts, we said that new technologies enable fellow ITAMers to develop technically and grow superpowers, helping them solve complex tasks. We’ve seen this happening already in other industries. Many of the Sys Admin roles evolved into DevOps Developers. A few years ago, recruiters were not scouting for RPA Developers. Now, these are some of the most popular jobs on the market.
We think the same is going to happen with many of the technical roles in SAM and ITAM. We believe this is true because this is what happened to us. We learned how to code so we can simplify and automate the most tedious parts of our work.
We know there are many of you out there who resonate with our story. We’ve spoken with some of you. And we know it’s challenging. Many don’t know where to start, others think that coding is too difficult, others <insert excuse here>. But some curious and courageous fellows dare to venture into the unknown.
For those of you, who resonate with this but don’t know where to begin, we’re starting a Twitch channel. We’re going to stream live sessions and analyze data together, and learn how to automate. We’ll be playing around with Python and SQL, and you’re going to learn the basics of mythical creatures such as data structures, data models, and APIs. We’re going to do that in a relaxed environment where we’re going to have fun learning.
If you already ventured into the dark arts of coding, we are here. In the coming months, we’re opening our platform to the world. If you have an idea to automate a process in SAM or ITAM, or maybe you already built some automation, we would like to speak with you. Come and bring your knowledge and expertise and let’s build an open ecosystem, one that leverages the collective work of thousands of experts. Come and turn your knowledge into algorithms and data structures and also make a profit while you’re at it.
We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again. The ITAM and SAM technology of the future is an open ecosystem, not a closed monolith. Come and join us on this fantastic journey and let’s become Licenseware Developers together.
What you have is cheaper
In the past few years, we’ve seen how on-demand access to assets, rather than ownership, has set the tone for financial transactions. We’ve seen that in industries like accommodation, transportation, entertainment, computing, and software.
Aside from other obvious advantages, such as convenience, increase in choice and offering, and scalability there is a strong financial incentive convincing people to rent or subscribe rather than to own.
Why would I buy a movie when I can subscribe and get access to hundreds of movies? Why would I buy a server and the hassle associated with it, when I can rent any number of servers? Whenever I want, as long as I need it, scaling up and down to my preference (note to self: turn of those EC2 instances).
When it comes to software things are a bit more nuanced. Many companies decided to move to a subscription model to mitigate audit risk, thinking that cloud software doesn’t need to be managed. Or because of the lower upfront cost. However, we see that often subscriptions are more expensive than traditional forms of licensing. Depends how long is your measuring stick.
As long as you manage it properly, the cheapest software is the software you already have.
Tech Driven IT Asset Management
We don't believe that the adage, the reporting is only as good as your data, will hold for much longer. We should by now have ways to collect quality data and to clean and maintain existing data sources.
Looking back at our past jobs in ITAM, the one thing we always felt was missing was the opportunity to perform deep technical, hands-on tasks. That's not the case anymore, we think now we have the technology and the knowledge to make ITAM attractive to diverse technical people. Because it's an interesting problem to solve. And, because right now, the possibilities are endless. We can create challenges that require both a deep understanding of software licensing and sharp technical skills, whether it be software development or business intelligence.
We can use things like AI, blockchain, and APIs. We can connect to endless data sources and process terabytes of data in hours, and we can extract valuable insights from that data. Not just inventory but real intelligence.
People in the industry are becoming more and more technical, always looking for ways to automate data processing and improve reporting. We love to hear about consultants that are writing their own scripts and we think the value they generate is enormous, many times saving weeks of work or hundreds of thousands in license optimization.
One job we'll see in the future is ITAM Data Architect, a person that deeply understands the customer's landscape and can determine what data is needed and where. The kind of role that will define a customer's data strategy, how we identify and clean data, how we integrate, and how we make data available to business users, in an automated way.
That will be a transition from today's consultants to tomorrow's architects. Same as system administrators became DevOps engineers with the adoption of the cloud, we think we'll see ITAM consultants taking on complex issues and leveraging modern technology to resolve them.
We would like to see technical people in the industry being more vocal, talking about the challenges they face and the creative ways they tackle them. The ITAM technology of the future is an ecosystem, not a monolith. It's the collective work of thousands of experts, turning their knowledge into algorithms and data structures.
Oracle DB Analysis Tutorial
Your DB Admins and product owners will help you find and collect the data you need. If you don’t have all this information already collated in a spreadsheet, create one. The Oracle Server Worksheet (OSW) is a great place to start. The bonus here is that in the event of an Oracle audit you won’t have to waste time filling it in, you’ll already have one that you can trust.
If you don’t have the OSW template, don’t worry, you can create a similar spreadsheet capturing the same information. The essential columns you need to have in your spreadsheet are:
# Host Information - Physical Cluster Name - Physical Server Name - Virtual Server Name - Virtualisation - Partitioning Technology - DB Instance Name - Environment - DR Server - DR Type - Operating System # CPU Information - Server Model - Processor Model - Processors (Sockets) - Cores per Processor - Physical Cores - Threads per Core # Software Information - Product Version - License Metric Allocated - Restricted Use - Application Name - Application Vendor - Application Type - Architecture TypeUser Type - Web/App Tier Server Name
We’ll go through how you can collect all this information later in this article.
Next, you’ll need to get the Oracle LMS (License Management Services) scripts. These are Oracle’s property and the easiest way to get them is by requesting it from the Oracle LMS team. There is an understandable fear that such a request might trigger an audit, but that’s a calculated risk you may or may not take. Most companies we’ve been in touch with have already been audited by Oracle at least once, so procuring the script is typically not an issue. Alternatively, you could also get in touch with your preferred SAM consultant, they might even help you down the line with making sense of all the data you’ve been collecting.
So you have your spreadsheet and your scripts ready. Before you start tracking down the people that have the permissions to run the scripts for you, let’s get one more thing out of the way: collecting infrastructure data. Oracle license metrics are all processor related and so the licensing implications of the underlying infrastructure are major. One surprise VMWare cluster can seriously change your outlook on life. Especially if you find it during an audit.
Time to get in touch with your infrastructure teams. Most of the time they will have reports available that can provide a lot of the information you need. If you’re talking to virtualization teams, make sure to capture the complete topology:
CLUSTER │ └─── SERVER │ └─── POOL │ └─── VM
This topology may be different depending on the types of virtualization used and you may have to adjust your worksheet to hold all this information. Study the oracle partitioning policy and make sure you can provide reliable information for all required metrics.
To complete the infrastructure mapping process, begin by inserting every database host in the spreadsheet, along with the additional fields. The general principle when licensing Oracle is that the smallest hardware limited resource that can run the software should be licensed. A hardware limitation used to mean that a physical change would be required to increase the number of processors assigned to a partition. Nowadays, a hardware limitation is defined in Oracle’s hard partitioning policy. Make sure you capture any evidence needed to demonstrate that your resources are correctly partitioned (CPU Pools, VMware screenshots, etc).
Disaster Recovery (DR) is another common pitfall, so make sure you include that in your reporting. You’ll need to know what the DR servers are, what resources they have allocated, and the type of setup.
After you have completed this step, you can go ahead and start running the Oracle LMS script. Prioritize large servers and servers hosted on VMware clusters. Work your way through the spreadsheet and collect Review Lite outputs for all databases.
As you gather your script outputs, you’ll need to start analyzing them. This is where a tool or a consultant may be instrumental. However, if you feel you’re up for the challenge, you can start analyzing them manually. For a relatively small number of databases (less than 50), you can complete this step in a couple of weeks, also accounting for time spent running the scripts. Using a tool for data crunching will at least half your hours spent analyzing.
In our next post, we’ll talk about the data analysis process, stay tuned.
Oracle DB Analysis Tutorial
The big debate
The debate on spreadsheets vs. tools is a sort of SAM version of the chicken and the egg. And just like in the aviary version, the jury is still out. Yes, tools are supposed to make our lives easy and we’d all love to ditch the spreadsheet and still have clean, reliable, and complete data. Unfortunately, SAM tools are notoriously bad with enterprise software and will generally struggle to accommodate a complex infrastructure topology in order to satisfy requirements for most license metrics.
Not to say that SAM tools are bad, far from it, but most of them will only be as good as the data that gets imported. It would be great if the “garbage in — results out” premise would work, especially in an automated fashion. Unless your SAM tool offers advanced data cleaning, recognition, and deduplication features, you’ll mostly find yourself running under “garbage in — uncertain reporting out”.
Our job as software asset management experts is to clear uncertainty and to bring peace of mind to our stakeholders and without a clear way of cleaning and validating data, claiming that the data is bad is just calling the kettle black.
Getting all your licenses and software usage under control seems like a daunting task. Even if we’re talking just about one product and its associated add-ons, the licensing ramifications will have you talking to several departments, filling a couple of change requests, and giving yourself pep talks to not give up.
This tutorial series will give you all the information and practical tools needed to generate a reliable baseline, a stepping stone so to say, to first of all tackle your Oracle Database licensing and as a bonus, that can be used for most enterprise software licensing.
Once you’ve gone through the process and have created a deployment baseline, you can potentially save your company thousands of dollars. Oracle Database products are expensive and even one less processor license required might cover for the open bar budget at your next team building.
What’s even better is that maintaining this baseline will not require that much effort. Contrary to popular belief, the way enterprise software is used does not change a lot. Just look at all the companies still purchasing old hard drives or the number of legacy systems present in any organization. Enterprise systems and generally enterprises are averse to change. Applications using Oracle Database are no different. You won’t deploy a new Oracle Database every month and you won’t reconfigure your existing databases on a regular basis either.
So, what does it take to create your baseline? You’ll need a couple of things detailed below:
- An overview showing where Oracle Database products are installed.
- The Oracle LMS Scripts (also known as ReviewLite)
- Data exports from your infrastructure teams
We will of course need a place where we can store all this information and a way to do our calculations. Whether you ultimately want to import this data in your SAM tools or connect to a reporting tool and generate eye-catching dashboards, it all starts from a spreadsheet.
AWS Cost Control Basics
For more than a decade AWS has been leading the cloud services market being by far the most popular cloud service provider. AWS has a compelling business model and a rich service offering. They did a very good job of convincing companies to move to their cloud by taking away most of the operational load, enabling professionals to focus on the core parts of the business.
With the emergence of cloud and pay-as-you-go models, some thought that software licensing would be a thing of the past and that the need for SAM would be minimal or only focused on on-premise deployment. But the new world of software still requires SAM and the focus extends from asset management to asset and service management. Cloud cost management primarily addresses the risk of unapproved or negligent implementations of cloud services either by individuals or entire departments.
Effective cloud management is all about developing the right protocols to monitor usage related cost and empowering the right people at the right time to efficiently carry out their job. From experience, I know that many SAM professionals have never touched a cloud console. As a result, accidents can happen, like over deploying 10,000 instances. Compared to on-premise over-deployment where you only pay at annual true-ups or as a result of an audit, cloud spent is charged immediately and cannot be delayed. If payment is delayed too long, same as your utility providers you will be disconnected. Being disconnected could mean going out of business for some companies.
A very basic protocol for monitoring and managing AWS cost is by creating a billing alarm. This is a built-in function of AWS which helps you to estimate AWS charges and receive a notification if the budget has been exceeded. This feature is often overlooked but should be in my opinion the first thing you do before using AWS. Amazon offers CloudWatch a cost management service as part of its Management & Governance service offering.
You can create an alarm based on multiple metrics, for example:
- By Service
- By linked account
- Total estimated charge
You can select an amount based on your actual budget and get notified if your budget has been reached or exceeded. Additionally, you can add multiple email addresses that would get notified so you can avoid the risk of someone being on vacation and not reading their emails on time for example.
Oracle DB Compliance Risk Scenarios
For over four decades, Oracle DB has been one of the most popular commercial databases in the world. Many enterprises rely on it as a mission-critical component of their business. During this time, aside from its obvious business utility the database product has also become well known for its complex and ever-changing contractual terms and conditions. The value every Oracle DB asset brings to an organization is coupled with a certain level of risk. In this blog post, we’re going to explore some of the most common risk scenarios.
Every installation of Oracle DB has to be licensed accordingly based on the use case. The most recurring issue is still related to incomplete or outdated inventory of deployed assets. Doing and maintaining a proper entitlement and deployment inventory is the absolute foundational step towards risk management.
Often improper database access management can lead to an over utilization of available licenses. The most common risk scenario is linked to an incorrect interpretation of license definitions. Some administrators miss taking into account external users like contractors, partners, consultants, or just overlook indirect access. Another common situation is where unnecessary access to the database is given to users or devices which not require such access.
Each user with access to Oracle DB requires a license, however, Oracle applies a minimum user requirement for each database. The minimum requirement may vary depending on the version and edition of the database installed. For example, Enterprise edition requires 25 Named User Plus (NUP) licenses per CPU while for Standard the minimum requirement is 10 NUPs per server. It often goes wrong when organizations miss-calculate their minimum requirements.
Oracle forbids the use of virtualization technologies such as VMware as a means to reduce the number of CPU based licenses required. Every physical CPU and Core needs to be licensed accordingly, based on rules which differ depending on the version of VMware running.
As an effort to promote its own products Oracle provides functionality to limit the number of licensable cores while using its own Oracle VM technology. However, the measurement is based on peak core utilization which is often overlooked by administrators who rely on measuring the current utilization.
With the massive push for cloud, we see many enterprises migrating considerable parts of their Oracle DB assets into hybrid or cloud deployments. While there is less control or visibility over the hardware component the license requirements remain as complex as for on-premise deployments. Deploying Oracle DB with cloud providers such as Azure, AWS or VMware may influence your support and licensing terms. Some examples include the 8 vCPU limitation when deploying Standard edition 2 on AWS or Azure or the condition to license every vCPU with a Processor license.
In regards to support in the cloud, Oracle may require you to prove that your issue is not caused by your cloud provider before providing any assistance. This may require extended amounts of time and resources, having to replicate the problem outside of your cloud environment, before reaching a resolution.
While Oracle DB is still a fundamental part of your IT infrastructure it is imperative to understand your cost and risk before you can manage it. The potential cost avoidance benefits are increasingly inciting for many organizations looking for reducing IT operational costs.
Why Do I Need To Run Oracle Review Lite?
If you are part of the SAM world or if you manage Oracle software within your organization, surely the Oracle Review Lite or Oracle LMS script popped more than once in the conversation.
To support their license management and audit strategy, Oracle has built tracking mechanisms inside the Oracle Database software. These mechanisms log any use of certain licensable features which would eventually require purchasing additional Oracle products like Database Options and Packs. It’s this internal tracking mechanism, along with the ability to use any licensable feature “out of the box” that makes Oracle audits a common but costly risk for many organizations.
Review Lite is a script developed by Oracle’s License Management Services (LMS) department, that is used to collect all the software information from your database environment. The tool is made of a bundle of SQL commands and instructions which query Oracle system tables to collect usage information.
The Review Lite tool is owned by Oracle and is not publicly available. Most businesses that came in contact with the tool did so as a result of an Oracle audit. If you want to be proactive about it, you may request it from Oracle. By accepting to run the Review Lite tool, you will scan the entire system which will generate a complex and complete information output detailing every Oracle Database product installed on your servers.
During an Oracle audit, LMS consultants will ask you to run this tool in order to demonstrate and prove that you are using your Oracle Database software within contractual limitations. The output files of the Review Lite tool will return information related to versions, editions, options, and packs installed and used.
Installing an Oracle Database and running it efficiently is highly dependent on the way it’s configured. There is a single installation package, however, the database configured for Application A may have very different licensing requirements than that of Application B. A database administrator will configure your database to run as efficiently as possible and that sometimes is achieved through the use of certain add-ons like Oracle Partitioning or Oracle Diagnostics and Tuning, leaving you with a fast and reliable application, but also with an unbudgeted cost.
Any database that you install on your server comes with a default package of options and packs. This comes with an associated risk. In a lack of licensing knowledge, having the options and packs installed will give you access to use them without you being aware of the additional license requirements.
However, following the Oracle licensing rules you are required to pay only for the options, and packs used and not the installed ones. Running the Review Lite tool will help you understand the current situation of your usage in relation to your license entitlements. The result will give you an accurate description of any option or pack used, by whom, when, and how many times it was used.
The script outputs have a human-readable version and with a bit of research, your DBA may be able to understand the impact on your licensing. However, scrolling through thousands of text files and collating all that information may not be the best use of their time. A SAM tool is not designed to replace your experts, but rather give them the information they need to make better decisions for you. And during an Oracle audit, you really need to start making some good decisions.
As technology evolves, software copyright laws become fuzzy and open to interpretation. This year we’ll see the Supreme Court review the legal status of a copyright dispute related to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) between Oracle and Google. Previously the ruling was in favor of Oracle, who accused Google of infringing the copyright of the Java API, for its reimplementation in the Android OS.
An API is “a set of functions and procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service”. In other words, APIs are about creating interaction and connecting things that were not previously connected. Successful APIs foster fruitful communities which bring the underlying technology one step further, by creating useful derived works or by (re)implementing it in novel ways. Most software companies try to make their products more open and easy to integrate and use with other products. This usually increases the adoption rate, the overall popularity, and appreciation for the product. This type of openness is meant to build bridges between companies and encourage partnerships.
At the end of the day, we all want to make money. Whereas some are in the business of building bridges others seem to profit more by building walls. The world is divided like that. Being all alone and surrounded by high walls can make you vulnerable to scrutiny. As a consequence of their own actions, Oracle is now accused of copying Amazon’s S3 API. Of course, different shades of grey come to light when you find yourself accused of a crime you previously reported. Oracle has argued that using an API is not related to reimplementation disqualifying it as an infringement of copyright.
API copyright wars could create a legal minefield of gotchas. This generates confusion and spreads fear amongst consumers. Sure, you should always ask for permission to use an API, but giving companies monopoly power over the competition by means of copyright law defies the purpose of the law itself. Let us not forget that these laws are made to protect the creator from abuse and not to empower the creator to abuse.