In the last couple of weeks, I finally put a couple of pieces together . . . the tech industry is pushing hard, down two parallel tracks, toward much more resource-efficient computing architectures.
Track 1: Integrated systems. Computer suppliers are putting hardware components (including compute, network, and storage) together with middleware and application software in pre-integrated packages. The manufacturers will do assembly and testing of these systems in their factories, rather than on the customer's site. And they will tailor the system — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the system — to the characteristics of the workload(s) it will be running.
The idea is to use general-purpose components (microprocessors, memory, network buses, and the like) to create special-purpose systems on a mass-customization basis. This trend has been evident for a while in the Oracle Exadata and Cisco UCS systems; IBM's Pure systems introductions push it even further into pre-configured applications and systems management.
Track 2. Modular data centers. Now, zoom out from individual computing systems to aggregations of those systems into data centers. And again, assemble as much of the componentry as possible in the factory rather than on-site. Vendors like Schneider, Emerson, and the systems shops like IBM and HP are creating a design approach and infrastructure systems that will allow data centers to be designed in modular fashion, with much of the equipment like air handling and power trucked to the customer's site, set up in the parking lot, and quickly turned on.
A recent conversation with IBM software executives sheds more light on the topic of software audits. Responding to a blog post we published a few months ago, IBM recognized some of the challenges inherent in an IBM software audit. They proclaimed that getting through an audit, addressing these challenges, and moving towards license optimization is cemented in Software Asset Management (SAM) best practices. IBM also told us that the causes of client exposures fall into one of three categories:
Customers' indifference to their responsibility in an IBM software agreement. Few companies fall under this category, as most decide to be held accountable for their compliance.
Loss of deployment control. Complicated licensing structures and poor SAM practices characterize this category. While IBM licenses inherently are complicated, clients add to the complexity when they deviate from the standard contract in an effort to add flexible terms. A common example of a poor SAM practice that contributes to IBM software exposure is the lack of communication between those that procure the licenses/negotiate entitlements and those that deploy licenses.
Over-deployment due to non-malicious gross error. While companies may not maliciously over-deploy IBM software in their environments, some innocently deploy them by accident. A common example includes the case of the "golden CD" where software from a CD is mistakenly replicated across the vast server landscape. Additionally, some companies misinterpret their entitlements. An example of this includes deploying licenses based on a misunderstanding of their terms and conditions.