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Software license management: A benefit of application virtualization

Read why including application software management in an application virtualization or streaming solution can be beneficial to you.

I was asked the other day if application and/or desktop virtualization and streaming technologies help with license...

management and saving on IT licensing costs. The answer to that question depends on the vendor and what type of license management you are looking for -- virtual machine (VM) license management or application software license management.

Most desktop virtualization vendors use software to help manage the number of virtual machines (desktops) provisioned on a host, such as VMware License Server or VMware VirtualCenter and Citrix XenDesktop with Provisioning Server. Very few of the virtualization vendors provide application software license management capabilities or modules with the solution. If you think about it, this makes sense because management of the virtual machine environment or workload really belongs at a higher level in the management stack than the hypervisor and/or virtual machine.

Alternatively, there are a few companies offering application virtualization and streaming solutions that include application software license management as an option -- or part of an option -- in their solution. This is precisely the place where an application software license management capability belongs and can add significant value to IT in reduced management costs, appropriate licensing and continuous compliance.

Let me back up a minute for those of you who are new to application virtualization and streaming technologies to give a high-level overview of application virtualization and streaming processes.

Application virtualization software packages an application (also called sequencing) into what is called a virtual sandbox or virtual package. To create the package (sandbox) around the application, the software must perform and watch the application installation to understand what the application expects the runtime environment to look like (registry values, access to drivers, interaction with other applications, etc.).

Once the application is packaged, there are a number of methods for deploying the package; most notable and automated is application streaming. Application streaming uses either a Web portal or an agent on the client device to access the application package. If the user and client device have permission to run the application, the streaming software begins to transfer application blocks to the client device, thereby using up a license.

The insertion of application software license management into this process makes a great deal of sense. The user credentials are checked. The client credentials are checked. Why not also include a license check/reservation capability into this process -- not only for license enforcement but also license reclamation? With application streaming, all application access requests go through the streaming process where the solution could track what applications are being used. If an application hasn't been used for a specified period of time, the license can be reclaimed for another user.

This has the potential of significantly reducing software license costs while improving license compliance. The administrator would set up a license policy that maps to the EULA (end user license agreement) and then could forget about it, reducing application software license management overhead to zero.

There are only a few application virtualization and streaming solutions that have some form of application software license management today, notably Symantec Corp.'s SVS Professional and Endeavors Technologies' Application Jukebox. Each one of these solutions provides application software license management to differing degrees. For example, Symantec has a very comprehensive solution that offers policies for a number of different licensing models, such as per-node, per-user and even group-specific license policies. Endeavors also supports policy-based license management of streamed applications using a simpler model.

The more prevalent solution to combining application virtualization and software license management is to use a third-party software license management solution and simply export the collected information. For example, Citrix XenApp monitors applications through the console and tracks usage data that can be exported to a license tracking system.

At this time in the market, tight integration between virtualization solutions and license management (except with the Symantec and Endeavors application virtualization solutions) is not widespread. However, with the influx of new virtualization management companies and solutions, I would expect, at the very least, the ability to easily integrate license management solutions into the virtual machine and virtualized application processes over the next 24 months.

About the Author: Anne Skamarock, Director of Research at Focus Consulting (www.focusonsystems.com), has been involved with computers and associated technology for nearly 30 years. She started her career as a software engineer developing custom scientific codes and as a Unix systems administrator. She moved to the systems vendor side and worked as a software engineer and in technical sales, marketing and management for both large and start-up systems and storage companies, including SRI International, Sun Microsystems, and StorageTek. For the past seven years, Anne has worked as a market analyst focusing on the convergence points around systems, storage and software. She has publishes extensively including tips for TechTarget's SearchEnterpriseDesktop.com, SearchStorageChannel.com and SearchServerVirtualization.com. FOCUS has recently finished a FOCUS Landscape Series on Desktop and Applications Delivery Alternatives. She co-authored Blades and Virtualization: Transforming Enterprise Computing While Cutting Costs (Wiley).

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