The great vendor tool ‘certification’ con

17 May 2016 | Datacentre, SAM/SLO

We have noticed that there seems to be an increasing misunderstanding in the market about certain vendor tools being ‘certified’ by Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Whether this is through genuine mistake or a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the facts, we don’t know. But the fact is that there are no vendor certifications for software licence management tools. So, any organization that is presenting this to you as a fact needs to be treated with suspicion.

Oracle SAM Vendor Certification

Oracle’s License Management Services (LMS) does actually list a number of tool vendors on its Web page but a close study of the actual words framing this list is worth the time. We include below the exact words from here:

“Tools from the following vendors have been verified to provide the required data set to supplement a LMS engagement. The scope of the verification process only covers the data collection related to the installation and usage of specific Oracle products, namely Oracle Database and the associated Options. The verification does not include any other Oracle products or the overall capabilities of the vendor’s solution. LMS will accept data from any of these tools as an alternative to installing LMS measurement tools.

“Please note that the installation and usage of a tool from a verified vendor does not replace an Oracle License Audit or True Up engagement or revoke Oracle’s contractual right to perform a License Audit or True Up. The usage data gathered from these tools will still need to be analyzed by the LMS organization to assess license needs and provide the customers with a compliance statement.”

A few points worth mentioning here:

  • This is a verification process for discovery tools.
  • The list of tools was ‘closed’ some years back due to the certification scheme being suspended. So, no new tools have been added recently which means that any assessment against newer versions of Oracle databases is pretty meaningless. Also, these products being assessed a number of years ago means they are not necessarily up-to-date or even the best tools available for the job.
  • It only covers ‘Oracle databases and the associated options’ not other Oracle technology products, middleware or Oracle applications.
  • Any data produced by these tools would be used by LMS as part of their review process, but so would any data you sent to them, irrespective of the source.
  • This will not protect you from an audit

IBM SAM Vendor Certification

Despite the fact that certain organizations have claimed that IBM will accept their tool instead of ILMT for sub-capacity reporting, there is nothing official on the IBM Web site. In fact their Sub-capacity licensing FAQs page seems to state the exact opposite.

Question 3 on this page says ILMT is not required for sub-capacity licensing in 4 scenarios, none of which state the acceptance of an alternative tool. Question 4 goes even further when asked about whether an organization would still need to use ILMT if they have another tool in place. The answer is unequivocally yes, ILMT still has to be used. In fact, we received an email from a legal counsel at IBM Corporation in October last year in which they stated:

“ILMT is a mandatory IBM requirement for all IBM customers who take advantage of sub-capacity licensing, regardless of whether they utilize third party reporting tools.”

Whilst we have come across alternative tools being accepted in lieu of ILMT on a deal-by-deal basis, this has required the individual organization to negotiate that right at the time of signing their licensing agreement. This does not imply carte blanche for all situations as seems to be being represented by certain organizations.

Time to come clean

We believe that Oracle, IBM and Microsoft need to come clean about tool certification as their silence is being taken as tacit acceptance of these false claims. Either they need to publicly rebut the claims, or if they are true, they need to spell out the criteria behind such certifications and open the scheme out to everybody.

We are not alone in believing this, with organizations as diverse as the ITAM Review and Aspera publicly questioning the validity of these ‘certifications’.

If you are looking for a SAM tool, our advice to you if you are faced with a vendor telling you their product is certified by Oracle or IBM and will even protect you from an audit – be very careful. When buying a tool, the main criteria for selection should be its capability to do the job, not being on an out-of-date list. In such a fast moving sector like SAM this requires a modern tool built with the latest technology, not a legacy application living off past glories.

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