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Archaic EULAs Create a Licensing Quagmire for Citrix Shops

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In my introduction to this article series, I discussed the challenges related to managing software licenses within a Citrix environment. Let’s start with the primary reason for the difficulties in the first place: Most software publishers are clinging to a per-device license model that doesn’t translate into an environment in which application delivery is user-centric. This is especially baffling in a world in which mobile devices are quickly being added to the enterprise asset pool. How do organizations interpret per-seat license agreements when a majority of its users are no longer accessing corporate applications from a single workstation, but also from laptops, smart phones and tablets? Does each device require a license for those applications? Or consider situations in which Citrix XenApp is being used to stream applications to different computers (as is common in educational lab environments) so that users can access applications they need from any networked machine? Does each computer used to access that software need a license? Under the traditional per-seat license model, the answer is “yes.” Yet I believe any reasonable person would question whether it’s really fair to charge customers for all those extra devices when it’s still just one user accessing the application. The kinder, gentler alternative would be to develop a new license model that translates cleanly into a thin-client environment like Citrix.

So why are so many ISVs sticking their heads in the sand? Simply put, the economics of switching to a user-based approach to software licensing don’t pencil out for publishers—yet. In fact, ISVs are holding all the cards. Some organizations who don’t want to risk incurring potentially ruinous financial penalties in the event of a software audit choose the safest route: purchasing exorbitantly expensive site licenses to cover all connecting devices for all users—not exactly an unfavorable arrangement for software publishers. The other option for end-user organizations is to kick compliance to the back burner and hope they don’t get caught—creating a potential windfall for vendors who aggressively audit their customers. However, at some point, customer demand for more equitable licensing schemes that recognize the shifting paradigm in application delivery—or perhaps the attractiveness of other market alternatives—will force vendors to develop models that simultaneously optimize their license revenues in a user-centric world and satisfy their customers’ desire to contain costs.

Microsoft has taken some small steps in the right direction with its Roaming Use Rights program for customers with Software Assurance on Visio, Project and Office. And we’ve heard whisperings that the software giant is contemplating a move that would introduce the option for user-based licensing, though the timeframe for this shift is anybody’s guess.

But even so, the Citrix license management problem doesn’t necessarily end with a new batch of user-based EULAs being delivered by software publishers. EULAs still need to be enforced, which requires not only an understanding of the new license rules, but also the organizational will to invest in technology and processes that allow for the management of those licenses. We’ll explore this topic further in our next post.