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This content is part of the Conference Coverage: A complete guide to AWS re:Invent 2018 news and analysis
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AWS License Manager spotlights BYOL compliance

Many AWS customers use the bring-your-own-license model. Now, the cloud vendor has given them a tool to ensure they comply with third-party contract agreements.

Amazon Web Services has delivered a tool that helps customers deal with one of the more mundane yet crucial IT tasks: software license management and compliance.

With AWS License Manager, administrators can create licensing guidelines that mirror their license agreements with third-party vendors and apply them when they run those vendors' software on EC2 instances.

For years now, customers have migrated to public cloud platforms such as AWS with bring-your-own-license (BYOL) policies that let them use existing on-premises licenses in the cloud. If they don't navigate that transition properly, however, they can fall out of compliance, which can lead to additional charges from third-party software vendors.

Organizations can now use AWS License Manager to apply rules that help them prevent such violations. For example, if a customer has a database server license that allows for 100 virtual CPUs, License Manager can stop the creation of additional instances once the 100 vCPUs are used up, wrote AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post.

License Manager supports licenses based on physical cores, physical sockets and virtual CPUs. It's integrated with AWS Organizations, which gives customers a view into license usage across all their AWS accounts. There is no charge for License Manager itself, but customers pay standard AWS prices for associated S3 bucket space, Athena database cycles and Glue extract, transform and load jobs.

License Manager is now available in multiple AWS regions in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific.

License management a ripe target for cloud converts

This service represents a timely move by AWS. As in the past, this year's re:Invent featured a number of companies that have gone all-in on AWS, both to tap into the cloud provider's native services and to shift away from private data centers. In fact, Gartner has recently fielded inquiries from a number of Fortune 500 companies that intend to spend more than $500 million per year on AWS, said analyst Lydia Leong in a Twitter post.

[License management] now has to be a core responsibility of whoever is managing workloads and processing resources.
Duncan JonesForrester Research

Overall, license management can no longer be a discrete discipline performed quarterly by a centralized IT asset management function, said Duncan Jones, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"It now has to be a core responsibility of whoever is managing workloads and processing resources," he said. "Therefore, it is great that AWS is making it easier for its customers to enforce the constraints imposed on them by their software vendors as part of their management of the AWS resources themselves."

With License Manager, AWS helps customers stay compliant and thereby removes a stick that another vendor, such as Oracle, might use to push customers to its own cloud, Jones said.

To rely on AWS License Manager alone, however, poses a risk, albeit a fairly minor one.

"Solving this problem may lessen the incentive to implement wider monitoring tools," Jones said. "You still need to control the AWS liability so you're not paying for servers that you aren't fully utilizing."

While the service is still immature compared to software asset management software from the likes of Gemalto or Flexera, it's a start, said Ray Wang, founder and CEO of Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif.

"It takes the first step of not only cataloging the licenses, but also starts the process of managing the entitlements," he said.

"What customers really need is a system to allow them to model and forecast what costs will look like before they buy, not after the fact," Wang added. "There are some tools today, but it's pretty imprecise."

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