The recently announced IBM Licence Service (ILS) is stipulated as a ‘must have’ by IBM for customers wishing to take advantage of container licensing. This is the latest compliance monitoring tool for IBM customers, allowing organisations to use IBM software with increased flexibility, but allowing IBM to keep a close eye on the customer’s software usage, potentially exposing accidental over-deployment.

What is the IBM Licence Service?

IBM customers who wish to take advantage of the flexibility offered by containers without the need to have enough entitlements to license the full capacity available must deploy ILS. ILS is available as part of IBM Cloud Pak entitlements and needs to be deployed to satisfy contractual obligations for using IBM products in containerised environments. This enables an organisation to pay for only what they use within their containerised environment, rather than licensing for the potential total usage. ILS is designed to gather licence usage information for IBM products licensed under Virtual Processor Core (VPC) licence metric.

ILS serves a similar purpose as IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT); to continuously monitor licence usage of IBM products. Similar to the sub-capacity advantages of ILMT, ILS allows a customer to operate with more flexibility and only pay for their actual usage within the container. The customer can download reporting to show their licence usage over time if required, either for internal review or in the case of an official compliance audit. Both monitoring tools are focused on a subset of licensing metrics available in IBM portfolio.

Unlike ILMT, the option to manually track usage is not available for ILS, therefore all IBM products licensed under eligible licence metrics in a containerised environment must be monitored via ILS.

A Stepping Stone to Full Cloud Transition

Containers offer a scalable solution for companies that require flexibility and are looking to move to Cloud in the future. Transitioning 100% of workloads to the cloud in one go is difficult and often unrealistic. Containers can be used as a stepping stone in this process and can help to ensure all applications and solutions will work flawlessly during and after the transition.

When considering a containerised environment, the customer should also consider the licensing aspect of the transition. It is important to remember that flexibility and scalability of containers might require a different approach when it comes to licence usage measurements. With IBM Certified containers, ILS will help the customer to maintain accurate records of their licence usage.

Remember – With Scalability Comes Compliance Risk

When preparing to deploy IBM products in a containerised environment, customers need to plan ahead to ensure they remain compliant. With scalability comes the risk of using more computing power than the customer has licence entitlement for.

It is important to know what the containers will be used for, how heavy the usage is expected to be (e.g. with business-critical systems in production the usage can spike during peak hours etc.) and what the maximum capacity available is. This will help customers determine the licence entitlement they will need and how likely it is that they will find themselves in a situation where there is the maximum capacity in use, and therefore required to be covered by the customer’s entitlement.

What Information will ILS Report to IBM and their Auditors?

ILS provides continuous monitoring of licence usage for IBM products deployed in containers, allowing the customer to stay on top of their compliance position. As per IBM’s Passport Advantage Addendum about container licensing, the customer’s responsibility is to ‘install, run and maintain the IBM License Service…and configure the IBM Licence service according to the Eligible Container Product’s documentation within 90 days of deploying any Eligible Container Product.’

Therefore, customers need to make sure ILS is correctly deployed since that will allow them to benefit from the continuous reporting. ILS is designed to gather information about vCPU capacity available to containers every 30 minutes which is then pooled together and aggregated on a cluster level to provide daily maximum vCPU capacity. While this reporting can be a great resource to make sure customers stay compliant, it is important to remember that it will also provide all information about continuous usage when requested by IBM or their auditors as a part of a compliance review.

Remaining Compliant with ILS Deployed

ILS represents a valuable resource of information and it can be a great help to stay complaint. IBM requires customers to prepare reports from ILS at least once per quarter and these need to be stored for a period of not less than two years. However, given how scalable and flexible containerised environments can be, reviewing the usage reports only once a quarter might not give customers advanced enough warning if something goes wrong. As good SAM practice, we recommend customers to review ILS reporting more often – monthly or even weekly to ensure they stay compliant.

Help When You Need It – FisherITS IBM Plus Licence Management Services

Many IBM customers missed out on the opportunities of sub-capacity licensing as they were unable to correctly deploy and operate ILMT. Similar financial benefits (as well as compliance risks) are available through ILS, and customers need to understand the information reported by ILS in order to correctly manage their deployments.

FisherITS leverages its extensive industry experience and a team of ex-IBM auditors to ensure that your organisation optimises its IBM investment and reduces risks. IBM Plus Licence Management service from FisherITS will ensure both ILMT and ILS are correctly deployed and managed, advising on cost optimisation opportunities and protecting against compliance risk.