Licensing Commercial Software: A Defining Challenge for the Open Grid Forum?
Reporting on last week’s GridWorld event, GRIDtoday editor Derrick Harris states: “The 451 Group has consistently found software licensing concerns to be among the biggest barriers to Grid adoption.” Not surprisingly then, William Fellows (a principal analyst with The 451 Group) convened a panel session on the topic.
Because virtual organizations typically span geographic and/or organizational boundaries, the licensing of commercial software has been topical since Grid Computing’s earliest days. As illustrated below, traditional licensing models account for a single organization operating in a single geography (lower-left quadrant). Any deviation from this, as illustrated by any of the other quadrants, creates challenges for these licensing models as multiple geographies and/or multiple organizations are involved. Generally speaking the licensing challenges are most pronounced for vendors of end-user applications, as middleware needs to be pervasive anyway, and physical platforms (hardware plus operating system) have a distinct sense of ownership and place.
The uptake of multicore CPUs and virtualization technologies (like vmWare) has considerably exacerbated the situation, as it breaks the simple, per-CPU licensing model employed by many Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) as illustrated below.
In order to make progress on this issue, all stakeholders need to collaborate towards the development of recontextualized models for licensing commercial software. Even though this was apparently a relatively short panel session, Harris’ report indicates that the discussion resulted in interesting outcomes:
The discussion started to gain steam toward the end, with discussions about the effectiveness of negotiated enterprise licenses, metered licensing, token-based licenses and even the prospect of having the OGF develop a standardized licensing framework, but, unfortunately, time didn’t permit any real fleshing out of these ideas.
Although it’s promising that innovative suggestions were entertained, it’s even more interesting to me how the Open Grid Forum (OGF) was implicated in this context.
The OGF recently resulted from the merger of the Global Grid Forum (GGF) and the Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA). Whereas Open Source characterizes the GGF’s overarching culture and philosophy regarding software, commercial software more aptly represents the former EGA’s vendor-heavy demographics. If OGF takes on the licensing of commercial software, it’s very clear that there will be a number of technical challenges. That OGF will also need to bridge the two solitudes represented by the former GGF and EGA, however, may present an even graver challenge.