IBM Licence Metric tool – Are you compliant?

As one of the largest software publishers in the world, IBM has a diversified product portfolio, and each one has its own specific licencing metrics and methodologies to measure consumption. Customers running IBM software in a virtualized environment are expected to maintain an audit trail of when they run the software to establish if they are exceeding their licencing entitlement. IBM licencing is difficult to understand, especially with the fast pace of modern business, where applications are installed, uninstalled, moved, retired and archived on a regular basis.

Keeping track of these processes is incredibly complex and can result in an IBM software audit fail, which can be costly when you are forced to cover shortfalls and retrospective maintenance charges. You cannot avoid the likelihood or inconvenience of an IBM software audit, even if you are following a defined upgrade path and making the recommended purchases. It’s important to keep accurate records to maintain licence compliancy which for most organisations raises many questions:

– How do licencing metrics work?

– What tools are available to help?

– What is the best type of agreement for us?

Many users struggle to understand the dynamics of IBM Software licencing, especially with the complicated terminology which is not user friendly and often confusing. In this article, we cover the basics of what IBM expects of your organisation to be compliant and overview the tools they provide to help you achieve this.

IBM’s licencing metric tools measure the accumulated peak virtual capacity for each software product used.

At Coliance, we encounter many new clients who are not aware of the IBM licence audit requirements and have lost track of their IBM software usage. If your IBM software is running on a virtual machine without a maintained audit trail, then IBM can charge you in accordance with the entire machine, rather than the allocated virtual CPU. Without evidence to the contrary, you could be billed for a 64 CPU usage as opposed to a 2 CPU, for example. This kind of oversight and lack of proper tracking is not always treated with leniency and some organisations have been charged hundreds of thousands of pounds for incorrect auditing. It is important therefore to maintain a proper audit trail in case you are ever requested to provide this by IBM.

IBM’s Licence Metric Tool (ILMT) can help you measure and monitor your software usage and maintain an inventory of your installed software assets.

IBM’s Licence metric tool collects data from agents that run on the machines where IBM software is operating. These agents periodically collect information about the machines such as the IBM software installed and the CPU available for the software. ILMT comes in two versions, standard and lite:

ILMT standard Installation
The standard ILMT solution uses IBM’s endpoint management solution – “IBM BigFix”. This tool is sizeable, requiring one database and one UI server. However, despite its size and complexity, BigFix is not an ILMT in entirety and can only be used to deploy the agents and collect data from them, which it then stores in the ILMT database. The ILMT server is installed separately and consists of another database and another server, UI. Its data is retrieved from the BigFix database, as and when required. ILMT is the actual tool that records what is installed and where you can verify that you are correctly licenced. The skills to install and manage it in the long term are daunting, with most end users unaware of the steps that need to be taken to configure and properly manage it.

ILMT Lite Installation
ILMT Lite is similar to the BigFix solution except that the agents are termed as “standalone”. This means that BigFix is not used to manage, install, or retrieve data from them. It is once again up to the end user to figure out the appropriate mechanisms to deploy the agents to the machines with IBM software installations by using ansible scripts provided by IBM or manually installed using your own automated mechanism. In addition to the installation and configuration issues, retrieving the agent data is not solved on your behalf. Even with FTP agents or shared drives as an option, you will require an architect to install your own file retrieval solution.

IBM's Licence Metric Tool (ILMT) and its associated BigFix platform require expert assistance for installation, configuration, and proper management

Once the ILMT agents are installed and the ILMT server is running – with or without BigFix, your ILMT must still be configured. Initial configuration requires the installation of software proof of entitlement records from IBM. This is a file, downloaded from IBM, that tells ILMT what software you are licenced to use. Once ILMT understands your entitlement, you need additional configuration to ensure that the correct licences are allocated to the software found via the agents. In many instances, IBM child products are installed as part of a parent product. You may only utilise the child product, but ILMT would register both products as installed, thus incorrectly requiring a licence for both. Configuring your ILMT to understand the relationship between parent and child products and to apply the correct licencing according to your usage is important to ensure your fee is calculated at the right capacity.

Threshold alerting When correctly configured, ILMT is enabled to assist you with the licencing of your IBM products. It is possible to have ILMT send you emails when it recognises that a product is under-licenced. However, this often occurs due to a misconfiguration of the ILMT tooling rather than actual under-licencing. Another common scenario that occurs is when somebody adds some Virtual CPU to a machine by accident – not realising the IBM licencing implications. Even if the error is realised and corrected, ILMT can only recognise that the threshold has been breached and inform you. It’s up to you to take remedial action and record why the event occurred in case of that IBM audit.

Audit reports IBM’s licence agreement states that ILMT audit reports should be produced and stored once every quarter. Many don’t realise that this is a manual task, and it is often overlooked, negating the actual purpose of the tool.

Maintaining ILMT IBM’s licence agreement requires ILMT servers to be regularly maintained in order to be compliant, which means that installation is not a singular task. Only regular updates to the servers will ensure that you maintain licence compliance.
It is an IBM requirement that their customers keep an audit trail of their IBM software, and IBM’s licence management tool is necessary when running IBM software in a virtualized environment. Failure to maintain proper records can be costly with most end users, often unaware of all the steps needed to ensure their compliance. In addition, there are many challenges in installation, configuration, and proper management. Due to the complexities involved, it is quite common for end users to encounter problems with the in-depth knowledge, expertise, and the time needed to accurately implement what they need. Both the standard and lite version are complicated to set up and difficult to maintain. Running these IBM licencing tools requires expertise from somebody who can understand both IBM licencing and the auditing tools required. Coliance can provide your organisation with a fully managed service where we install the servers and agents, maintain the databases, and retain the reports. In addition, we can inform you when ILMT believes that you have exceeded your licence entitlements and help you become fully compliant to avoid costly implications with IBM should they audit your organisation.

About the author

John Hawkins - Software Development Director

Having gained his Computing degree in Manchester, John joined IBM’s prestigious Hursley UK Labs, where he worked on many interesting projects including the first web servers. He stayed at IBM for 17 years before leaving to work with a number of integration companies. He joined Coliance in 2015.

John always has an eye on innovation and has several patents to his name. He currently heads our software development arm, where he oversees the development of our key products.

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