Dec 01, 2016

Stay Grounded: The Real Deal about Cloud

The IT industry is completely consumed with talk of the cloud, and SAM is no exception. Gartner forecasts that the global cloud services market will top $204 billion by the end of 2016. That’s a serious market shift away from the traditional on-premises software model. 

Enormously increased revenues, combined with loud media buzz, makes the cloud hard to ignore. And some vendors are sure to capitalize on technology trends – building urgency and contriving fear to push their own products and services.

But is a cloud shift really so dire? With an accurate understanding of cloud and how it affects your SAM, it’s possible to make the transition calmly and effectively.

A forecast of mixed messages

Contrary to the buzz, the Wall Street Journal recently reported a downward shift in businesses moving to the cloud. An online survey of 500 business and IT executives found an across-the-board decline over the past two years in the reported use of cloud-based applications.

To add to the cloud frenzy, WSJ asserted that many cloud vendors create a confusing marketplace by using “cloud” to describe a range of online products that are not even technically cloud services.

Rather than the aggressive cloud transition that many vendors push in their sales tactics, there’s growing evidence that a hybrid mix of cloud and on-premises licensing may be what’s in store for savvy SAM programs. In October, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced they will be the primary public cloud provider for VMware. This bold move aims to solidify the existence of a hybrid enterprise cloud. This means that despite increased cloud adoption, a blend of physical and virtual resources will remain an industry standard.

So what is the real story? And more importantly, how much weight should you prioritize to cloud in your overall SAM structure? Let’s focus on two central points:

  1. What is the cloud?
  2. What are the implications of a cloud move to SAM?

The 3 (or 4) types of cloud services

The market is beset by buzzwords which anyone can throw about willy-nilly. But it’s quite easy to cut through the noise. Let’s talk about the three types of “cloud” that are floating around out there and what they really mean.

Public cloud

The public cloud is what you may think of as the “true” cloud. It’s an environment where your software runs on virtual machines that are hosted by the vendor. You share the vendor’s computing power with any number of other companies’ software and data.

A few examples of public cloud are: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and ServiceNow.

Private cloud

The private cloud has two popular meanings.

One meaning is an IT environment (hardware, network, and storage) that is provided by a third party, but which is dedicated to hosting only your data. In this scenario, your software is the only stuff that’s running on a specific server.

The other meaning is an internal data center. This isn’t cloud at all and has no new SAM implications beyond those you are already managing. It’s simply an example of that confusing name game which I mentioned earlier.

License cloud

The license cloud is a cleverly marketed way of selling software.

A great example of license cloud is the Adobe Creative Cloud. If you made the switch from Creative Suite, you know the Creative Cloud applications actually get installed on end user devices. So why use the term “cloud”? Well, Adobe did shift their development, deployment, and licensing model to reflect the more agile software world (and, presumably, to increase revenue). Adobe offers some cloud services such as data hosting for easy of collaboration and stock image galleries. But while Adobe has smartly rebranded their design software suite to align with industry trends, Creative Cloud isn’t really cloud in the way it affects SAM.

The “fuzzy” cloud

Then we have trickier cloud cases like Microsoft Office 365. You can use Office 365 in the publiccloud. You can also use it in the private cloud. Alternatively, you can also use it via local installs. And, as you may suspect, you can also deploy it using a hybrid method.

A common scenario for deploying Office products is through Remote Desktop Services (RDS), as well as on users’ local devices. Some licenses of Office 365 even provide secondary copyrights for just this occasion. How do you know which users have access to Office 365 applications that are accessed via RDS? One possible solution is to deploy a PowerShell script to query the Office 365 portal where users are managed. Our Aspera SmartTrack connectors handle the output of this script to count Office 365 demand. But what if you have subscriptions that include the right to a local installation as well? To ensure that you’re not double counting licenses in this scenario, you need to teach your software license management tool (such as SmartTrack) to ignore the second installation.

While labeling Office 365 as cloud software is not inaccurate, the scenario above has no relation to the “true” public cloud, and actually may echo your existing traditional landscape!

The bottom line

There is no singular definition of cloud which our whole industry follows. But that’s okay, because you’ve already handled this kind of complexity in the non-cloud architecture, just with different details. When you hear the word “cloud” used for software, it’s important to realize there are many possibilities and pitfalls attached to this licensing. As a SAM manager, you should always verify the license model and deployment options, in any environment.

In my upcoming blog post, I will detail specific solution strategies for three common SAM challenges with cloud. If you have questions about how transitioning to cloud will affect your SAM program, please reach out to a member of our expert team or send me a direct message.

Topics: Cloud