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Aligning Your Cloud Strategy Across Your Technical, Procurement, and Licensing Teams

Thought-Leadership by Mark Underwood
on December 17, 2015

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Whether you’re licensing Microsoft software for Office 365 and Azure or you need to assess the way Oracle has been deployed on VMware for compliance risks, the myriad licensing possibilities can confuse even the most seasoned CIO. Even worse, sometimes the way things were licensed doesn’t align with the way the software was deployed, or the deployment plan overlooked a single license rule that lead to the entire deployment’s noncompliance. However, in today’s modern datacenter, the most commonly confused requirement occurs when mapping your cloud strategy to the licensing plan.

Most customers see the need to have a cloud strategy, or at least the requirement in the near future to create one. It might be that a new CIO wants to investigate options for getting Office 365 on the IPAD as a more robust BYOD strategy. Or maybe it’s a cost reduction exercise in pushing more servers to Azure or AWS. The evaluation and creation of a cloud strategy, however, should not be done on a purely technical basis. It needs to be a collaborative exercise involving IT, procurement, and licensing experts.

Technical discussions with Procurement people about License agreements

First and foremost, IT needs to discuss logistics with technical people who are also product specialists, ideally specialists who are independent from the vendor themselves. If you really do your homework, you can find specialists who know the ins and outs of the technical aspects of cloud technologies as well as the licensing rules that constitute those technologies, which helps to solidify your immediate need of an updated technology while having a clear discussion with your Procurement team about agreement terms.

The Procurement team runs the licensing negotiations, so they need to have an understanding of both the technical plan and the vendor offerings.

The Licensing expert’s role is to make sure that all the due diligence is complete in terms of the technical plan and the procurement strategy. It is this expert’s job to make sure the short term goals of cloud procurement and deployment match the long term strategy.

An example of why each of these three groups are vital:

Organization X decides to deploy Office 365 across all machines. The technical people organize the information to get sign off on the change, and the procurement arm changes the licensing agreement to suit the new plan. They then arrange deployment by downloading the media and packaging the software the way they have always done and decide that, to be on the safe side, they will deploy the version of Office that is one version prior to the latest.

In this example, a technical feasibility project was conducted and procurement negotiated a license agreement, but there were two issues from a licensing perspective:

  1. The lack of downgrade rights with Office 365 subscriptions.

  2. The need to deploy Office using Office 365 media and not the old VLK methods.

However, like everything with licensing, there are exceptions to the rule and a licensing expert will be able to plan these out with you. An effective cloud strategy needs external input at each level.

Plan your cloud strategy early to avoid rash decisions

At this point, you may be thinking that this article only applies to Office 365, but it goes across all elements of cloud strategies. These issues are mirrored in Azure migration planning where customers want to move servers to Azure but don’t understand “mobility rights” or with customers who assume that because SQL server can run in virtual environments, Oracle must be able to do the same.

One of the big problems is that these cloud strategy plans occur over a short span of time and usually start only a few months out from license agreement renewals.

Engaging with external experts early in these conversations is key. This should be a measured process where a variety of personalities/departments come together to fully investigate how the organization should deploy the cloud strategy as well as how to best deliver that strategy with the correct licensing model. When this sort of brainstorming occurs, organizations can design a strategy that is specific to their environment and works not just technically, but fiscally and within the correct license model as well.

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Related blog posts:

Topics: Cloud and BYOD

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